*This is a collaborative post*
Every child experiences tough times at some point or another, no matter how much you try to protect them from difficult situations. Whether it’s due to a divorce or separation in the family, the loss of a loved one, bullying at school or even a house move, your child will learn to navigate these challenging times with you by their side.
As a parent, you’ll want to do everything you can to help your child overcome any issues they’re facing. However, there’s no rulebook that comes with parenthood and knowing how to help your kid isn’t always straightforward. To ensure you’re able to provide your family with the support and resources they need to deal with difficult times in a healthy way, take a look at these top tips now:
Trying to shield your child from upsetting circumstances might seem like the kind and caring thing to do. However, everyone experiences difficult times, so teaching your child how to deal with them is kinder in the long run. Furthermore, kids are very intuitive and are likely to pick up when something is wrong. If they feel that you’re hiding the truth from them, they may worry more or feel a sense of distrust.
By being honest and telling your kids about what’s happening, you can ensure that they’re given in the information in an age-appropriate way. Instead of overhearing conversions and getting confused, your kids will be confident that you’ll tell them everything they need to know.
Although children may accept what you tell them initially, it’s highly likely they’ll have some follow up questions or concerns. Being available and open ensures they’ll feel able to come to you with any worries they have. Sometimes, kids may seek clarification if they’re dealing with a situation for the first time, so being able to reinforce the positives and reassure them can have a big impact.
Remember – kids rarely want to talk at convenient times, so don’t be surprised if your child approaches you with big questions at inconvenient moments. Children often approach sensitive topics when you’re busy with something else as it takes the pressure off them. By making time to address their concerns when they’re ready to talk, you can ensure they’re always able to share their feelings.
Let Kids Be Involved
When a difficult situation arises, there are often practical consequences. If a marriage breaks down, for example, you may need to agree with your partner how to split custody of your kids. Alternatively, if someone in the family dies, you might be planning a funeral or deciding how to honour them.
Allowing your kids to be involved in these practical arrangements can give them an outlet for their emotions. Creating an inscription with a memorial stone mason, choosing a floral arrangement or selecting a poem to be read at a memorial service can be a healthy way for kids to be involved with planning a funeral, for example. Alternatively, arranging a balloon release or asking youngsters to draw their favourite memories of their loved ones can be cathartic and healing.
Asking your kids what input they would like to have when practical decisions need to be made helps to give them a sense of control. If major changes are happening in their lives, being able to make some decisions, however big or small, can be reassuring and comforting.
See Things from Their Point of View
Difficult times don’t always arise from negative situations, so it’s important to consider whether your kids will find something tough to cope with, even if you don’t. The loss of a loved one or a separation is difficult for everyone, so it’s easy to remember that your kids might be finding it hard to cope with. However, what about other situations which may be seen as positive by the adults in your family?
If you secure a major promotion and are moving to a new location, for example, it’s undoubtedly a cause for celebration. In your child’s eyes, however, this means leaving their friends behind, potentially moving away from family members and starting a new school.
Alternatively, if you’re expanding your family and have a new arrival on the way, you might be overjoyed at the changes it will mean for your family unit. For an existing child, however, they may feel apprehensive about what life will be like with a little brother or sister and unsure what it will mean for them.
Even when seemingly positive changes are taking place, remember that your kids may not automatically view them in the same light. Listening to their concerns and validating their opinions is important, as is reassuring them and providing them with practical reinforcements. Going to visit their new school before they start or spending time with families with multiple kids can be a good way to introduce kids to new situations they’re going to encounter in their own lives.
Talk to a Professional
When children experience a difficult time, it can manifest in a variety of different ways. Their behaviour may change, or they may appear withdrawn or uncommunicative, for example. Of course, these changes can be worrying for a parent, especially if you’re unsure how to deal with them. Fortunately, there is plenty of help available.
By talking to a professional, you can ensure that you’re able to give your kids the nurture and support they need during tough times. Whether you consult a counsellor, child psychologist or educational specialist, there are numerous ways to ensure your child and your family have access to the help that’s required.
Dealing with Challenging Times as a Family
When you go through difficult times as a family unit, there’s a good chance your child will see you upset or emotional. Although this can be frightening for a young child, showing your kids that it’s healthy to accept and process your emotions can be a positive thing. By doing so, you’re mirroring healthy coping strategies and teaching them how to deal with challenging times in a positive way.