Supporting Children Through Difficulty

August 28, 2013

Concept Photo - overwhelmed

The beginning of the school year marks a definite change in routine. Even if your children have completed their studies, you’ll note the shift in your communities. Traffic explodes. Schedules stretch to their max and stress levels skyrocket for both adults and children. In this pressure cooker of competing priorities, conflict is inevitable. Mistakes will happen and solutions must be developed.

What is the best way to confront problems? First, identify who owns the problem. Is it the parent or the child? For parents of kids with trauma histories, an added dimension exists: distinguishing between rescuing and support. Children learn through experience and the most powerful lessons arise from failure. It is important to reinforce a child’s capabilities. Convey an expectation that they can and will create a successful resolution. Elicit their ideas in a way that acknowledges their approach and encourages them to tackle the issue.

If they’re stuck for ideas brainstorm how “some kids have solved similar problems by doing _____” (Insert some successful strategies) Allow them to adapt the information to their situation. After they have come up with suggestions, if they still want your input, offer it. Rushing to rescue and problem solve sends a subtle message of incapability, weakens confidence and reinforce your child’s need for rescue.

Adoptive moms and dads may find themselves still actively parenting their “new adult” children. Many adoptees with recurring trauma patterns experience a gap between chronological age and emotional age. Their peers may be fully independent while your child still requires intensive nurturing and guidance. Eventually parents will be able to retire to a less active role. Until that time arrives, make your assistance available when they request it. Help your children to recognize and manage their own triggers. Encourage them to develop ways to soothe themselves. As their abilities develop  parents can retire from their Team 911 duties and become their child's biggest champions.

How will you remind them that regardless of their behavioral choices, your love remains unconditional and distinct from your approval or disapproval of their behavior? How do you model this in your relationships with family, friends and co-workers? What steps have you taken to confirm that the message you intend is the one they are receiving? How many different ways can support look? And how is it distinct from rescuing?

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