Stressful situations such as divorce, major illness or financial problems can result in intense feelings both in children and adults. When parenting during such periods, bear in mind that stress may affect your child differently from how it affects you as a parent. Here’s how you can help your children cope with some of the most difficult situations.
Illness is a significant stress or for the entire family, regardless of whom it affects. Children find comfort in routines. Try to maintain the same rituals, whether it’s the time you eat dinner, a regular homework time, or the Friday night movie tradition. Resist the urge to overindulge or overprotect your children. That only seems like you doubt their competence and ability to get through this difficult situation. Try to balance adequate support with confidence in your child’s inner strength.
Financial issues can disrupt a family life. Children can sense when their parents are being anxious, but they may not fully understand what’s happening. Explain to them the changes that will affect their current lifestyle and be as honest as you can. Make sure that they know you’ll take care of them. Also, encourage them to share their ideas on where to cut back on family spending. Spend some quality time together by visiting parks, riding bikes, or playing board games. These activities require little to no money and they are a great way to shelter your children from excessive worrying.
Divorce takes a great emotional toll on everyone, especially on children. Make clear to your kids that the divorce isn’t their fault. Encourage them to share their feelings and offer your understanding and support. Remain on civil terms with your former partner. Don’t put children in the middle of your problems by badmouthing each other in front of them. Let them know that separation is final and don’t let too much time go by, or your children will start thinking that it won’t happen. Also, try to make similar rules in each home, to make it easier on children to get used to them. Another thing that’s important is to hire a reliable child custody lawyer, if you can’t reach an agreement with your ex-spouse. That way you’ll ensure the kids stay away from the conflict and make their needs and feelings a top priority. Above all, reassure them that both parents will always love them.
Death of a loved one
Children feel and show grief differently when a loved one dies. Respond to their emotions with comfort and reassurance. Answer all their questions and encourage them to talk about their feelings. Let your child know that it takes time to feel better after a loved one dies. Allow them to participate in rituals like funerals, or memorial services and explain them ahead of time what will happen. Most importantly, help your child remember the person. Recalling and sharing happy memories helps activate positive feelings and facilitates the healing process.
Moving to a new home can have an emotional effect on children, since they are often unwilling to change their current location and may worry about meeting new friends. Let your children participate in the process as much as possible to give them the feeling of contribution. Ask them to help you plan and organize a garage sale, for example. Let them pack a few of their own boxes with their favorite things. Also, allow them to decorate their rooms. Before moving day, take a few trips around the new location to familiarize them with the local area. Most importantly, stay excited, because you’re setting off to a new adventure. If children see your positive attitude, they will also feel enthusiastic about it.
Children tend to see the arrival of a new baby as an invasion of their territory. Regardless of how happy you feel, remember that siblings’ feelings may not be the same as yours. Acknowledge your older child’s feelings and be ready to discuss their frustrations. Try to balance family time and individual time with parents. Supervise your child’s activities even if it’s sometimes hard to handle them. Empower them by ensuring their help with baby’s care, when appropriate.
Parents and children may respond to stress differently. Make sure to provide stability and meet their needs during hard times.