Helping Your Child Respond to Tragedy

By Dixie Walker

Think of the most recent tragic event that’s made headline news. What was your initial response to it? Did it create fear in you? What about uncertainty for your future? Did it make you feel afraid to continue your normal daily routines, wondering if something bad would happen to you or your family?

Times of upheaval are difficult for everyone. We all want to think our world and the environments we live in are safe, secure, and happy. However, when unexpected disasters occur, we’re often left without understanding or reasons behind the chaos. And for children, these difficulties are especially upsetting.

Adversities come in a variety of ways. We may encounter natural disasters such as tornadoes, floods, or hurricanes. We see video and photos of the ways weather can destroy individuals’ lives, homes, and belongings. Other times we may face what appears to be an untimely accident or death of a loved one. And, sadly, there are also senseless catastrophes caused by the evildoing of mean-hearted people.

It is reassuring to know that none of these situations are a surprise to God. In fact, our Heavenly Father gives us words of comfort for such times. In John 16:33 we read, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. You will have sufferings in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

As parents, you wish to protect your children from the grim circumstances that are happening in our world. However, kids often hear of these events from their friends, in classroom discussions, or through the media before you know they’re aware of the situation. Although there is the desire to explain these difficult conditions to your child, be careful to temper details according to his age and level of understanding.

Here are a few guidelines that can make these frightening situations easier to get through with your children:

  • Keep daily schedules intact. Children find security in routine. As much as possible, continue your child’s normal procedures with school, home, church, and friends. Doing this will show your child that God helps us deal with everything that comes along in our lives and that we can move forward.
  • Discuss tragedies appropriately. It’s not healthy to offer unnecessary traumatic information to children. But if your child asks you questions related to the event, answer her questions as simply as possible — giving enough information to satisfy but not so much as to bring about more distress.
  • Explain events on your child’s level of understanding. Even preschool-aged children realize the concept of good and bad choices. You can relate information, even that of evil behavior, in terms of people making bad choices. Remind your child that God loves all people, and that He wants us to make good and right choices in relationship with Him and to others in society.
  • Offer comforting words from the Bible. Place a bookmark in your child’s own Bible where he can easily read promises that bring assurance to him when he feels unsettled about the unusual events that are happening. If he is unable to read on his own, then you can be ready to read the verses to him as well as explain what they mean. A few comforting passages of Scripture include:
    • “Casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you” (1 Pet. 5:7).
    • “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble” (Ps. 46:1).
    • “I will not leave you as orphans, I am coming to you” (John 14:18).

The next time you encounter tragedy, trust that God will help you as you seek to bring about understanding and give comfort to your children. Most often, kids find peace in homes where parents rely on God for their strength. Pray, alongside your children, for God to take care of families who are affected by tragedy and to protect your family as well.

Dixie Walker is a freelance writer of Christian family ministry resources. She and her family reside in Nashville, Tenn.

This article appears in full on pages 8-10 of the March 2018 issue of ParentLife. To order the current issue, click here. To subscribe, click here.

Real Life Solutions: ADHD and Counseling

We are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to parentlife@lifeway.com and include “? for Dr. Mintle” on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

troy at desk
source: brookesb

Q: Our 10-year-old son has been diagnosed with ADHD. The school recommended he have counseling, but we really don’t know why. Our family seems to get along and we don’t have problems with our son other than his direction following and forgetfulness. Why would the school recommend counseling?

A: I would encourage you to ask the school directly as to why the recommendation for counseling was made. Without knowing your specific case, I can’t say exactly why, but I can tell you the purpose of counseling in most cases.

There is a saying, “Pills don’t teach skills.” Too often, parents medicate their children and don’t work on the management of ADHD. Counseling does not cure this disorder, but it does help kids figure out their strengths and weaknesses and how to help themselves, given their unique way of doing things. For example, counseling can help your son develop a reminder system or a tracking system for his homework.

Counseling might focus on relationship skills that help his social life at school—how to deal with frustration, impulsive behaviors, etc. Counseling reinforces a positive mindset and helps children understand that learning can take different forms and doesn’t mean they aren’t bright simply because they learn in less conventional ways.

Counseling is usually helpful when parents feel like they have tried things and need extra help with systems that work. Usually the counselor uses a cognitive behavioral approach in which the focus is on thoughts and behavior. This type of therapy teaches problem-solving, goal setting, new skills, and management of feelings. Finding a therapist who specializes in working with children with ADHD and understands the impact of the disorder is important.

Resource: Raising Boys with ADHD by Mary Anne Richey and James W. Forgan

Real Life Solutions: Pacifier Use

We are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to parentlife@lifeway.com and include “? for Dr. Mintle” on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Pacifiers in the tree
source: Dilona

Q: I have been trying very hard not to have my baby use a pacifier. I’m the only one of my friends who seems to be overly concerned about this. My mother-in-law is telling me to lighten up. I’ve read that pacifiers can affect a baby’s speech. Am I overreacting?

A: This is a generational question that parents must consider. Pacifiers are typically used to soothe and distract a baby.

Here is what we know. One positive finding about pacifier use is that it has been linked to reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in sleeping babies. On the negative side, thumb sucking, pacifier use, and even bottle use have been associated with an increase in the risk of speech disorders when the sucking is long-term.

Breastfeeding did not have this effect on children and in fact, promotes positive oral development. And pacifier use can interfere with breastfeeding.

In terms of pacifier use, the results from a 2009 study published in BMC Pediatrics were based on children who used pacifiers for more than three years. These kids were three times more likely to develop speech impediments. Now, the authors of this study also said that pacifier use and thumb-sucking for less than three years increased risk. The reason has to do with how the sucking motion changes the normal shape of the dental arch and bite.

We also know that pacifier use can be associated with middle ear infections. However, the Mayo Clinic tells us that when the risk of SIDS is the highest (birth to six months), rates of middle ear infections are also low.  The recommendation to reduce SIDS is to offer a pacifier at bed or naptime until the age of one.

So the information is a bit confusing. I don’t believe you are overreacting. The concern about pacifier use grows as your baby grows. You can choose other ways to soothe your baby. I’m a big believer in nursing because there are so many benefits to the baby and you. If you are breastfeeding, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you wait until four to six weeks after birth to introduce a pacifier. Certainly, don’t give a baby a pacifier all day, choose a silicone one-piece to avoid breaking (a choking hazard), and don’t force the use.

Resource: Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5

Real Life Solutions: My Child Is Being Bullied

We are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to parentlife@lifeway.com and include “? for Dr. Mintle” on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

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source: lucylawrence

Q: My son has been the victim of bullying at his school, and we are trying to understand why and how to help. Our family is going through some difficult changes and there has been a lot of yelling and tension in our home. We are trying to work on that by seeing a counselor. Do you have other suggestions for us?

A: In 2010, the APA published a study where researchers reviewed 153 studies on bullying over the past 30 years. What they found was that bullies and victims share similar traits. Both lack social problem-solving skills and feel awkward and uncomfortable among their peers. When you add poor academic skills to the mix, a bully, rather than a victim, is likely to emerge. The study additionally profiled bullies with these traits:

  1. Negative attitudes and beliefs about others
  2. Negative self-image
  3. From families with conflict and poor parenting
  4. Negative school perceptions
  5. Negatively influenced by peers

The study also noted that victims are usually aggressive, lack social skills, think negative thoughts, are problematic in social skills and solving problems, isolate, are rejected by peers and come from negative family, school, and community environments. So continue to work on solving the family tension, work with the school and teach your son a technique called The Swarm. Basically, a group of bystanders swarm the bully and tell him or her to back off. There is power in numbers and bullies will often back down when confronted with a group that pushes back on them. Work with your son to identify who he can get on his team and stand up to the bully.

Also work with the teacher. She may be able to coach the class on the technique as well. Practice social skills and help him problem-solve when he encounters problems at school. Building his confidence to handle peers will go a long way.

Do you have any advice for parents of bullied kids?

Real Life Solutions: Divorce and the Holidays

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We are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to parentlife@lifeway.com and include “? for Dr. Mintle” on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

 

 

Q: My husband and I are divorced. Last Christmas was our first year apart, and the holidays were a nightmare. This year, we want to minimize the stress on our two young children during the holidays. What can we do to help them and have less fighting this year?

A: Both of you need to be respectful to each other at all times and stay calm and relaxed so as not to pass along stress to your children. Children can feel parental stress, but they don’t know how to cope with it. Whatever issues you fought about last year, talk about them ahead of time and try to come to agreement on those issues. Next, make sure the children see both parents during the holiday time. Work out a schedule before the season begins and stick to your plans. It helps to post a calendar for the children to see the plans on paper.

If your children are going to both homes on Christmas Eve and Day, stick to the pick-up and drop off times. Tell them to have a great time as you drop them off; sometimes kids need permission to have fun with the other parent. Encourage them to give you a few highlights of time with the other parent, but don’t prod for information.

Finally, build in some down time. Kids need rest and time to enjoy their new gifts. Take the time and make every effort to drop unimportant issues during this time of year. If you and your ex approach the holidays with a positive attitude, this will be passed on to your children.

How do you deal with holidays if you are divorced or separated?

Real Life Solutions: Thanksgiving

We are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to parentlife@lifeway.com and include “? for Dr. Mintle” on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Source: uniquecraft.info via C on Pinterest

 

Q: Thanksgiving is a holiday that doesn’t seem to get its due. I want my children to understand the meaning of the holiday, as it is an important part of American history. What kinds of activities can I do with my children that will teach them more about this important day?

A: I agree that Thanksgiving doesn’t get the same attention as other holidays. Yet it is an important part of American history that should not be relegated to a big meal. Here are a few ideas.

  • Print up a paper that says, “I am thankful for … ” and every day in November encourage your kids fill in the blank. Then, read a few of their answers on Thanksgiving.
  • Print up an Indian sign language chart and use them to tell a story.
  • Cook a few original colony foods (you can look these up on the Internet) and talk about the first feast.
  • Try your hand at several colonial crafts like weaving and pottery making with homemade clay.
  • Get an archery board and shoot arrows.
  • Build a campfire and try to cook something over it.

Activities like these will make the holiday come alive and give an appreciation of what times were like during colonial days.

Finally, find quotes about the holiday, such as this one from Abraham Lincoln: “But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, by the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.” Talk about what Lincoln meant and how your family can remember to give God the glory for all you have.

What do you do to teach your children about Thanksgiving?

Source: Read & Write Booklets: Thanksgiving: 10 Nonfiction Booklets That Teach About the Mayflower, Pilgrims, Wampanoag, and More! by Alyse Sweeney (Scholastic Teaching Resources, 2010)

Real Life Solutions: No Halloween

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We are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to parentlife@lifeway.com and include “? for Dr. Mintle” on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: My husband and I decided we are not going to celebrate Halloween. Our child is 3 years old, and she doesn’t know much about the holiday yet, but I have been surprised at how many people, Christians included, have given us a hard time about our decision. What is your opinion?

A: After researching the roots of Halloween, I am not a fan either. I don’t like the connection to occult roots, the scary costumes, the gore, and the idea of frightening kids and desensitizing them to the dark spiritual world that does exist. However, every family needs to make a decision as to what they are going to do with Halloween. Some people allow their kids to dress up in fun costumes and trick or treat. Others attend alternate harvest parties at their churches. Some feel alternatives should not be offered as it assumes kids are missing something.

The important thing to do is research the holiday, pay attention to what you feel the Lord is telling you to do, and talk as a family. Pray for wisdom and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, not other people. Then help your child understand the position you take and why.

Other people should respect your decision. You don’t need the approval of others. Romans 12:2 reminds us not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Taking a stand for what you believe to be true based on Scripture is an important lesson to model for children. Perhaps that is what you will teach your child as she gets older.

What do you think, PL Readers?

Real Life Solutions: Keeping Whining at Bay

mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to parentlife@lifeway.com and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: The other day, I took my daughter to a park and we played most of the day. As soon as we came home, she began to whine and said she had nothing to do. I have noticed that no matter how active we are, she complains. I don’t like this behavior and when I lecture her on being grateful, she just rolls her eyes. Any suggestions?

A: Whenever you try to change a child’s behavior, first look at your own. Do you whine and complain and model this behavior? Think about your conversation at meals, in the car, and on the phone. Sometimes parents are the culprit and need to get a handle on their own complaining behavior.

If that is not the case, consider this: Most children today have grown up with loving parents who provide lots of toys and stimulation. They aren’t used to being “bored.” So no amount of lecturing will do.

Instead, you have to do something about the whining that does not involve words. Tell your daughter that Mom and Dad made a mistake by paying attention to her whining and complaining. From now on, you will both ignore that behavior when it happens. You will walk away from her when she whines.

Then do it. Do not give any attention to that behavior when it happens or you will reinforce it. It is OK to give one warning when she says she is bored. Say something like: “It’s up to you to find something to do” or give one suggestion. After that, ignore complaints. Remember that whining usually means she wants to do something other than what is available, she wants you to change your mind, or she wants to do something she can’t do at the moment. So be resolved to use this ignoring strategy.

Keep in mind that when you begin to ignore an obnoxious behavior, it may escalate at first because the child is used to you responding. Do not give in when she escalates and the behavior will soon disappear. But you have to be consistent and give it a week or so.

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Great advice, Dr. Mintle! I may give these tactics a try with my own whiny kid. (Anyone else feel like they might scream if they hear, "Mom, I’m hungry!" again today?) How do you tame whining? — Jessie

Real Life Solutions: Exposing Children to Drinking Relatives

mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to parentlife@lifeway.com and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: We will be traveling to our relatives in another state for several family gatherings during Christmas. Two of my siblings are problem drinkers, and I am not sure how to handle this with my family. We do not drink, so my children are not used to seeing family members act up while under the influence. In the past, the drinking has gotten out of hand. My children are now old enough to ask questions. What do I do or say if the drinking starts to become a problem again?

A: Drinking during the holidays can get out of control and create many problems for families, especially in families where problem drinkers are in denial and do nothing to prevent getting intoxicated. The best advice is to make sure that when you visit, you have a way of escape. Even if your siblings offer to let you stay at their homes, reserve a room at a hotel. That way, if their behavior becomes problematic, you can leave.  

Before you travel, I would tell them and your parents that the past history of drinking makes you uncomfortable and that if things begin to get out of control, you will excuse yourself and leave. This way it puts the burden on them to moderate. If they persist in their behavior, you explained the rules ahead of time.

If you leave, have a talk with your children about the importance of family (the reason you continue to visit) but that there are times family members must set limits and boundaries on behavior that is unsafe or inappropriate. Being around people who are drunk is not something you want to expose them to or be around. Altered states change people in ways that are not always nice. This is a hard line to take but one that will earn the respect of your children and may cause others to rethink their enabling behavior.

Don’t allow anyone to put guilt on you for setting boundaries. You are not telling your family what to do but telling them what you will or will not tolerate to keep your family safe.

You can see more advice from Dr. Linda on her blog.

Do you have experience with having to set boundaries with family members? Please share your advice in the comments.

Real Life Solutions: Dealing with Shyness

mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to parentlife@lifeway.com and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

 

Q: I have a shy child and want to help her make friends. She tends to cling to my side and not talk to anyone when we meet a new family. Even after several play dates, she is reluctant to leave me and go off with the other children. I see her playmates trying to engage her, but she is very hesitant. Are there things I can do as a parent to help her with shyness?

A: Shyness in children is not uncommon, so don’t panic. Many children are born with a shy temperament and need a little coaxing to engage in new situations or with new friends. Contact with new people is a bit terrifying but in most cases can be overcome. Occasionally we see children who are so anxious that they need treatment from a mental-health provider to work on anxiety. However, given time to adjust to new situations, most children do fine.

There are two areas of your child’s life I would like you to consider. Has she been rejected by other children (teased, singled out, excluded from peers, etc.) or neglected by other kids (ignored, left out of activities, not picked on a team, etc.)? Being rejected or neglected by peers can reinforce shyness and cause a child to withdraw.

As a parent, you can help coach your child to deal with relationship exchanges by teaching her how to forgive others; manage her feelings of hurt, anger, or rejection; defend herself from teasing; make requests to play; and find friends who will be kind.

A key part of this coaching is focusing on how your child thinks about herself. Shy children tend to over-focus on their own feelings and fears and judge themselves too harshly. They have thoughts like, No one will like me or They think I am stupid. And when someone does show interest, shy kids tend to think it had nothing to do with them. The fear of being rejected or embarrassed takes over. 

So talk about positive things when meeting someone new or engaging in a group. Ask your child what she might like about engaging in an activity with other children. In new situations, it helps to have one familiar face in a group, so try to find that one friend or person your daughter knows to help ease the adjustment. Shy children want to be social. Finally, as much as we want to rescue our children from discomfort, resist paving the way. Instead, prompt her to make a move and encourage independence. Each success will build and bring confidence.

If your child seems shy and this resonates with you, you may want to check out Nurturing the Shy Child by Drs. Barbara and Gary Markway.

Do you have a shy child? How do you cope and teach?