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There are some occasions in life that are much bigger to deal with than others. Those significant events come with big emotions too. Helping your children cope with those big feelings and giving them a way to process them is a healthy way to teach them how to work with those emotions.
Like adults, when children hear about significant world events, they have thoughts and feelings on them, even if they don’t completely understand what they are.
Photo by Zara Walker on Unsplash
Significant life events like new babies, marriages, moving home, death, and impactful world events provide a learning opportunity. Troubled times mean that you can have discussions with your child about healthy ways to manage their feelings. You are giving your child a safe environment to discuss how they are feeling.
As a parent or guardian, you can use active listening to understand your children’s worries, and it is important not to jump in with solutions or dismiss how they feel. Instead, just listen to what they are saying and if they ask questions, try to be as honest as you can for their age group. This means you can validate their feelings while also helping them learn to navigate their feelings as well.
There will be some things that you will need to process first before you can help your child. It is the same principle as putting your own oxygen mask on first so that you can help others. Parents, guardians, and caregivers need to have a head start where possible. If a child can see that you are healthily dealing with your emotions, they are likely to follow suit. Children tend to worry about the adults around them, and even more so when they think something is being kept from them.
Here are some of the ways that you can show how you are coping or dealing with the situation. As well as a number of tips to instill healthy coping methods in your children, and to help yourself too.
- Honor what you feel. Take stock of your feelings and try to accept them.
- Lean on your outside circles when you need to. Friends and family can be a great source of support when you need them.
- Where possible, stick to your everyday routines; these are secure and predictable.
- Calm is key. Creating a calm environment that is safe for upset, laugher, sadness, smiles, and talking.
- Breathe deep and have patience for yourself and others that are dealing with the same thing is important.
- Put on your listening ears and button your lips. There is a big difference between listening to what someone is saying, and waiting to respond, and active listening. Active listening is simple; you don’t interrupt, take time to form a full reply, understand what the person needs from you – if anything. Most people try to jump in with a solution when the person sharing their heart needs just to talk out their feelings to help them understand things for themselves.
- Watch for any changes in your child. Sometimes stress can present itself in other ways—changes in appetite, sleeping pattern, mood swings, changes in class or grades, and general activity levels.
- Honesty – but with limits. There are some conversations that should be saved until the child is older. There are different ages that can process some information better.
- Therapy is not a dirty word. Sometimes in order to get through something, you need to talk to someone who isn’t inside the situation and doesn’t have an opinion of you or what is happening.
- Positive moments are incredible. There is joy in some unfortunate times, and to deny emotions that are complicated can be hurtful. Talk about the joyous moment, involve them in those times where possible. Including where they are world issues.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,” Rogers said to his television neighbors, “my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
There are a number of things that you can do to help your child get creative. Drawing large pieces of art, taking photos, writing in a journal are all great ideas. If you are going through the passing of a loved one, then get them to draw pictures of the fun times they had together with that person. Depending on the age, you can get them involved in designing the cards that will be sent out or if they are older and this would be something that would bring them solace they could help with choosing the design of the bronze and granite grave markers. Your child might need a physical form of closure. Be sure to speak with a therapist about ideas that could help your child best in the grieving process.
Make time for joyful activities. When we were stuck in the 1 bedroom apartment during quarantine this year, we made LOTS of time to go on hikes or walk to the park to feed the ducks. It helped us stay sane during such a crazy time. If there has been a big world event, then it can be a great time to go for a walk somewhere peaceful in the local area. Having fun and taking some time out to get peace doesn’t mean that you are insensitive to the situations. Maintaining a balance is essential.
Telling stories fictional or fact can let children explore their feelings without the pressure of it being on one topic. You can also tell stories that are loosely related to the situation that have people in that your child can relate to. This gives them a chance to ask questions about the story, and most likely with be something they have wanted to ask but hasn’t found the right way.
Here is one thing that we can all do to help children deal with big life events – help others. A simple gestures like baking, writing a letter, or a visit can make a big difference. If it is a global issue, then you can find ways to donate, share the donations links, read more, and become more educated. Helping others keeps the focus off ourselves and reminds us we are not alone in this world even through rough life events.
It might feel like the best option is to try and shield children from a lot, but it is better that they understand that there will be imbalances in the world. This will equip them with the tools to deal with many more situations as adults. There are many things in life that bring overwhelming joy and things that just bring overwhelm – plus everything in between. When taking care of children, it can often feel like one of the biggest challenges to know how much to talk, how much to listen, and the lessons that everyone can learn. As a parent we just need to try our best, love the best way we can, and help our children in this thing we call Life.
“Behind every child who believes in himself is a parent who believed in them first.”
If you are feeling down or depressed for more days than not, please seek medical attention. If you are feeling like you cannot go on, please call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat here>>> https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/ Or visit the suicide prevention lifeline at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/