We’d all love to live in a world where children are insulated from sadness and suffering. We’d all love to be able to project an invisible shield around them and prevent life’s inequities from damaging their vulnerable bodies and minds. At least, until they’ve developed the coping mechanisms to deal with them.
But we know that life is not always kind, even to the relatively privileged (that is to say, most of us in the western world). We know that even the most well behaved and loving children will experience hardships, ordeals and trauma beyond the occasional grazed knee or sprained ankle.
We know that they may encounter name-calling, bullying or emotional abuse at the hands of their peers. We know that their important friendships can turn sour. We know that teachers can lose their tempers and in their stress and frustration say things that weigh heavily on our kids’ minds. We know that try as we might, we parents can’t always insulate our kids from crisis as we help them navigate life’s path.
What we can do, however, is know how to help them through a crisis, whatever the form it takes.
How to help your child through crisis
Know where to go to get them medical attention
If your child is injured or falls ill quickly, you need to get them fast access to the medical care and attention they need. This doesn’t have to be life-threatening for your child to need access to urgent care specialists.
Learning some first aid and having a well-stocked first aid kit in your home can help you to deliver on-the spot care, but knowing where and how to get fast access to a professional is also extremely important.
Keep calm and show them nothing but love
If your child has gotten into a fight with another kid, fallen afoul of a bully or been mistreated by an adult, the mother lion in you will no doubt come out roaring.
But be wary of letting your anger and indignation show in front of your child. They don’t need an avenging angel right now. They need calm, stability and love. Show them nothing else.
Don’t sweep it under the rug
By all means encourage kids to move on from trauma and grow after having encountered it. But at the same time, be wary of sweeping traumatic events and crises under the rug.
While you may be keen to help them move on and rebuild their emotional infrastructure, this may prevent them from fully coming to terms with what’s happened.
Listen to them
It’s perfectly understandable to sit your child down in times of crisis and set out your manifesto for how you’re going to deal with it. But this isn’t always the most useful strategy. It can cause them to feel swept up in what’s happened and rob them of any feeling of control over their circumstances. Make sure that they feel listened to and able to communicate their feelings in their own words.
Encourage them to write or draw about it
Finally, not all children are able to clearly articulate their thoughts or feelings after a traumatic event. However, they may find it therapeutic to draw or write about their feelings. If your child is struggling to open up to you, giving them a little opportunity for creative expression can go a long way.