Whatever parenting style you have chosen to live by, it can be heart-breaking when your children are experiencing difficult times. Most parents want their kids’ childhoods to be carefree and full of laughter and happy memories. That’s arguably one of the main reasons why families decide to embrace a travel lifestyle in the first place! Sadly, this is not always the case, however hard you try. Unforeseen challenges can occur that send shock waves through your family, causing confusion, sadness and anger. From the death of a loved one to divorce to mental health problems, all these events are extremely difficult for children to deal with. Not to mention the loss of control and helplessness you can feel as a parent, unable to take their pain away.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help guide your children through difficult times and ensure that they have the necessary coping skills to navigate this challenging period in their lives.
Encourage Them to Talk About Their Feelings
If you are not a particularly emotional person or struggle to share your feelings with others, then this initial step may be a challenge for you, but it is a vital one. If your children are not used to being able to talk about how they feel, then when they do experience trauma, they will simply shut down. Therefore, it is extremely important that you encourage your children to talk about how they feel on a daily basis. It is also necessary to explain to them that it is OK to feel sad or angry or hurt. They do not need to be experiencing positive emotions all the time. Make sure that you actively listen to their concerns and never simply shush them or belittle their worries. Yes, it may seem a trivial issue to you as an adult, but to your children, it may be extremely worrying or stressful.
Identify Individual Coping Skills
Once your children are able to recognise and talk about the times when they are feeling negative emotions, you can work to find a selection of coping strategies that will help them. This will be different for every child and could be something as simple as closing their eyes and focusing on their breathing for a few minutes until the particular stress or negative emotion has passed.
Other common coping skills you may want to try include:
- Painting or drawing
- Going outdoors to play or for a run
- Counting to 50
- Writing in a journal
- Listening to music
- Taking a bath
- Sitting with someone that they trust
Know When to Seek Professional Advice
As a parent, it can be difficult to face the reality that your child may not be coping very well, especially if there has been no evident trigger for their change in behaviour. Of course, you would expect a child who has lost a close relative to be struggling and showing signs of distress, but many children experience difficult times even without a specific incident occurring. There may be numerous reasons why your child is not coping with everyday life.
Sadly, there is only so much you can do as a parent to help your child, and this is where the help of a trained medical professional is needed. Eden Treatment centre offers a safe and secure environment, led by a specialised clinical team who will help your child overcome their mental health condition, and teach them how to go on and lead a happy, fulfilled life.
If you are worried that your child is struggling with a mental illness, it can be incredibly helpful to know what warning signs to look out for. Some of the most common signs include:
- Sudden mood changes or mood swings that are having a detrimental effect on their daily lives.
- Overwhelming feelings. If your child is overly worried or fearful of everyday situations, they may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
- Sudden behavioural changes. Maybe they are fighting with their friends or lashing out at you.
- Unexplained weight loss. If your child is suddenly not wanting to eat, refusing to eat in front of you, or is frequently vomiting, this may indicate that they are suffering from an eating disorder.
- Substance abuse. If you suspect that your child is using drugs or alcohol, this may be their way of trying to deal with a mental health issue.
- Physical problems. A young child may complain of a stomach-ache or headache when they are under stress or suffering from anxiety.
The most important element to remember is that it is not your fault. Nor is it theirs. Sometimes things just happen that are beyond your control. All you can do is be there for your child, listen to them and offer any support they may need, whether that be from you or from an external source.