Of all the many human emotions, sadness can be one of the most difficult to manage. It occurs at many levels and in many different ways: it can be as simple as disappointment or as complex as grief and depression. Commonly identified as one of the primary or core emotions, sadness is also one of the first to develop and can be experienced very early in life. Magination Press book, A Feel Better Book For Little Tears by Holly Brochmann and Leah Bowen, is a beginner’s book that addresses the overall concept of sadness. It also provides parents and caregivers tools not only to help children process and cope with this difficult emotion, but to convey that it is normal--everyone feels sad sometimes. Here are some ways you can help your child understand and cope with sadness: Responding to Sadness Sadness can be felt, and expressed, in a variety of physical ways. Tears are the most obvious indications of sadness, but children may manifest sadness in other ways like anger, isolation, clinginess, or stomach ache. A child may be unable to communicate or even recognize some of these physical manifestations. As a parent, first take note of changes in behavior that may demonstrate the less obvious reactions. Then you can help them connect those reactions to the sadness with verbal cues. For example, if your child is being extra clingy, you can simply acknowledge their feelings by saying, “I know it makes you sad when Mommy can’t be with you all the time.” Children can be sad for so many reasons, some of which may be significant to others, while others may seem miniscule or even ridiculous. It’s important to remember that while the child’s feelings may appear insignificant to you as an adult, they are quite the opposite from the child’s perspective. Bear in mind age-appropriate sadness and respond with both empathy and sympathy rather than trivializing your child’s feelings. “I’m so sorry you can’t wear your monster shirt today. I know it’s your favorite and you are sad when it isn’t clean. I understand how you feel, because I feel sad when that happens to me, too.” Normalizing Sadness One of the most important messages you can convey to your child during times of sadness is that you are there for them. Sadness can be a lonely emotion, especially if experiencing something very personal and individual. It helps to have support from someone who knows what you are going through. If your child loses their favorite stuffed animal, for example, listen to them, however often they want to talk about it. Storytelling in this way may be their way to process their feelings. You may also normalize their feelings by sharing a story about how you experienced a similar loss when you were their age. Be honest about how sad you were and how you cried. Talk about what helped you with your sad feelings. In the meantime, let your child know you will be there forRead More
Fear is a natural response to threatening situations, but sometimes fear can prevent people from participating in everyday experiences. A phobia is an irrational fear of something. When a child struggles with a phobia, it can greatly impact their lives and the lives of their families. Psychologists Claire A. B. Freeland, PhD and Jacqueline B. Toner, PhD explain how parents can help kids with phobias overcome their fears by supporting gradual, increasing exposure to the feared situation, helping kids learn mindfulness and self-calming techniques, promoting positive self-talk, and monitoring exposure to frightening messages from the world at large in Magination Press book What to Do When Fear Interferes: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Phobias. Take small steps The most effective way to overcome a phobia is exposure, which requires the child to experience the feared object for a period of time long enough for their extreme physical and emotional reactions to dissipate. One of the greatest challenges in helping a child to overcome a phobia can be convincing them to hang in there rather than avoid their fear, and to provide support as they do so. It’s important to approach the trigger in a modulated way. Initially, a child may need help choosing tasks that are far removed from the feared experience, such as imagining a thunderstorm or looking at pictures of insects. Taking it slowly and letting a child experience success by overcoming mildly scary situation will allow them to build confidence in facing increasingly more feared situations. Build skills In addition to helping a child increase her exposure to her phobia, parents can help her develop strategies to manage her reactions to scary experiences. By developing positive self-talk, a child can learn to focus on rational thinking and self-cheerleading to proceed with exposure experiences. Providing rewards, both tangible and social, will help them feel accomplishment and pride in taking on gradually more difficult challenges. Learning coping strategies that help them to relax and de-stress can reduce overall anxious tendencies, making success more likely. Manage Media Phobias can result from frightening or traumatic experiences, but more often, they don’t have a known source. Children who tend to be anxious may be likely to develop a specific phobia. Children are particularly susceptible to developing vicarious fears. This happens when they observe another person reacting with intense fear. Or, a fear can develop vicariously by watching a movie where another is afraid or even from a news report that accentuates the damage caused by a storm or the abundance of a particular illness this season. Parents should be aware of messages children may encounter that could serve to reinforce their fears. Gently redirect adult conversation about impending weather events, recent accidents, or out-of-control animals. Judiciously monitor children’s experiences with frightening messages they receive through the media. When such messages still manage to reach a child, a parent can counter scary messages with more realistic views of the possible danger and how people can stay safe. HelpingRead More
Help Your Little Worrier Stay Calm
A Feel Better Book for Little Worriers helps children understand what worries are and what to do when they are feeling worried. From verses that demonstrate body awareness to coping strategies for kids, A Feel Better Book is not only enjoyable for children to read, but also helpful for both children and caregivers. To learn more about how you can help your child cope with worries, check out our article Stress Management Exercises for Anxious Children.
All children experience changes and transitions - moving, changing schools, a friend leaving town. These changes can bring uncertainty and sadness about what a child may "lose", such as friends, caregivers, teachers, comforting rituals. This is common even when there's excitement about what may be next. Transitions and changes can become times where we recognize how much we care about someone or something. When we feel a sense of loss, it's because we care. Changes and transitions are not disconnected starts and stops from everyday life; they are bridges between the past and the future. You can help children carry a sense of wholeness and continuity through the impermanent landscapes of their lives. Changes are bridges between the past and the future. Below are a few guidelines and examples of what you can say to a child experiencing a change or transition. You'll want to adjust what you say and how you say it according to a child's developmental level and what you know about your child. Also, children often need repetition and may want to have the discussion more than once. Your child may repeat it to you, as they try to strengthen their understanding of what is happening. Acknowledge the transition. Acknowledge the change or transition and the feelings that often come with it. For example, you might say, "You are going to have a different school (home, class, etc.) now. People can feel a lot of different ways when something like this happens. Some kids feel sad, some scared, and some mad. Some might feel excited about some of the things that will be different." Express and validate feelings. Ask about your child's feelings. Sometimes, children will only tell you something if you ask. You could ask, "How do you feel about going to a different school?" or "How do you feel about your friend moving away?" Children may express their feelings directly or indirectly. They may cry. They may want to avoid the discussion. Either way, allow and accept the feelings and let children know their feelings make sense. Listen without expressing judgment about their feelings and without telling them what they should feel. If a child expresses feelings directly, saying they are sad and/or mad, you might say, "Yeah, sometimes I also feel that way when things change but I want them to stay the same." If the child nods or otherwise shows that you've hit the mark, you might go further and recognize how hard it can be to accept what's out of our control. For example, you might add something along the lines of, "Sometimes I wish I had magic powers to make things be the way I want them." If a child expresses feelings indirectly, try to see what these feelings are or may be. For example, if a child puts their head down, you might try, "You seem sad." If you get no response and the child seems open to talking, you can check your perception with, "Are you sad?" ValidateRead More