From Dr. Jane's Notebook

Helping your Child Cope with Fear

The recent rise in violent crimes poses a perplexing problem for parents. Not only do parents fear for their children's’ safety, but children themselves need to know how to deal with their fears, confusion and frustration. Beyond reassurance, we must figure out what our children need and the best way to help them cope. Here are a few more thoughts on the matter.

One way out of this power struggle is to recognize that our children are almost always at a disadvantage with adults. As such, the last thing they need is to feel that their parents are also against them. Rather, kids need to know that their parents are caring and trustworthy advocates, who will help them interface with the world of adults, and protect them from discrimination.

Establishing an open dialogue requires listening to your child without being judgmental, sharing your own feelings and personal experiences, and resisting the impulse to criticize. While it is true that you may not like everything that you hear, this is the only way to learn what your child really thinks.

As adults, we’ve all felt the need to blow off steam about work every now and again; and the same is true for our children. They frequently need a safe place where they can express their feelings, fears, and discontents. The safest place to do this is in the environment of their own home. In my experience, when kids feel "heard" and their feelings are "validated", they become better able to cope with their concerns and better able to overcome their discontent. However, when we are quick to dismiss or minimize their feelings, kids become increasingly frustrated, mistrustful and feel increasingly misunderstood.

In these pessimistic times, too many kids anticipate a life of failure, and thus placeless value on their own lives and well-being. To remedy this pessimism, parents who wish to raise successful and well-adjusted kids, must encourage their children by conveying sincere confidence in them, and helping them anticipate the future with a sense of optimism. When all is said and done, children are most in need of our love, respect and understanding; and these really are the gifts that last forever.

ęCopyright, 1999, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.

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