5 Ways To Support Your Kids Through Challenging Times

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5 Ways To Support Your Kids Through Challenging Times
Expert
Family

With social unrest and COVID-19 going on, how can you support your children?

Your kids need the time and space to process what’s happening around them.

They've heard about and perhaps have seen the graphic video of George Floyd being killed by a police officer. They are seeing protests break out in major cities all across America. They are hearing about racial injustices, inequality, and calls for police accountability and reform.

They are also secluded from their peers as they are being homeschooled during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their family may be devastated by death or economic hardships.

RELATED: 4 Ways To Talk To Your Kids About Racism, Protests & Police Brutality Against Black People

Right now, your children are stressed, anxious, and uncertain about the future.

Life for them has — and for all of us — significantly changed. It’s unpredictable, uncertain, and dangerous.

Your kids inevitably are going to have emotional issues that you are going to have to deal with.

Here are 5 ways to support them through these challenging times.

1. Embrace your children.

Let your children know that at the end of the day, you love them unconditionally — no matter what. You can do this with a physical hug, saying, "I love you," acknowledging an accomplishment, or just letting them know in some way that you care.

Having them feel and know that they are loved and accepted unconditionally counteracts a feeling of being isolated and alone.

You may be angry and frustrated with something they’ve done that day or with current events, but it’s important for them to know that you love and accept them, despite it all.

2. Give them permission to feel.

Their feelings are valid, so give them permission to have them.

We're all busy and under a great deal of pressure. Still, make time to sit down and individually connect with your children.

Carve out time to give them your undivided attention. Encourage them to talk about what’s on their mind.

Let them know that it’s alright to feel confused, angry, disappointed, sad, or lonely. Embracing their feelings will help them process their emotions.

3. Honor the silence.

Embrace the awkward silences. The silent moments leave space for thoughts to arise that will naturally facilitate conversation.

Sometimes, just being in each other’s presence is enough to create the connection your child needs to feel safe and loved. Make sure this time is spent headphone-free.

RELATED: 10 Tips For Talking To Your Kids About Coronavirus Anxiety

4. Listen.

As parents, your natural instinct is to fix things for your children and to protect them. You want to make things better for them as quickly as possible.

It’s so easy to jump in and tell them what they should or should not do, or how they should feel — but there is a cost. When you do that, your children don’t think you're really listening to them. And most of the time, they're right.

You think you're listening, but you’re really not. You’re waiting for your kids to stop talking, so you can give your opinion. As they're talking, you’re thinking about what you're going to say before you've fully heard their thoughts.

The key is to listen for the sake of listening. Listen without judging, trying to fix a problem, or make things better.

Your kids need to share what’s really going on with them. They can’t do that if you interrupt them or are not truly hearing what they are saying.

Let them talk, cry, and vent. They need to feel that it is okay to express their emotions freely.

Answer their questions, but don’t give them more than what they ask for. Keep it simple for younger kids. Let their questions guide the conversation.

5. Be vulnerable.

Don’t be afraid to share your concerns or worries, but do so in ways that are appropriate to the age of your child.

It’s OK to tell your six-year-old that you’re sad about someone dying. It’s OK to tell your teenager that you’re scared about the current state of the world.

This teaches your children that you, too, are human, and helps them learn how to process their emotions.

Sharing as part of a conversation opens up space for them to share their challenges with you. It sparks conversations and creates connections, which fosters healthy parent-child relationships.

These are challenging times, but you can’t shy away from the hard topics. You have to talk about what is going on in the world in order to prepare them to deal with the various obstacles and challenges that come their way.

Issues like racism, death, violence, and illness have to be dealt with truthfully without overwhelming your children with information.

Try to limit their exposure to the news cycles on the television, computer, or social media so they are not bombarded with graphic or frightening images.

Creating honest and open dialogue is essential for guiding them through these unprecedented times.

Here are some links to resources that may be useful in your talks with your children:

RELATED: How To Raise Courageous Children: 3 Steps To Helping Kids Manage Anxiety

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Dr. Elizabeth Henry is a board-certified pediatrician, parent coach, and public speaker. Learn more about Dr. Liz by visiting her website and listen to her podcast to get expert content that empowers parents and uplifts youth.

This article was originally published at drlizconsulting.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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