This post is contributed.
Parenting is, without a doubt, an endless whirlwind of joys, laughs, and shared moments that you will treasure forever. For most parents, raising their children is the single most rewarding thing that they will ever do, and the time they share with their children is the most precious.
Unfortunately, all parents will, at some point, have to face testing times. When your family goes through a challenging period, parenting becomes all the more difficult: the situation in and of itself is tough enough for you to handle, and explaining what is happening to your kids – and processing their subsequent reaction – can feel almost impossible.
However, there is good news: there are ways and means of coping with stressful life circumstances while still ensuring that your kids’ well-being is prioritized throughout. Below, we’ve listed some of the most trying times you may experience as a parent, as well as a little advice on how these circumstances can be navigated to the benefit of all.
We all know that moving house is stressful, but the process can be particularly trying for kids due to the sheer amount of change and uncertainty moving tends to cause.
- Take your kids to see your new house as soon as the purchase is confirmed, even if you’re a few weeks away from moving. The sooner your kids can see it, the greater head start they will have on seeing the property as “home”.
- Spend a little time exploring your new neighborhood with your kids in order to familiarize them with the area and ensure moving day does not feel like a leap into the unknown. If you cannot physically visit the new neighborhood often – for example, you are moving 200 miles from your existing home – then you can offer a similar experience by using Google Earth and Street View.
- If your kids are worried about losing touch with friends who live close to your existing home, spend plenty of time reassuring them of all the different ways they can keep in touch and, if possible, arranging future playdates so they have something to look forward to after the move.
Family disagreements or arguments
Internal family disputes are always tough to deal with, but they are – unfortunately – a fact of life for many of us. While we may love our families desperately, at times, hostilities can arise for a number of reasons, which makes it difficult to maintain your normal relationship with the individual in question.
- If you are in disagreement with a member of your family, you will no doubt try to ensure that your kids are not impacted by the disagreement itself. However, if you are not visiting a family member you usually see regularly, your children will notice, and may ask for more information. Should this happen, just explain that you are spending a little time apart to figure a few things out – this is one scenario in which keeping things vague is usually for the best.
- If you are socializing in a large family gathering, and the family member you are in disagreement with is present, simply give them a wide berth. If they wish to discuss matters, insist that they do so privately, far from your children. If, despite this, your family member continues to try to raise contentious issues in front of your children, then you are well within your rights to just walk away and refuse to engage.
- A huge amount of advice related to disagreements with family members will encourage you to make peace, even if you are in the right, for the sake of your kids. Unfortunately, this rarely works; you’ll still feel aggrieved, and the matter will never truly be resolved. Instead, let the disagreement play out naturally, in order to ensure a satisfactory resolution to the issue.
Family financial concerns
It is fair to assume that the majority of parents will, at some point, face financial challenges when raising their children. For parents, the realization that finances are stretched is incredibly tough to cope with, with the stress over the situation further compounding the existing financial concerns.
- Many parents try to prevent their kids from learning about financial difficulties for fear of worrying their children unduly, but honesty is usually the best policy. You could simply explain funds are a little limited at present, and to ask for their understanding during this period. If you wish to discuss the subject in more depth, then there’s no harm to doing so, but in most cases, a quick explanation two-sentence explanation will more than suffice.
- You can also ask your kids to prioritize what is most important to them; for example, would they prefer to go on a school trip, or to go to a soft play center on the weekend? Giving kids a say in how funds are used in this way can ensure the money you do have available is used effectively, and in all likelihood, will be glad to be consulted and given the choice.
- It may sound like a cliche, but often, but some of the most cherished experiences you will have with your kids will be very simple – settling down to watch a DVD on the sofa, making a recipe together, and so on. If funds are tight, simply look for low-cost activities that suit the entire family; the chances are that your kids won’t even notice they are low cost – they’ll be too busy having a fantastic time.
The death of a loved one
The death of a loved one is arguably the biggest challenge any parent will face, especially if their kids were particularly close to the person who has passed. If you find yourself in this sad situation, you may feel torn between two competing emotions: your own grief, and the desire to protect your kids throughout the process.
- When it comes to discussing the loss of a loved one with your kids, there are a number of different ways to do this. However, it’s important to note that, ultimately, the decision as to what you wish to say is specific to your circumstances; there’s no “right” or “wrong” choice here.
- As well as discussing your loved one’s passing, it’s also helpful to learn how to explain grief to kids in order to ensure they are comfortable with their emotional response to the news. Grief is an entirely natural emotion, and everyone deals with it differently, so frank, open conversations can be hugely beneficial.
- While you will likely focus primarily on your kids’ emotional well-being, it is also important to allow yourself time and space to grieve wherever possible. You’ve lost someone, and thus you should allow yourself the freedom to grieve for however long it takes. Furthermore, as well as being crucial for your own emotional health, allowing yourself to grieve also sets a healthy example for your children.
You or your partner become unwell
When most of us look back through our childhood, we can remember times when one – or both – of our parents were unwell. Many of us look back on these memories with a sense of nervousness, remembering how tough it was to deal with the idea that our parents were, well, human, and will thus want to protect our kids when we are under the weather.
- When a parent is unwell, one of the major issues that children have to deal with is uncertainty – they don’t know what is happening, why it’s happening, or what might happen in the future. As a result, it is usually best to keep your children as informed as possible; there’s no need to go into great detail if you’d prefer not to, but general information can actually be comforting.
- If your partner is unwell, it is often tempting to want to treat your kids and spend time with them. While this can be hugely comforting, in many cases, your kids may actually find it a little alarming – a drastic change in their routine signals that something is wrong, which can be disconcerting. As a result, you may find that it’s actually best just to keep to their normal routine as far as possible.
- If you are your partner are unwell, it’s usually preferable to keep recovery times vague. Even if you’re sure you’ll be back to full health in three days, there’s always a chance your recovery may take a little longer – this is totally normal, but your kids may see it as a worrying sign. It’s therefore usually best to stick to a simple “soon” rather than specifically stating you expect to have recovered in a certain timeframe.
If you do find yourself in a situation where you and your family experience the tough times as mentioned above, it’s natural to feel confused, and more than a little cautious as to how best to proceed. Hopefully, the advice as provided above will help you to find a way through, and allow you to steady the ship and steer course for calmer waters soon enough.