The world can be a daunting place, especially to a child. We work hard as parents to protect them from the big, bad, scary things.
The problem is, much as we’d love to keep our children cocooned in a safe space where nothing can touch them, they tend to be every bit as aware of upheaval as you are, especially when the crisis is something is too large to hide. A child can’t help but be mindful of a natural disaster.
And as much as you try to hide it, they catch on pretty quick when something isn’t right in the home even if they don’t know the details of the pending divorce, the sick parent, or the lost job.
So how do you help your child best during upheaval? Start by doing these five things:
# 1 Validate
Emotions are real, and there is no right or wrong in what your child is feeling right now. By reaching out to them and letting them know it’s ok for them to feel what they’re feeling, you help your child to feel heard.
# 2 Embrace Routine
During an upheaval, it’s hard to maintain your daily schedule. But children need routine now more than ever. Whatever is going on, try as hard as you can to keep as much normal as possible. For example, try to eat meals around the same time every day if you can. Or create a new routine suitable for current circumstances.
# 3 Communicate Appropriately
As mentioned before, kids know when things are wrong. Rather than going silent, be honest. Let them know what’s happening in a way that keeps in mind what’s appropriate for their age. Most important? Answer their questions.
# 4 Loosen Up
Play is a great way to ease tension. Even kids who might have felt like they were too old to play will love a chance to do something fun. Remember, you need to be sure to play with them, so grab a frisbee or pick up some crayons and get to it!
# 5 Breathe!
Teaching your child to meditate or do something calming, such as Tai Chi or Yoga, gives them the tools they need to calm down and return to the moment when they start to grow anxious or scared about what’s going on. Doing these activities with them does wonders for your mood as well.
If your child has become too aware of what’s going on, don’t despair. They’re a lot more resilient than you give them credit for. The biggest thing they need right now is to know your love is assured. Given time, the rest of these steps will help considerably.
And of course, if your child needs a little extra help, don’t be afraid to take them to a counselor who is specially trained in helping a child make difficult transitions.