With an increase in violence, particularly gun violence, in schools, it's not a wonder that kids are losing hope. When it comes to the amount of stress, anxiety, and depression that comes with all that trauma, it's even hard for an adult to make sense of it.
Parents might be asking themselves how to handle this, how to talk about it, and what to do. It's ok, it's normal. When a parent sees that their child might be suffering, intervening with something positive could be a good first step. Going outside, playing a game, and watching a movie are all things that may help at the moment. Long term, there may be some conversations to be had though.
10 I'm Here, And You Are Safe
Anxiety is a beast. It may sometimes feel easier to just not deal with anything in order to avoid it. It makes things a lot worse than they are and scares kids. Letting children know they are not alone, and nothing bad is happening at that moment can be grounding for them. Having a stable environment where they feel safe allows children to look around, and focus on enjoying life, not being afraid of it.
9 I Understand, That Is A Big Worry
Children sometimes worry and lose hope over big issues. They may not even fully understand what is bringing them down. Trying to get them to verbalize helps so that it can be picked apart into smaller pieces and less worrisome. Small things are easier to take on and solve, versus just jumping into the deep end and hoping you can swim.
8 Use The 5-5-5 Method
According to JoAnn Stevelos, MS, MPH, hopefulness can help us deal with complex feelings like loneliness, estrangement, and guilt. And learning how to stay hopeful can bring more joy, happiness, compassion, and even love into our lives.
Learning to use the 5-5-5-method with your child could help them put their worries, problems, or fears to rest. Ask them, will this matter in 5 minutes? Five days? Five months? While they may say yes to the 5-min question, it helps to put things in perspective. It could even be worded differently to suit your child in particular.
7 Change Is Possible, Let's Try
When kids are stuck in the same mundane routine, it can make them anxious. They feel stuck, and being kids, they don't see a way out. This can make them lose hope fast. Letting them see that change is possible, and they have other options, can open the door and let the light in. Parents might want to talk these different options out with their kids. This can help them feel more confident about themselves.
6 Let's Breathe Together
Breathing exercises have calming benefits. The process of deep belly breathing for children and teens helps stabilize the heart rate and opens the mind. Children cannot always verbalize their problems, but using a breathing technique can help to calm them until they can.
By teaching kids breathing exercises, we're giving them a valuable tool for their toolbox. Stephanie Richardson, LCSW, Social Work Team Leader in the Emergency Department at Children's Health, says, Children can use deep breathing to help them throughout the day, whether they're feeling overwhelmed or anxious, need to relax or go to sleep, to calm their body after exercising, or even just to pause and reset when they are high energy.
5 You Are Feeling Hopeless, And...
This sounds worse than it is. This is about acknowledging your child's concerns without making it worse by using the word, and. After that, parents can add in, a hopeful statement. Examples might be:
- I want you to know, I am here for you.
- I understand. You do not have to face this alone.
- I am here when you are ready to talk.
- Your feelings are valid.
4 Tell Me More About It
Parents have a general need to fix things for their kids. Make it better. When children talk about things that are causing them stress and worry, it's important for parents to quiet their mouths and listen with their ears. According to the Positive Parenting Project, simply acknowledging that you recognize how a child feels can help them start to process that emotion and calm down. The main goal in listening to a child is to let them know they are being heard.
As mentioned, parents often want to fix things, but that is not the goal here. Obviously, parents want to fix something like bullying or make their child feel better. Holding off on that is best until the child has had time to process everything that is taking place, or took place. Before that, it's hard to come to a good solution.
3 What Is The Very Worst Part?
Breaking down the scariest or worst part of what they are facing is like cutting off the head of a snake. You knock out the biggest fear first. Some children will take to this easily, but others may struggle. As long as they have the freedom and space to be able to get it out, how long it takes them isn't really the issue.
2 How Can I Help?
Instead of parents just assuming they know what their child needs, they can try asking them. Sometimes kids don't know if they can ask for help. Even adults can have trouble asking for help, so being open and willing to support them, by asking versus imposing, can go a long way with a child.
1 This Too Shall Pass
Parents, unfortunately, cannot shield their children from the pain in the world. As different events take place, they might be getting over the fear of one, and then something else comes along. Letting them know up front that they are loved and that as yucky as those feelings feel, they will pass eventually is sometimes harder than it seems. Nobody really wants to tell their child that they are going to feel a lot more pain in life, but it's a necessary step.