Meet Barb Dittrich, founder of SNAPPIN' Ministries (Special Needs Parents Network). She is writing today about how to help support and stabilize your kiddos during tragedy or uncertain times (like what we are experiencing now as a country).
Be blessed by her wisdom!
7 STEPS TO PUT A FLOOR UNDER OUR KIDS IN UNCERTAIN TIMES
“This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:9b-11, ESV)
You would never know she is in her mid-teens as she nestles next to her mother on the overstuffed couch, arms linked, hands intertwined, nuzzling her face into her mother’s shoulder. It seems like strange behavior as the evening news blares from the television. Isn’t she a little old for this?
In tumultuous, uncertain times like we are currently experiencing in our world, children from very young to nearly adult age find themselves feeling like the ground is moving under their inexperienced feet. The threats to their well-being seem to assault them at a rate much faster than they are able to process. Whether it be terrorist attacks, the rise in teen heroine deaths, new epidemics like the Zika virus, or racial unrest, the size and scope of these occurrences can completely overwhelm a still-developing brain.
Being the mother of 3 children, all of whom struggle with anxiety, I have put myself out in front of this issue, and I would urge you to do the same. Having the adult capacity to filter the almost daily news trauma, I know that my tender kids can be deeply affected by it. While I can discern enough to realize what I should be concerned about and what I should not, my children, even at teen age, do not yet fully possess that skill. This requires a wise, proactive approach on my part.
Here is how I put a floor under my kids in uncertain times:
- Make myself approachable – It may sound obvious, but this is something we parents need to be aware of BEFORE crises occur. With how busy we all are these days, I have to be deliberate about allowing my kids to interrupt me when I am engaged in something non-essential. This means that I ask how they are doing, make direct eye contact, and allow them to speak to me when I am working at my desk, making a meal, or relaxing for the night. I even invite them to accompany me if I am doing a mundane task. I want to be the person they come to FIRST when life gets hard.
- Listen to their concerns – Don’t half-listen, fully listen. Notice their demeanor, their facial expressions, their tone. Follow their logic (or lack thereof) to its conclusion. This not only helps you to get a reading on where your child is at, it validates them.
- Don’t dismiss or belittle their concerns – While children’s worries can seem irrational, they are not necessarily irrational to them. They are kids. Confirm that you can see how they might believe what they are believing. This increases the chance that your child will feel more comfortable coming to you the next time they are worried.
- Talk through their worries with reassurance – It is important to stay at an age appropriate level when discussing world events or big concerns with our children. You are the visible presence of a Sovereign God to your kids. Offering them the comfort that you and other important adults are doing everything possible to keep them safe is something they need to know.
- Offer physical reassurance – Hugs, holding, and sometimes just the proximity of being together in the same room can help your child to gain a sense of groundedness in uncertain times. Touch is an essential human need. Your touch is, again, God’s presence to your child.
- Usher them into God’s matchless Sovereignty with Scripture – One of my children has a medical diagnosis that requires me to talk him through repeated pain. From even his toddler years, I spoke Scripture into him for reassurance. “Be anxious for nothing,” (Phil 4:6, NKJV); “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” (Phil 4:13, NKJV); “This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56: 9b-11, ESV) are all easy passages for kids to memorize and internalize. Remember, God PROMISES those words will accomplish His purposes when we speak them to our children.
- Know when to bring in reinforcements – If your child is losing sleep, constantly jittery, suddenly bed-wetting when they weren’t before, complaining of stomach pain or headaches, or generally stuck in worry, do not be afraid to talk to your pediatrician for a referral to a mental health professional. Our family has successfully used Cognitive Behavior Therapy to get unstuck from difficult, persistent anxiety. It is time and money well spent for the child you love.
These are worrisome times in history. Thank God that He is bigger than our greatest worries! Letting our children see us remain calm as we trust in Him, lovingly guiding them back to our only Solid Ground will equip them to face any uncertainty, now and in the years ahead.
How are you helping your child through these stressful times?
FOR FURTHER READING:
Talking to Children About Tragedies and Other News Events https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Talking-To-Children-About-Tragedies-and-Other-News-Events.aspx#.V4lqZFvJORY
Responding to Stressful Events: Helping Children Cope http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/oes-bsu-02/child-eng.php
10 Ways for Parents to Help Kids Through Scary Times http://www.huffingtonpost.com/meryl-ain-edd/10-ways-for-parents-to-help-kids-through-scary-times_b_8727618.html
About Barb Dittrich
The mother of three children, all of whom have a variety of chronic illnesses or special needs, Barbara Dittrich founded SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES (Special Needs Parents Network) in 2002 and currently serves as its Executive Director. The organization she leads was one of three finalists for WORLD MAGAZINE’S HopeAward for Effective Compassion in October of 2009, in conjunction with the American Bible Society. With a unique vision for serving parents of children with chronic illness, disability, or special needs, she has led the SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES team in developing an innovative parent mentor curriculum. She lives with her husband of 20+ years in Wisconsin, writes and speaks nationwide, and is the creator of the blog http://www.comfortinthemidstofchaos.com/. She also opines on her personal blog http://www.barbdittrich.com/.