By Niki Walls, LSW -December 29, 2020-
Parents and guardians are always searching for answers to questions about raising children in today’s world. While developments in technology and popular culture have changed many aspects of childhood over time, one thing that has not changed is that our children need love from a caring adult more than anything.
Showing love and affection to kids can sometimes seem “easier said than done.” However, love is essential because it enables children to flourish and discover who they are. Love is a word that encompasses many different things as well. Love does not come without consistency, respect, and support.
Children thrive on consistency. They may seem like they hate rules and are resistant to many of the boundaries adults set for them, but in actuality, structure is something they are in dire need of. Consistency can come in many forms; developing routines, having the same discipline techniques as your spouse, and having consistent schedules.
Children generally do not embrace sudden change, so by creating consistency in their lives, you are likely to prevent power struggles and behavioral outbursts. Your children will come to know your expectations and follow them more thoroughly because they will know what the outcome will be if they do not.
In turn, this sets the stage for respect. By giving your kids love and consistency, you are being respectful of your children and meeting them at their level. Children are more likely to respect the adults they feel respected by.
Start with trying to understand and validate their feelings when an issue arises. Take yourself back to when you were their age and remember how this particular issue would have made you feel. The more give and take there is in the conversation, the more your child will respect you and feel open with you.
Support is another aspect that is encompassed under love as well. Children often look to someone who will recognize and praise them for their accomplishments. Do not blow off or joke around about something that they are proud of. Encourage your children’s natural
passions and interests; do not push yours on them. Be an ear if they need someone to talk to and guide them as they actively seek advice. Children generally let you know if you have overstepped your bounds; pay attention to them.
If you start with love, you are likely to naturally encompass all of the rest of the suggestions on your own. Take the time to really get to know your kid to the core, not just the surface level version of them. Learn from your past parenting mistakes and the mistakes your parents made raising you. We all have room to grow and build better parenting versions of ourselves.
By Niki Walls, LSW – June 25, 2019
Death is a part of life, and grief comes along with it. Helping a child grieve and understand death can be very difficult.
Psychiatrist Gail Saltz explains, “Children understand that death is bad, and they don’t like separation, but the concept of “forever” is just not present.” Children often have a hard time wrapping their brains around the concept of death and do not always have the coping skills they need to handle it.
If you are helping a child through the grieving process, here are some important tips to remember:
When breaking the news about death, be clear. Do not use terms that a child may take literally, as a child may then become fearful of “going to sleep” if that is what they think happened to their loved one who passed. Do not volunteer too much information or go into details that could cause confusion or fear in the child. However, do be honest and answer their questions the best you can.
Each child grieves differently, just like adults. The child’s moods may fluctuate and be inconsistent. This does not mean the child is grieving inappropriately; it just means they are processing in different ways. Sometimes the child’s action could reflect a defense mechanism they are tapping into as a way of coping. The child may feel many different emotions (such as anger or guilt) toward the person that has died, depending on their understanding of the situation.
Allow your child to express a variety of emotions. It is good practice for everyone to be able to express the emotions they are feeling, especially grieving kids. Help your child understand their emotions and utilize a safe way of expressing these emotions. It may not be easy for your child to express them in an appropriate manner. If that is the case, encourage them to do things like writing, drawing, or role playing a memory of the person they have lost.
Understand your own grief. Aside from helping your child grieve, you will likely be grieving yourself. Your child’s grief will likely reflect your own. It is important to allow your child to see safe emotion expression. Please do not project your grief onto the child. Do not make the child feel as though they need to be the caretaker in the situation or escalate it so it is emotionally harder for them.
Be consistent. Kids crave consistency. They want a routine and a sense of normalcy. This is true in the calm of their lives and also in the chaos.
Practice coping skills. Children can often struggle with self-regulation and managing their emotions. By practicing coping skills with the child, they will likely have an easier time containing extreme emotional outbursts. Coping skills can include a variety of things like listening to music, making a memory collage, journaling, etc.
Preparation. It is important to prepare your child for what to expect from a funeral, burial, or any other death ritual that might take place so it does not come as a shock when they are in the moment. Your child may have questions about life after death, so it is important that your beliefs and others’ beliefs are discussed with them. While all of these practices are helpful to a child during the time of a loss, it important to monitor that the child is able to cope with grief and recover from loss in a healthy manner. If your child does not seem to be doing so, it is important to talk to a doctor or seek out a therapist.