Isn’t childhood a time of toys and play, a time of laughter and fun? For many children the answer is, no. “Childhood as a time of undiluted pleasure is a fiction concocted by adults,” claims one expert. Countless children today are victims of enormous turmoil. Unable to find healthy ways of dealing with their distress, some vainly attempt to suppress their anxiety. But pent-up stress eventually finds an outlet. For some, anxiety that cannot be talked out will result in physical illness or delinquent behavior. For others, stress will be turned inward by means of self-destructive acts, including self-inflicted injuries, eating disorders, substance abuse, and even suicide.
Help your children cope.
• Keep the dialogue going. Never assume that because the child is silent, he is taking it well or adjusting. He may simply be bottling up anxiety and suffering in silence.
Dialogue is a lifeline between parent and child. It is especially vital when there has been some sort of traumatic event in the family. However the parent should not do all the talking. The word ‘dialogue’ indicates that two or more speakers are involved. It is advantageous to let a child express himself. Parents who tend to monopolize the conversation makes children grow impatient. If a child cannot talk out his problems when they develop, he may act them out later.
Dialogue is important when discipline is needed. Parents will know a child’s feeling about the correction. He understands why it is being given. Rather than simply telling the child how he should feel, find out what is in his heart. Reason with him so that he can be guided to the proper conclusion.
• Acknowledge the child’s feelings. Don’t ignore whatever it is that bothers your child. Some parents stifle dialogue with such statements as: “Stop your crying.” “You shouldn’t feel that way.” “It isn’t really that bad.”
This will keep the dialogue going. “I see that something has made you worry.” “You look really upset.” “I know you must be disappointed.”
• Empathize. Parents should recall their own childhood fears, even the irrational ones. Yes, they easily forget the pains and anxieties they themselves experienced while growing up. Therefore, they often minimize the stresses their children feel.
Since most adults view a child’s world from their own frame or reference, it is difficult for them to imagine any life but their own as stressful. Parents must remember what it was like to face the loss of a pet, the death of a friend, the move to a new neighborhood. Remembering is a key to empathy.
• Set the right example. How your child handles stress depends to a great extent upon how you as a parent handle it. When you reduce stress by resorting to violence, and then do not be surprised when your child acts out his anxiety in a similar way. Also a child can’t be open and trusting when a parent is deeply disturbed and suffering in silence. Are stressful feelings so hidden in your household that they are denied rather than acknowledged and worked out? Then do not be startled by the physical and emotional toll it may take on your child, for any attempt to bury anxiety will normally only increase the severity of its expression.