We live in a world that is constantly changing and evolving. The medias talk about things that are scary, such as terrorism, war, natural disasters, court cases of child molesters? And your kids probably hear snippets of it here and there. Let alone, their life is made of constant transitions. Because they keep growing, they are constantly experiencing change: their body changes, their abilities and knowledge, their school grades, their classmates, their teacher?.
As we know, kids need stability, consistency, and predictability. These things will provide them with a sense of safety and security. So what happens when things change constantly? How do they handle the changes? And what about that recent earthquake we experienced? How did your kids respond to that?
Certain kids are blessed with strong resilience, while others struggle more through life transitions and unpredictable events. As a parent, you can do much to help them cope better.
Here are a few tips for walking your children through the ever changing journey of life:
1) Be aware of your own stress levels and learn to manage it in a healthy way. Kids look up to you, and if they sense your stress and anxiety, it can be very unsettling for them. They need to know that mom and dad are in control.
2) Talk about upcoming changes ahead of time. If you are going to move to a new house, or if your child is going to be left with a relative for a few days, if they are starting school or changing school, prepare them for it. Ask how they are feeling about it and listen! With little ones, make sure you repeat the scenario many times until they have internalized it enough so that they can tell you what is going to happen. A good way of helping them through that is to create a little story book with a character that represents them, so you can tell them the story of them moving into a new house or starting school. Make sure it is illustrated (stick figures are fine, you don?t need to be an artist).
When the change happens, they will be able to recognize what is happening from the story you will have read over and over.
3) Talk about unpredictable events, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires? Talk to your kids about what to do if any of these happen and rehearse it with them. Reassure them that the more prepared you all are, the more likely you will all be fine in such a situation. Create an emergency plan together and rehearse it together. This will give them a sense of control.
4) Teach your child to recognize the signs of stress in their body. They may have a headache, feel nauseous or have tummy ache when they are feeling nervous and anxious about something. Know your child so you can recognize those signs, and educate them about what their body is telling them.
5) Teach them some breathing exercises: Place an object on their tummy while they are lying on the floor, and tell them to breathe in a way that the object goes up and down as they breathe. When we are anxious and worried, we tend to hold our breath, which increases tension in our body, and ultimately increases stress
6) Along with the breathing exercise, you can also teach them some visualization exercises where they picture their worries being washed away on a beach with each breath they take, or whatever their imagination can do to help them think relaxing thoughts.
7) You can also be more concrete by asking your child to write or draw their worries and stresses on a paper, and then toss them in the trash, after having had ample time to process them with you or externalize them on the paper. This is a symbolic act of letting go.
Teach your kids about their feelings. Give them words for them, so that they can talk about their worries and anxiety, rather than be flooded by the emotions.
9) Create a space where you listen to your child?s concern and validate their experience. There is nothing worse than to be told ?don?t worry about it? when you are truly anxious.
10) Teach your child that even if they can?t change the circumstances, they can change the way it is affecting them.