During this time of “Stay-At-Home,” families have an opportunity to evaluate their family systems. Many families are finding that they had a very busy life pre-“Stay-At-Home.” Perhaps their family system was lopsided (not everyone chipping in with household duties), and the household was unable to flow when everyone was suddenly home. This may have led to arguing, isolating, and resulting insecurities. When children witness and are participant in such chaotic situations, it is important to work through the struggle to a place of trust and security. Parenting Matters believes that families can overcome and rebuild their family systems during times of crisis. Read on for some tips and stay focused on what matters to your family during this time of togetherness.
Crisis times are an opportunity to restructure circumstances so the family system can work and become functional and respectable quickly. During crisis living together day in and day out can be difficult with all the differing personality traits and pet peeves we humans often develop and carry. I heard somewhere along the way that people who live in the colder regions of the world often became introverted during the winter seasons so they could survive their “Stay-at-Home” months. My family jokes with me and says I would not survive such circumstances as I am quite extroverted. I imagine I would have to separate in the dwelling and busy myself for a good chunk of the day. That is fine, as I know I am busy and sometimes loud (mostly cheerful) when with others. When I am alone, I will sing and stay active; no loss for me-personally, I enjoy alone time for a few hours. This scenario is a big gain for those that like their quiet time, I know. Children do not understand crisis and when their family cannot get along during such times, it creates a personal crisis. Here are some guidelines for relating to overwhelmed children during times of high stress or crisis:
Notice the Overwhelmed Child
– When a parent sees a big personality change in a short amount of time (like a mood swing, crying, yelling), this is an indication that something is bothering the child. Even over-enthusiasm, a need to be perfect, or forced actions that are suddenly out of sort (compulsive behaviors, ie: organizing, cleaning) can be a sign that something is wrong on an emotional level.
-The parent should express care and concern regarding the behavior they saw (crying, yelling, storming off, etc.), NOT what they think.
-“I saw you shed a tear, tell me what you were thinking just before that happened”
Hear the Child Response
-The parent should then consider the response.
Are they blaming themselves, another, or others for their uncomfortable feelings? This feeling is fine to have and God-given. Encourage them to keep talking, and relate that you have felt that way too. DO NOT minimize their feelings but assure them that you know that feeling and care.
-For crying you might say:
“You might just feel sad and want to cry. Sometimes crying makes you feel better.”
“Don’t be ashamed. I know about crying and understand it is important to let these feelings out.”
*Fun Fact: There are different types of tears that do different things for the body (brain or eyes). There are three types of tears:
1-Psychic tears are caused by emotions like great happiness, or deep sadness.
2-Basal tears lubricate the eye’s cornea
3-Reflex tears protect the eyes in response to something invading the eye like a hair, pollen, onion gasses, or mace.
They are each made up of different substances and or hormones. Some of these substances have shown to be pain relieving. Wow!!! Crying relieves pain………
Continue the healing conversation like this:
“I am also sad when terrible things happen. Here are some questions you might have”
“Why do so many bad things happen in the world?”
“How can I get through this terrible time?”
“What are some other things you are worried about right now?”
For faith based families you can add:
“Does God know and care about me?”
“Why did God allow this to happen?”
To answer these questions parents should discuss:
Terrible things often happen in this world. These tragedies affect many people, including our own family. When bad things happen it’s natural to feel scared, sad, or even angry. If people have died, been injured, or are hurting in some other way it can cause the feeling of helplessness or anger. These circumstances may seem so unfair. Under these situations, people may become afraid that something else will happen.
Parents should then reassure the child by telling them:
I love you no matter what your thoughts and feelings are and that love is forever. You are an awesome kid and were given to me to raise and keep safe through all circumstances. I cannot control the world but I can control how I respond to it. I understand your concerns and I will protect you to the best of my ability in all situations. Although bad things happen in the world, the family unit will stick together and do what is right for each day as best as we can. When I know I have my family unit, I know I can be the best I can be for that day, and if it doesn’t work perfectly I can try again the next because that is what families do.
Explain further for some resolution:
Sometimes bad things happen that we do not understand because we are not seeing the big picture. These things often result because of poor decisions due to the humans desire to fix and control their immediate circumstances. The freedom to make our own choices is a privilege that requires wise decision making. Sometimes people’s choices are not wise or good. Sometimes the choices affect nature too, causing illnesses, storms, or fires. For example, people chose to settle in places and rooted so deeply (owning lands) that they could not follow new paths. Storms have removed homes and wars have caused people to flee their houses. The borders and governments have prevented some people from going to safer lands.The natural world (earth) grows and changes with its circumstances just as our bodies grow and change. Even though poor decisions can cause terrible things to happen, good can come out of them. People often start caring more about each other. Some might even risk their own lives to help others. More importantly, people may also begin to think more about others in their community, their surroundings, their environment and change their ways. What good things have you seen people do when something bad has happened?
I am here to hear your concerns and answer your questions. Does this mean that nothing bad will ever happen again? No, bad things will always happen in our world. But you can know that I or someone in this family will be there for you. I am your awesome parent and helper, you are my awesome kid and we are part of an awesome family that can get through tough times so our future will be brighter. I love you so much and I want to help you through this time.
Faith-based parents consider this response:
In the Bible, God says He loves us with a love that lasts forever (Jeremiah 31:3). God made us and He knows us better than anyone else does. God says he places the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6). If you have never thought much about God, know that He thinks about you (Psalm 144:3). He wants you to know He is in control of everything, even when it doesn’t seem like it (Psalm 34:18). Although evil things happen in this world, God is completely good (Jeremiah 9:24). He never does anything that is not right. He is holy—perfect and pure (Psalm 18:30). You can trust God even when everything around you is going wrong (Psalm 37:5 & Psalm 62:8).
The living God does know and care about you. He knows everything. God created the whole world and He knows what happens in every part of it—nothing is a surprise to Him (Psalm 24:1-2). He knows about accidents, wars and shootings. He knows about terrible storms, floods and earthquakes (Mark 4:34-41). God knows what is happening to you and your family (Psalm 147:5). He cares about what you think and how you feel . He knows the questions that are on your mind. It may seem like nobody really understands what you are going through, but God does.
God will hear and answer your prayer. Does this mean that nothing bad will ever happen again? No, bad things will always happen in our world. But you can know that God will always be with you. He has promised He will never leave you (Hebrews 13:5). The Bible also says the Lord is your helper. You don’t need to be afraid (Hebrews 13:6). Trust in God. He will help you get through anything.
God loves you so much, He gave you His words in the Bible. There are many passages in the Bible that are helpful when we go through hard times. You can memorize these verses and say them when you feel sad or afraid. Always remember that God loves you and He wants to help you through this hard time. Hebrews 13:5-6, Psalm 13:6, Psalm 145:18, and Psalm 46:1.
“…I (God) will never leave you.” Hebrews 13:5
“The Lord (God) is my helper; I will not fear.”
“(God) alone is my rock and my salvation.”
“The Lord (God) is near to all who call on
him.” Psalm 145:18
“God is our refuge and strength, a very
present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1