Here you are in one of the most, if not the most, trying times of your life. You may have to move, get a job, find reliable childcare, change churches, find out who your real friends are and more. If that were not enough, you have a child or children who are as devastated as you, but they don’t understand why this happened. You are worn out physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually and you can’t concentrate. On top of that, you are lonely. You love your children unconditionally, but they are also reacting to the changes in their lives. They may be withdrawing or acting out in anger. Their grades may be falling and their tempers rising. Yours is, too, because there isn’t much left of you to give them by the end of the day.
The pain your children are feeling may be the thing that hurts you the most. There are some little things you can do that will help a lot.The most important thing you can do for your children is listen to their feelings. Children don’t always have the words for their emotions, so they may need you to help put them into words. Even if you have tried to talk to them about their feelings and they yelled at you or retreated to their emotional safety zone, you can still help them talk about their emotions if you know how.
First, you must understand that feelings come in layers. Usually with uncomfortable emotions, anger is on top. Anger has a way of spewing all over everyone, which can lead a parent to respond the same way. Instead, stop and remember your child is grieving. Anger is an essential part of the grief process – part of breaking the bond with the one who is gone. You probably feel it, too. Have you noticed, when someone validates your anger, it seems to take the air out of it? That also works for children.
Even if you don’t agree with the things your children are saying, you can validate that they believe it and it hurts. One way to do that is to respond with, “It sounds like you feel __________. You can even add because_________. For example, “It sound like you feel angry, because Daddy didn’t pick you up at school today like he promised.” Or, “It sounds like you feel scared at Mommy’s house, because I am not there at night.” Don’t worry if you use the wrong feeling word, because then the child will have to think about it and correct you. This should disarm the child and open the door for you to go deeper. Listen again to your child’s next comment. It will probably have a strong feeling attached. Validate again, even using the same template if you wish. See if that doesn’t take your child to the next feeling level. It may take some practice, but if you love your children, and I know you do, it will be worth it. By continuing this process, you can often discover and correct the misconceptions your child is feeling after the loss, such as, “It’s my fault.” Try this today and see if it doesn’t help, but remember, your children may need you to do it a few times before they trust that you are really going to listen.
Visit again soon for more ideas on how to help children through tough times.