Parenting can be trying at the best of times. Every day can feel like running a marathon, with chasing toddlers, scraping dried yogurt off the carpet, changing diapers, driving to pre-school/ballet/soccer, making endless meals and refereeing sibling arguments. Family life with young children is full, busy and challenging, to say the least.
So what happens when you add a difficult situation like chronic illness, divorce or a death in the family? Life can suddenly seem very overwhelming when you have to cope with extra stress on top of all the day-to-day work of raising children. Luckily, there are some things you can do to make it easier when the family is experiencing turmoil.
Here are my top 5 suggestions from Kids: The Manual for dealing with tough times:
1. Ask for Help
It’s not easy for some people to accept help, but asking friends and family for support is crucial. If someone offers to cook you a meal, take your child for the afternoon or pick some groceries up for you, take them up on it! Remember you would do the same for the ones you love.
2. Take Care of Yourself
When things are rough, your kids will need even more love and attention from you, which might seem impossible if you are grieving a loved one or worrying about divorce or illness. But you will be more patient and loving the more you take care of yourself. Make sure you eat regularly, get as much sleep as possible, have hot baths or go for a walk by yourself to relax or process thoughts.
3. Be Honest and Communicate
If someone in the family is ill or has died, or if you and your spouse are getting divorced, answer your child’s questions as honestly and clearly as you can. This can alleviate a lot of anxiety in young children. For specific advice on how to talk to your child about these situations, you can look at the “Parenting in Tough Times” section of Kids: The Manual.
4. Stick to Your Normal Daily Routine as Much as Possible
Each situation is unique, of course, and there might be some necessary changes to the day-to-day lifestyle during a crisis, but as much as possible try to stick to what the child is familiar with. If bedtime is 7:30, try to keep bedtime to 7:30. If your daughter watches Dora at 2:00 every day, try to make sure this can still happen. This will help your child feel more anchored when everything else seems like it’s falling apart.
5. Know When to Seek Out Professional Help
If you feel like your child is becoming depressed or withdrawn after a family illness, death, or divorce and doesn’t seem to be able to come out of it, it might be best to look into support groups or counseling to help during this difficult time. Speaking to a therapist doesn’t mean you’re “going crazy.” It just means you’re smart enough to be proactive about your child’s mental health.
Most importantly, remember that children are very resilient creatures! It’s only natural to worry about your child’s state of mind during tough times, but – with your love and support — they DO have the ability to come back around.
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