Getting Your Kids Through Hard Times
Sometimes, things come up in life that upset your kids' entire world. Events like divorce, job loss, a family death, a natural disaster, or other types of events can pose a number of different challenges for your kids.
As parents, we want to prevent all hardships from happening to our kids, but this isn't realistic. The best we can do is to provide them with the skills they need to get through the hard times and come out stronger.
Communicate During and After the Event
Even if you never developed good verbal communication skills, you want to try and do your best to communicate with your kids now.
Don't take for granted that "kids are resilient" and "they'll just get past it on their own." Even if kids pretend everything is fine, you really don't know what's going on in their inner world unless you ask.
For instance, if you are having trouble getting your kids to speak with you, especially if your kid seems withdrawn and is spending a lot of time alone, you can try and open up about how you feel. This can be scary if you never did it before, but if you practice it in front of mirror first, it gets easier.
Here are some examples for you to practice:
- "You know, I'm very sad too since your mom passed. I miss her a lot and I have days where I feel like I don't know how I'm going to get through it. Thank goodness I have you in my life. Having you helps me get through my days."
- You can also tell your son or daughter strategies you're using to get through your days, and your attitude, such as, "It's really tough now, but over time, we'll figure out how to heal and feel better. And we'll be able to enjoy life again."
- Encourage keeping the lines of communication open, such as, "If you want to talk, I'm here to listen."
If your child says something like, "Why talk to you? You've never been there for me before. Why is that going to change now?", then you need to repair your relationship with your child. If you have not been consistently there for your child, if your child has always felt isolated or lonely, then you will have to hang in there, apologize, and be patient through this process if you are going to build the ability to meet your child's needs.
Sometimes, kids just need a bit of time to process their feelings, or depending on how young they are or how well they handle stress, they might not know how to express their needs right away. These things come out on their own in time. Be a constant presence to help them get through it, and expect you might not hear absolutely everything at first. You might be helping your children years afterwards. As their maturity develops, they will understand the difficult event with their new maturity level, and issues sometimes come up as a result.
It all begins with communication. It will be very difficult for you to meet your child's needs if you don't know what those needs are.
Concentrate on Meeting Needs, Building Skills, and Recovery
Using communication as a tool, you can concentrate on meeting your children's needs through the difficult event during and after as well as focusing on recovery.
Your kids might have many needs as a result of the incident. For example, if you and your family survive a natural disaster and all your belongings are gone, your might have to provide your children with extra measures to get them to sleep well again, such as everyone sleeping in one room for a little while, or seeing if you can get someone to donate a bunch of stuffed animals for your kids so they have something to snuggle with at night, or even getting a night light even if they outgrew using one.
In learning your child's needs, you might have some opportunities in helping your children cope through the incident and afterwards after the incident is over.
Little strategies like singing, for example, can help during a highly stressful situation and help keep kids calm.
Afterwards, naming all the things you have to be grateful for can be a great way to cope. This prevents your kids from ruminating on the loss and instead focuses them on everything that is good in their lives.
In cases where a close loved one has passed, it might be difficult to do these things. Allow your kids plenty of time to get through the mourning process. A good way to cope and heal with a death is to hold a special ceremony for the loved one, like throwing rose petals on the waves of the ocean or in the water of a lake, or to make a special website or memory book dedicated to their loved one.
Check in with your children several times a day to see how they are doing. If they seem angry or even if they get a little fresh, now is not an appropriate time to punish your children when they act out.
Issues can and do come up as a result of the difficult time, and it's most productive to address them as they come up.
Instead, you can give them some time to themselves, and state, "It seems to me that something is the matter. I'll be here when you've calmed down and you're ready to talk about it."
Being there for your kids in time of hardship makes a huge difference in their recovery.
If you have a lot of trouble expressing yourself and your emotions verbally, or if you are having trouble communicating with your kids at any point, consider counseling either for yourself or for your entire family.
Many people don't feel comfortable seeing a mental health professional or have a lot of fear about seeing one. Psychologists and counselors are sort of like teachers, except they have special training to listen to people well in order to come up with customized strategies and ways to deal with difficult life situations as well as help a person build the skills they need, such as coping skills and communication skills, to help them heal from difficult life situations and move on to have happy, productive lives.
Often, difficult life situations can contribute to the development of disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Learn the symptoms of these disorders. If you or any of your family develop these conditions, it's as important for you to seek help for your loved ones as having a physical ailment.
Life events such as job loss can affect your kids in many ways.
Coming Out on the Other Side
When kids weather the storm and come out on the other side, while those experiences can be very painful, they gain a new perspective on life.
For example, my family and I had a very difficult move from New York to Virgina that happened before and during the move.
We had bought two trailers, and things were going according to plan. One night when I was on a small ladder, I fell off and my knee bent backwards, which I didn't know was possible until that moment. We had to hire a couple of companies to finish packing up for us. Then, we paid a trucker two thousand dollars to move one of our trailers, and he stole the money.
As if this wasn't bad enough, during the move, we had a truck we were using to transport our animals: nine goats and six ducks. This broke down twice. The first place we stopped in was Pennsylvania, and this was during the natural gas boon. The entire town's hotels were filled to the brim to accommodate all of the workers that had moved there to extract the natural gas from the hills of Pennsylvania. We could not find a hotel to save our lives, so we had to spend the night in the truck parked at a gas station. My husband slept in the truck containing our animals, and my three year old daughter, my fourteen year old son, and our two dogs slept in the one I was driving with our luggage and a small trailer in the back containing all of our fencing for our animals on our new property. The second time we broke down, Pennsylvania again, we got to stay in a pretty decent hotel, but we couldn't find a mechanic anywhere that could figure out how to fix the truck, their competencies no more than changing a tire, a battery, or oil. We were running out of money, unsure if we could even afford the rest of the gas to get to our new home awaiting for us in Virginia. Our poor ducks and goats were absolutely miserable. We were all feeling the pressure.
By some miracle, lots of prayers, and a husband who is a mechanical genius, fixed the truck and we managed to get down to our new home.
My son, now seventeen years old, stated recently that the move was one of the most difficult things he had to live through. But he also stated that everything else seems easy, even fun now.
Challenging times test us. When we recover from the trying times, we learn how strong we really are. With the right amount of support, your kids can flourish even after hardship.
Natural disasters can upset everything for a family.
Sum It Up
- Hard times can make people stronger, as long as we help our children heal from hardship.
- Communication is your primary tool to use to ensure you help your kids recover and meet their needs.
- Be on the lookout for the symptoms of disorders, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Counseling helps you learn skills you need to communicate with your loved ones and to help them and yourself develop coping skills that will help you find comfort in life's toughest situations.