Recently, parents and children alike have begun tackling a new school year. It’s not hard to imagine your child’s reaction to the challenges it brings, which can be overwhelming and stressful for both parent and child.
However, as we adapt, we do our best to remember that the children have fewer options or outlets to effectively express and manage the things that stress them out. While something might be seen as trivial in an adult’s perspective, it could mean the whole world for a child. So, what can we do to help?
Before we mistakenly interpret a child’s reactions as evidence of some “issues,” let’s look at a few ways that we as parents can provide genuine connection and encouragement to help our children get through this important transition.
Try to understand what is bothering your child.
A child could easily become anxious if a peer makes fun of his or her socks on the first day of school. A child may feel hopeless after finding that homework is too hard. Whatever the struggle, we as parents can help them describe and express what they are going through. We can provide them a safe space by withholding judgment about what they are saying or feeling. The key point here is that we need to acknowledge the issues in ways our children will understand in order to build trust.
Communicate that their concerns matter.
“Just get over it.” “You are too sensitive.” These remarks can create lifelong wounds. They can hurt, especially while we are dealing with things that are indeed stressful and painful. The same principle applies, but more attention is needed for a child. Hearing from caregivers that they and their feelings matter helps children develop healthy self-worth and self-esteem.
Let them know we consistently support and care.
We do not have to do something fancy or great in order to let our children know how much they mean to us. We can start by making a statement such as, “You are important”; “I love being your parent”; “Seeing you happy makes me happy,” etc. Positive words have power. Also, we must be consistent with our words and actions. A child remembers them all.
Encourage them to be who they are.
Remember that we do not have to be perfect to be great. Our creator “fearfully and wonderfully” (Psa 139:14, NIV) made each one of us with our own uniqueness. We can remind our children that they are valuable just the way they are. Not everyone will like them, but they are still acceptable. We can thank them for being who they are.
We can help them find ways to vent their anxieties and stresses. We can let them know that there are many ways to properly deal with their issues and to receive help. They do not have to feel stuck. If they have a hard time connecting with us as parents, they can find other trustworthy people to whom they openly talk and by whom they can feel understood. Some of these people may be friends, relatives, teachers, or professionals counselors.