Helping Children Cope

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Resilience in the face of adversity isn’t a fixed personality trait.

Resilience is an ability we can help children build. This is an important fact for children who suffer from a serious illness or experience a grievous loss or setback. 

Psalm 34:18: The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

In a recent article in the New York Times, Sheryl Sandberg outlined some of the best ways that parents can support traumatised children. 

  • Tell them they are loved and are not alone – children need to hear this over and over again.
  • Show them that they matter – this is the question children ask as they grow up: Do I make a difference to others? Do other people notice me, care about me and rely on me? When young people think that they don’t matter, they’re more likely to engage in self-destructive and antisocial activities, or simply withdraw.
  • Companionship – parents and other adults can make a difference simply by walking alongside troubled children and listening with undivided attention, forming warm relationships, communicating openly and allowing children to talk about their thoughts and fears.
  • Discuss coping mechanisms – these can include understanding that:
    • It’s okay to be sad and take a break from any activity and cry.
    • It’s okay to be happy and laugh.
    • It’s okay to be angry and jealous of friends and relatives who are not suffering.
    • It’s okay to say to anyone that we do not want to talk about it now.
    • It’s okay to ask for help.
  • Establish positive rituals – this could be something like a family dinnertime practice of each person sharing the best and worst moments of the day – the things that made them sad and those that made them grateful.
  • Embrace family history – having a sense of their roots builds children’s sense of mattering, of being connected to something larger than themselves. This includes knowing where their parents and grandparents grew up, what their childhoods were like and how the family fared in good times and bad.
  • Keep memories alive – remembering a loved one who has been lost builds mental health and even physical health over time.

Mr Adrian Scott

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