In the past ten months, we have had two natural disasters (both hurricanes ) and a job loss (our sole income). While I am still a bit shaken, our children act as if nothing happened!
No matter who you are, you will go through a fiery trial eventually. Yours may be a trial like mine, or you may have a death in the family or a terrible sickness to a family member. Or, you may have the trial of all Americans as we went through 9/11 or that of the world as we watched the London bombings this week.
Whatever the trial, there are a few ways to help young children cope:
Routine: I cannot express this one strongly enough. Have the children keep up with their regular morning routine and their normal chores. If nothing else, be sure they have their usual bedtime ritual.
Turn off the News: The news makes things more scary. Turn it off now and then, so you can view life through your own eyes rather than that of the news anchor. When Hurricane Dennis came this week, I needed to listen to the news for weather updates. For a few hours, I watched on the family TV. Finally, I noticed how upset my tummy was, how the children were arguing constantly, and how fussy the 2-year-old was. I turned off the TV. and moved to the kitchen, where I could listen on the radio. I baked cookies and grilled chicken breasts while the kids played in another room. Soon, all of us were much more calm.
Let Them Be Near You: Have you heard that country song that says, “Let them be little. Let them sleep in the middle.”? Just this once, let them do that! Let them be near you as you do laundry or cook. It helps them to see Mama act normal.
Conversation: Talk about what is happening, in a calm and casual way. Our five-year-old asks so many questions when life is bumpy. Recently, he wanted to know if we were going to die like Great-Grandma who had cancer. I let him ask his questions, and answered him simply, without sugar-coating it. But I also let him know that it was not likely that one of us would get cancer soon and that it was also not likely that we would die soon. Great-Grandma was very, very old, I told him. We are not nearly that old.
Schoolwork: Your kids have to fill their day with something, so why not let it be school? During a trial, you won’t want to teach school, but your kids can still do it. Hand them a few papers or let them do something creative. In the middle of Hurricane Dennis, our kids made lapbooks. We didn’t have electricity on, so they couldn’t research on the Internet. That was actually good, as it taught them to use books and magazine pictures for research and inspiration.
Prayer: Pray with the kids, but don’t sensationalize the trial. Pray for the trial along with the dog’s fleas, the lost shoe, and the vegetables in the garden. With older children, you’ll want to pray longer and more seriously, but with young children, make it a quick, simple prayer.
Your children will rebound faster than you’d think. They will certainly rebound faster than you will, so take care of yourself, too!