Mental health and coping for parents and kids with Noor Awad
Have you ever asked, “How do I talk to my children about what they’re going through? How do I make sure I’m validating them?” or thought “Have I messed up my kids?!”, and/or “What does safety look like for my kids and how do I make sure they feel safe?” and lastly, “How can I raise resilient children?”
Here's a few tips for you as parents/caretakers/guardians on navigating situations with your children:
Disclaimer right from the beginning! The biggest barrier to any of the below tips is going to be our inability as adults to show them what all of this looks like.
We all know our children DO what they SEE, not what they’re told. So as you read the below tips, try to embody and live them so that your child observes and learns from you. Try to take these tips on for yourself first before you apply them on your children.
Identify emotions early on by giving them a name/label. Give the emotion a name, and if your child is too young to identify the emotion just yet, give it a face (actually make the face for them!). “What does sad look like? What does angry look like?”. Try to using these three steps:
1) What is the emotion? (name it)
2) How are you going to feel what you need to feel? (meaning how are you going to give this emotion the time and space to pass, what is the healthy coping style?)
3) What do you need from others? (normalizing it is okay to ask for support/help)
Remember what we said about our children doing what they see? For example, next time you feel angry, know your kids are listening or watching:
1) “I am really angry right now. This is anger” then make sure you show them how you’re going to COPE.
2) “Now I am going to give myself some time and space to calm down”, THEN identify what you may need from them
3) “I may need some time alone” or “It’s okay if you want to give me a hug, but I don’t want to talk about it”.
Once you begin showing them how YOU navigate YOUR emotions in front of them, then you can use these steps what they’re navigating their own emotions.
When you’re a parent, balancing more than one thing on your never-ending to-do list, you may not follow these steps and smack that door and feel whatever you need to feel your own way, we’ve all been there. It’s okay! If you follow these steps one time this week, that’s a win!
Okay so, what happens if it’s been a bad few weeks? How do we repair with our children when it feels like we've messed them up big time?!
Here’s the great news, science tells us, there’s ALWAYS room for repair with our children 🙂 No matter how old they are! (or how bad of a parent we think we are!
What we all have in common is the need to know we are loved and that we belong. That’s what we all need and that’s what humans have in common. Our children too.
No matter what happens, if you can hold your child at the end of the day, make sure they know they are safe, loved and seen, unconditionally – you can know they will be okay. That is all our children need.
Make sure you tell them when they’re listening, no distractions. And feel free to address anything that happened in the day, if you need to apologize or let them know nothing that happened was their fault.
Yes, it’s that easy. See?
How to make sure our children feel safe?
Identify one place in the home (ideally the child’s room) where it is neutral ground. No fights or arguments can happen in this space. This is a safe space that they can go to at any time and know it will be okay.
- Don’t enter this room until they let you in.
- Remove all electronics in this space if possible. (Cyberbullying/bullying & teenagers: our children may be getting bullied without our knowledge, and electronics can make it feel like bullies have access to them anytime/anywhere. Making them feel like they’re not safe even in their own space. Try to remove access to the internet or direct access to phones, ipads, computers in their safe space.)
- Alternatively you can ask your child/teen: Where do you feel safe? Who makes you feel safe? Have this discussion with curiosity and nurture the spaces/relationships they share with you.
Identify a tribe for your child: the bigger the tribe your child has around him/her, the more resilient they become! Family or friends who become family, this is key. These bonds allow your child to feel like they have more than one space where they feel safe and seen, as safe as they do with you.
The science of human mental health, psyche and behavior has shown us that the more children see their parents as imperfect, the children grow to be more resilient and less impacted by negative experiences or behaviors.
Why? So ask yourself, what happens when their superhero does something they don’t like? How deeply disappointed are they? Or how much do they begin imitating exactly what they’ve done?
This exact “superhero” persona children attach to their mothers and fathers can be toxic. Parents aren’t meant to be heroes or perfect or Godly – and that’s what we need to stop telling/showing our kids.
And here’s where faith plays a big role, no matter what you believe, let your child attach to the idea that a higher power, source, Creator, is the source of perfection, love, and mercy – not you!
Whatever it is you believe in, let your child have hope in that. Because when you fail them (and you will because you’re human and that’s okay!) – they’ll have hope in something bigger than them and you. And this source of faith will keep them grounded, that no matter what they experience, they’ll know it’s going to be okay. And THAT is resilience.
It isn’t about giving our children the perfect life, rather giving them the tools that will help them get up when they’ve fallen down. That’s the perfect gift you can give your child.
Good luck parents, you have the most beautiful and hardest job in the world! (and you’re doing the best you can)
Love and light,
PS: if you have questions or want to hear more, tune into our Live Instagram Q&A this Monday October 24th 6:30 PM!