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At times, parenting can seem buried in the day-to-day tasks that help your child thrive. From preparing meals to ensuring everyone is bathed, clothed and ready for their daily routines, it’s easy to get caught up in providing for your child’s physical needs. But their emotional needs are equally as important. And for that, they need someone they can lean on for advice throughout the ups and downs that life brings along their journey.
Here’s how to be the best “guide” you can be, nurturing their body, mind and spirit through tough times.
Be Prepared with Your Emotional Tools
Tough times — whether it’s “the worst day ever” at school or a serious situation such as coping with an ongoing illness — can be stressful for teens and younger children alike. The right parental approach can go a long way toward helping your kids navigate through those challenges. Here’s what to pack for life’s journey alongside your child:
A Healthy Lifestyle
Encourage your child to be physically active, because that’s an important way to help kids handle stress better.Physical activity can help lift your child’s spirits as it raises the natural chemicals in the body that create good feelings. Proper nutrition helps with energy and focus, and good rest also plays a major role.
Active Listening Skills
Sometimes, your child just needs to know you are there to listen. Let your child talk things out, whether it’s to tell you about a negative experience with a classmate that day or how she feels about the latest medical treatment she’s facing.
Even if you want to respond with a caring comment or suggestion, it’s best to get the full picture of your child’s situation and state of mind first. If you can’t offer an immediate solution, let your child express a range of emotions.
Work Together to Form a Plan
Once you know what’s creating stress or anxiety in your child’s life, come up with a plan to get through it together. Perhaps the plan involves talking with teachers or doctor, cutting down on after-school activities or encouraging journal writing.
Prepare Your Child
Sometimes you know a potentially stressful event is coming your child’s way. It could be a dreaded doctor’s appointment or having to put a beloved family pet to sleep. In the end, avoiding a stressful situation won’t help your child. Instead, talk about it. Keep your child’s age in mind and tailor what you say to very young kids versus teens.
Help your child come up with a list of healthy coping strategies that can use when stress or anxiety presents. This could be coloring, writing, going for a walk or saying a prayer — anything that helps to promote a healthy body, mind and spirit.
When in Doubt, Laugh
Humor and the laughter it brings can help lower levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. It may even help raise levels of pain tolerance.Join your child to watch a funny movie, read from a joke book or play a fun game. Encourage him that even on those days when he makes a silly mistake, it may help to laugh out loud about it and realize that no one’s perfect.
The Best Journey Is the One You Take Together
Sometimes it’s not about having all the answers. It’s often simply about being there for your kids, whether they want to talk or just want to know you’re walking alongside them on their daily journey.
Here’s one more reminder you can share with them: They have an even greater guide — one who will stay by their side no matter where life takes them.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified … for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
– Deuteronomy 31:6, New International Version
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