Growing up can be pretty hard. As soon as children start school they’re exposed to a whole heap of potentially stressful experiences and tough times. And it can be heartbreaking as a parent to see your child struggling and wanting so much to just make it all better.
Maybe your child is being bullied, or finding it hard to fit in with the other children at school. Maybe there are issues at home that they’re having a hard time dealing with, like a separation or a new baby appearing on the scene.
Whatever it is that they might be dealing with, here are five ways you can help your children through a tough time.
1. Give them your undivided attention.
One of the most important things you can do is encourage your child to talk openly about anything and everything with you. If you get the feeling that they want to open up to you then stop whatever else you might be doing and give them your undivided attention.
Let them know that they are important to you, and that their feelings are important to you.
Listen to what they have to say without forming any kinds of judgement. Just let them know that you hear them, and that you understand. It can go a long way to helping them feel better about what they’re experiencing.
2. Take them outside.
Get out in natural daylight as much as possible.
Exposure to sunlight helps our bodies produce more serotonin, which in turn helps to reduce feelings of anxiety. If your child is struggling with feelings of anxiety and general low mood, then getting a bit more sunlight on their face every day could really help to regulate their mood and help them through whatever tough time they’re dealing with.
In the winter months this can sometimes be a bit harder to do, so you could always consider getting a light box to use in the house. These are also really great for anyone in the family who suffers with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
There are other benefits to getting outside too.
Getting out and away from the distractions of home can sometimes make it easier for our children to open up and talk to us about what they’re going through.
Also, if you head down to the beach together you get the added benefits of salty sea air. And the local park is also a great option as walks in nature has also been found to help reduce anxiety and depression.
You could even add a plant or two to their bedroom, as the presence of potted plants has been shown to promote feelings of well-being.
3. Focus on the positives with them.
If your child is going through a hard time they might feel negative about everything. So try and get them to think about the good things that are going on in their lives. Shift the focus from the negative to the positive.
They might struggle with this at first, but encourage them to start small if they need to. Get them to think about any little thing about their day that was good, or that they are thankful for.
You can also make a point of focusing on the good things about them.
Compliment them as much as you can. Point out their strengths and their positive attributes to let them know how wonderful they are, to give them a boost and the strength to keep on trying.
4. Try some random acts of kindness together.
When your child is going through a hard time it can be all-consuming. Getting them to carry out some random acts of kindness can be a great way to distract them from their worries and focus their attention on something else.
Doing good can also cement the idea in their mind that there is good in the world; far more good than bad.
It can also make us feel really good too. Dr David Hamilton has listed 5 side effects of kindness, one of which is that it makes us happier.
When we do something kind for someone else, we feel good … On a biochemical level, it is believed that the good feeling we get is due to elevated levels of the brain’s natural versions of morphine and heroin, which we know as endogenous opioids. They cause elevated levels of dopamine in the brain and so we get a natural high, often referred to as ‘Helper’s High’.
So we can really help our children feel better, as well as getting a new sense of perspective on their situation, by carrying out some random acts of kindness together.
5. Do some yoga with them.
Exercise has been proven to help with anxiety and depression. And yoga has a lot of added benefits too. I wrote a post last month about 10 benefits of yoga for children, which included things like how it helps teach them persistence and how it helps support their mental health.
You could find a local family yoga class to go to together, or pick up a dvd or kids yoga book to have a go at home.
Doing yoga together will help your child feel more connected to you, as well as helping you both feel calmer and better able to handle anything they might be going through at that time. It can also help you to see things more open-mindedly, so it could even help you come up with new solutions to your child’s problems.
I really hope this post helps you feel better able to support your child if they’re going through a tough time.
It can be so hard as a parent to see our children struggle, and hopefully some of these ideas will help you to feel a bit less helpless and more able to help them through the hard times in life.