Just in the last week, Leonard Nimoy died, a fire raged in the Western Cape, my kid’s uncle got married and she scored an astounding 88% in a Maths test. It seems like a lot to process, both bad and good, but if you add in the context of our daily lives and the demands thereof, it suddenly feels like we all need a little lie down and maybe a bedtime story. It’s the same for our children, who are learning how to juggle good days and bad, homework deadlines and the desire to go over to their mate’s house for a playdate.
Here’s the thing – as parents we try our best to protect and nurture our kids, keeping them safe from harm and potential hazards but, real life isn’t really like that. As harsh as it feels to accept, there is no protective bubble that surrounds you when some of life’s harder bits smack into your reality. But how do we help our kids cope with it? How do we empower them to take the good moments in life and accept that bad things happen too?
I’m over-aware that my kid’s been through too much already. At just nine years old, she’s changed schools, grown up, watched a grandparent die of a terminal disease, been the child in a single parent home, dealt with school pressures and other things I’m not about to include in an online piece. But we’re not here to talk about the things kids go through – we’re here to talk about how to get kids beyond life’s little bumps. It is possible and these are my top three tips:
Talk, talk, talk and talk.
No matter the situation, the weather or the time of day, never say no to talking. As incredibly obvious as this may sound, it’s really not how we actively live our lives. Take a moment to think right now about how you rush through your evening to get dinner on the table and grubby faces bathed just before a bedtime story. I know, because I am like this too – I regularly feel like I’m juggling dinner, homework and about twenty seven other things between the hours of 5 and 8pm… it doesn’t leave all that much room for lazy conversation. But it is possible to keep a conversation going, and touch on things that happened during the day, while you’re stirring the pasta or pasting in a worksheet. Just try it.
Ease up on the sharing filter
Fact is, the parent-child relationship is fringed with the fear of disappointment, on both sides, so your kid may not want to tell you about something that’s bummed them out because they’re scared of disappointing you. Similarly, you’re unlikely to share a bad bit of news from your day with your kid because you don’t want to disappoint them. The “I’m sorry I can’t throw you the Frozen birthday party you wanted because we just can’t afford it” conversation is not easy. But please, have it. When you openly share both the good and bad parts of your day, your kid will feel more confident in sharing theirs. If you can show your kids that it’s okay to have a bad day, they’ll learn that resilience is possible. We all want resilient children, and the best way to raise them, is to be resilient and strive towards resilience ourselves, as best we can.
It’s about using that parental sixth sense
You have a significant parental sixth sense – please, use it. It could be in the way your kid takes their dinner plate or walks towards the living room for some television time. Or it could just be something they say that seems a little off. If your kid has had something happen in their day that’s made them sad, stop and take notice. It won’t take you more than three minutes to suss it out, and those three minutes will be worth it. Sharing their story of how Belinda stole their favourite eraser with you, or how Natalie didn’t invite them to her next party, enables your kid to feel heard. Knowing that their day’s good and bad matters, helps kids to get past the bad and enjoy the good more.
And lastly, this isn’t a tip. It’s something my mom told me. I’m paraphrasing it, but she said: “Let her see you cry. Not often, not every day, but when something happens that brings you to tears – happy or sad – let her see you cry”.
Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.
Do you find it easy to talk to your child about all sorts of topics?