It is tough to be a parent, especially when life throws you curveballs you do not anticipate. Dealing with a divorce, job loss, loss of a loved one, or financial hardships can cause parents to lose sleep, become overwhelmed, and even depressed. However, while these tough challenges might make it difficult for parents to spend quality time with their kids, there are many ways parents can better handle adversity and be better parents, even during these challenging times.
Being a parent is difficult, especially in times of hardship. Child psychologists say that kids are incredibly resilient and that children are capable of adapting well, but some children may need extra help coping with stressful and traumatic events. Here are some ways to help them cope with the unexpected:
- Be honest. While you may not want to share every situation with your children, it is important to be open and upfront when talking about difficult topics. Use clear and simple language to explain things, and avoid emotional language that may confuse kids.
- Be honest with yourself, too. The best way to help your kids cope is by being calm and honest with yourself. When you are going through a tough time with your children, one of the most difficult things is to try and be strong. You try to be there for your kids, but you also feel like you want to go back to a time when things were “normal.” At some point, most parents go through a time when they feel like they are struggling with parenting, so they need to understand and accept these feelings.
- Reassure your child that their feelings are normal. When we are stressed, anxious, or depressed, we tend to withdraw and isolate ourselves. A young child, who is already feeling vulnerable, may feel as though nothing they do or say matters. Dismissing your children’s feelings will make them want to retreat within themselves. Instead, try helping them find ways to cope with their feelings and talk about what they mean.
- Offer support. When life gets hard, parents often wonder if they can really provide the support they need to their children. When finances are tight, making ends meet can seem impossible, and when emotional struggles are present, many moms and dads feel at a loss for how to be a positive influence. Reaching out to your children when times are tough can make all the difference in the world. As they get older it can help them in day-to-day life as well because you showed them how important being supportive is.
- Make sure your child has time to play. Kids need time to play, and too many parents fall into the trap of thinking that playing is procrastinating. Getting kids to play encourages them to use their imagination, improves their problem-solving, as well as their social skills, and structures their time. You can either get them to play two-player sports like tennis or badminton or group sports like football or baseball. You can even introduce them to table games like fuse ball, air hockey (you may wish to learn how to win at air hockey for that matter), and similar others, depending on where their interest lies. Remember that you should never leave a child sitting in front of a screen longer than 30 minutes a day, and make sure they have at least one hour a day of unstructured playtime. For that, you can give them toys that they can play with outside. For example, if they are sports fans, you could consider getting them baseball or football gifts to spend time away from electronic devices.
- Give kids space. Kids need space to think and process their emotions. It is natural to feel nervous and uncomfortable around new people, especially adults. Kids may find themselves longing for a friend’s approval or to fit in with their peers. That is normal. Kids use playtime to express themselves and build friendships. Kids also learn best through play, so it is important for parents to provide their children with time and space to play.
Many parents find themselves facing tough times, and they may feel like their child needs more attention rather than less. It can seem like your whole world has turned upside down, and you may not know where to begin. But one of the most important things to remember is that you are still the parent; even when times get tough, you still have the right to say, “No,” however difficult that might be.
We all want to be the best parent we can be, but we must respect our children’s aspirations and dreams. Take note of how they are feeling and how they are reacting to the way you are acting so they can guide them in the best way possible.