Death of a loved one is a natural part of our human experience, but it can be very confusing for children. Grief and loss is a complicated experience for adults, let alone young children. They often do not have the language to articulate their feelings nor do they know how to cope with such painful emotions. Here are some ways to help children who are dealing with grief and loss.Continue Reading
One of the hardest things about parenting is watching our children grow up and leave the nest- even though this is what we have been working towards and for since our baby’s first breath! Whether it’s heading off to school for the first time or moving out of the house as a young adult, the transition is not always easy for moms and dads. There is a loss involved and even a grieving process as we adults say goodbye to how things used to be at home. Although the change can be difficult, there are ways to make it less painful and even make it a joyful experience to open the next chapter of life. Here are some strategies to help parents get through this time:
Give Yourself Permission To Feel Sad and Excited
Often, parents feel confused that they feel both sorrow and liberation that they have more time to themselves. Sorrow because a child that they love won’t be around as much and won’t need them like they did before, and liberation because they not have more time to sleep, exercise, relax, and a number of other things. I encourage parents to embrace all emotions that they experience during this transition; don’t feel guilty if you’re looking forward to your son or daughter being away more of the time! Don’t try to suppress these feelings, as they’re totally natural.
Start Finding You Again
We put so much time, energy, and love into raising these precious children that being a parent naturally becomes a huge part of our self-identify. As transitions occur, and little kids become great big kids who aren’t around as much, it’s not uncommon to experience somewhat of an identity crisis, even a panic. Most of our adult life has centered to being with our kids and meeting their needs, so it can be a little tender for a parent when they no longer need us to respond to their every need, because they are figuring it out for themselves. If you find this to be the case for you, it’s time to get in touch with who you are in addition to being a parent. Perhaps you can take a class, spend more time with friends, and get back to hobbies you may have had to sacrifice in order to be there for your child. If this is overwhelming, start small with simple activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.
Know That There Are Good Things Ahead!
The famous author CS Lewis once said that there are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind. While it can be heart-wrenching to say goodbye to having little ones home with you during the day, think of all the wonderful adventures ahead (both for yourself and for your son or daughter)! This can be a wonderful time for your child to learn and grow in a way that he/she couldn’t if the transition didn’t happen. Cherish the memories you have, but also look forward to the ones you will create.
Childhood obesity is a problem that has received national attention in the past few years; the statistics vary a bit from year to year, but according to the State of Obesity’s latest annual report, 31.8% of American children and teens are either overweight or obese. While federal and state efforts have been made to combat this epidemic, the real battle takes place at home. If your kids aren’t quite as healthy as they could be, if they’re larger than what’s normal for their age and height, here are five ways to help:
Focus On Health
The first thing is to concentrate not just on weight, but overall health. Numbers on a scale can only tell us so much, but what’s more important is how a child feels (physically and emotionally), if they’re able to comfortably run and play with other kids, and that they’re developing the right habits for a lifetime of health. Don’t send the message that your child needs to hit a certain weight to be attractive; just work together toward better health.
Teach By Example
The biggest single factor in your child’s attitude toward fitness and nutritious eating is YOU! They see what you put in your body everyday, and since they’re living in your home, they will naturally eat the same kinds of foods. They take notice whether you sit down in front of a computer screen for hours or if you go take the dog for a walk. The old saying that “more is caught than taught” really rings true here. If your child is struggling with weight problems, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to discover that you yourself could stand to be more healthy too. I encourage you to think carefully about what kind of example you’re setting in this realm and then to make any necessary changes to model a healthier lifestyle.
Never Say “Fat”
Some parents seem to wonder how to break the news to their kid that he/she is overweight, but the truth is that they already know! Children are painfully perceptive of how they compare to their peers, and sadly those who struggle with weight problems have more than likely been bullied about this, starting in younger and younger ages. It’s not necessary to let them know that they’re overweight; they’re already aware! Still, when we approach this delicate subject, it’s crucial that we chose our words with the utmost care (I can’t think of any topic more sensitive than this one). Avoid saying “fat.” It’s a term loaded with shame that can lead to self-loathing and feelings of inadequacy. It is better to frame this in being healthy and unhealthy.
Make Slow Changes in Eating
If you realize that your child (and likely you too!) need to make some major dietary changes, it can be tempting to completely revamp the refrigerator and the cupboards to try to overhaul your family’s way of eating. This can be overwhelming, though, so try to make changes little by little. Recently, in my home, we have been eating more vegetarian meals, which has resulted in a lot of push back from my kids, as this has been a major lifestyle change. My son finally told me, “Mom! I need meat! Real meat! No more hippie vegan food!”. It was a good reminder to me to take my own advice and give some balance to eating changes, as this is a challenge for all of the family members. Its important to listen to your kids and make these changes slowly and openly. Also, don’t micromanage your child’s food intake, as this can be demoralizing and shame-filled for your child. Making small adjustments in eating habits, replacing sodas and processed snacks with water and fresh produce, can all add up to big changes in how a child looks and feels.
Exercise as a Family
In trying to implementing healthier lifestyle routines, it’s probably too much to set a strict physical regimen for your child (“Run 2 miles! Drop and give me 20! 40 sit-ups!”). Instead of making exercise a punishment or something to be dreaded, opt instead to make it something fun that the family does together! Trips to the park, swimming at the pool, a hike to a close waterfall, or even tackling the “Pokemon, Go” craze can all be ways to get outdoors, get the blood flowing, and strengthen those family bonds. Playing together will build bonds of attachment and memories that will last a lifetime…in a good way!
The most important thing to remember in all of this, is that we as parents just get to be good enough. We will completely mess up on a regular basis and all we need to do is say, “Wow, I really messed up. I am so sorry I hurt your feelings last night. I really love you” and try, try again.
Most of us struggle in knowing how to give comfort to an adult who is experiencing a loss or death of a loved one, let alone a child. We often struggle with understanding death as adults and attempt to protect children from having to experience this same mess of emotions as we are. Many adults are uncomfortable discussing death and dying and use phrases that may be misunderstood by children. At times however, our well-intentioned messages do the complete opposite of giving comfort! Here are the top five to avoid!
1- “He/She is in a better place now”
This can be such a confusing statement to a child (or anyone struggling). What could be better than being here alive with me?? This type of a message can unintentionally cause the child to internalize a belief that “I must have done something bad” or “I must be bad” if being dead is better than being alive and spending time together. A better thing to say is, “Your Mom can’t feel any more pain or suffering now because she has died and her body isn’t able to feel these things now”.
2- “We lost your Grandpa”
A young child is going to be very confused by this. They may wonder “Did Grandpa run away?” or “What?! Grandpa is lost? Let’s go find him!”. The child may worry about their loved ones health and feel anxious if they are safe or being taken care of by someone nice. They may worry about them being alone and scared, which is exactly how a child would feel if they were lost too! A better thing to say is “Grandpa died last night” and answer what questions your child may have about his death.
3- “He/She has gone to sleep and won’t ever wake up”
Young children may become very scared to go to sleep after hearing this, after all, if this happened to Aunt Thelma, then it could happen to them also if they go to sleep! Many children struggle with sleeping in their own beds following the death of a loved one, as nighttime and being alone in their bed is a perfect combination for their worries and imagination to take hold and create very scary possibilities. It is normal for a child to experience some regression during this time, they may begin bedwetting, climbing into the parent’s bed, struggling with falling and staying asleep, as well as refusal to be alone.
4- “He/She has passed away”
This is a typical phrase we use culturally to describe the death of someone. However, most children do not know the definition of “passed away” is actual death. A better way to describe death to a child is to say, “Uncle Joe died today. This means that his heart is no longer beating, his mind isn’t thinking, his lungs no longer work and he has stopped breathing. His body can’t feel any pain or cold or discomfort”. Some adults feel uncomfortable about being this upfront or frank about death, but this is actually a really important lesson every single human needs to learn. Every single person will both live and die at some point. It is okay to talk about this openly and honestly.
5- “You should feel happy now that they are in heaven”
Who has ever felt happy when someone has died?? You may feel peace or tenderness or even relief, but most humans do not experience feelings of happiness and joy as part of their grieving process. When we say statements like this to kids (or adults) we unintentionally are shaming them for feeling otherwise. Happy may be the very last emotion they are feeling at this point in time. There are no “shoulds” in grief, especially in childhood grief. A better way to say this is, “Its okay to feel sad and mad and any other feeling you may feel right now”.