Baby resting his head on dad's shoulder

Three Tips for Helping Any Child Deal with a Difficult Family Situation

In one of the most famous opening lines in literature, Tolstoy perfectly encapsulated the difficulty involved in achieving and maintaining happiness as a family. There are innumerable ways in which problems could arise and lead to a crisis, possibly one with a lifelong impact. As divorce attorneys know too well, the involvement of children creates even greater complications than the already-substantial financial and emotional issues divorcing couples face. Kids may be a lot more resilient than you’d expect, but they are also in the most crucial formative and fragile stages of their lives. If you’d like to help any child whose family is going through a difficult situation, here’s how you can approach them.

Be honest and reassuring.

Kids can be very smart and perceptive, but they have a wide range of maturity and awareness, depending on their unique combination of age, background, and personality. Nevertheless, every child should be handled differently.

Pay attention to a child’s behaviors and signals, exercise the skill of active listening, and adjust your communication style accordingly. Always be honest and reassuring; never talk down to them or be dismissive of their concerns.

Younger kids may need the truth explained in simple terms, but it still has to be the truth, even if they don’t need to know all the details. Older children can better absorb more information but may need time to handle it. You may want to initiate conversation, but wait for them to open up or ask questions.

Encourage forms of self-expression.

For adults, talking about problems is often a great help and a start towards positive action. Kids, on the other hand, aren’t always comfortable with expressing themselves with words or in face-to-face conversation.

You may exert a positive influence by encouraging a child towards self-expression using another medium. Writing in a journal can help any child to express themselves without fear of immediately disclosing their thoughts to someone else.  Making art is another way to express feelings that may be difficult to articulate. Both of these activities also serve as prompts for future reflection and better processing of an emotionally challenging situation. Playing music, dancing, or other physical activities can also help release stress through movement and prove uplifting to any child’s spirits.

Invoke the power of fiction.

A little boy hugs his father's hand

As we grow older and gain more experience in life, we can easily process new situations, even difficult ones, by drawing upon similar experiences in the past. Children may struggle to deal with stressful times since they don’t have prior knowledge or the confidence that problems will be resolved. Thus, you can reach out to a child using a work of fiction that can give them such an understanding.

As the author Neil Gaiman once wrote, paraphrasing G. K. Chesterton: “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Using the right book may be the best way for you to help a child understand that they will get through a crisis and that better days lie ahead.

Each child may need a personalized approach before you can effectively help them out, but keep these basic practices in mind to better facilitate your purpose.

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