6 ways to support children facing difficult situations

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the phone rang and i could hear the excitement in her voice, “he had a great day. in fact, they both did.”

tears welled up in my eyes and i did my best not to burst into tears; i was both thrilled and relieved. i might add, i was also proud of my daughter.

as a mother, my heart aches when my children struggle in painful situations. it’s even worse, when there is nothing i can do that seems to make a real difference.

however, there was an incredible outcome this time…

let me take you back to the beginning.

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my grandson is such a loving little man. my daughter was a single mom for most of his first fives years and for his age, he was quite emotionally sensitive and gentle. several times a day, he would stop, look at his mother and say, “mum, you’re so beautiful.” when he turned five and started school, he often shared similar compliments with his new teacher.

as well, he is bright and learns quickly. he began attending school in the middle of the year and easily caught up to the expected academic learning levels.

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their little family moved before his second year of school which meant a change of schools.

the change we began to notice was not only in the change of schools…our little man was changing, too.

first, my daughter noticed that he began eating non-food items. she tried everything she could think of: distract, change diet, add vitamins and iron, and visits to the doctor for professional advice. nothing was working. she googled what she was witnessing and found that the condition was called pica. he began to have serious health issues.

she felt helpless and i felt helpless as well.

the eating disorder was not the only change we noticed. he was often unsettled and easily agitated. this was not normal. at all.

we looked at things at home that may be contributing. we wanted to ensure that he was only involved in age appropriate games, TV, and activities. we looked at possible stress points. we were coming up with nothing.

when we talked to him about his days at school, he would mention what sounded like a bit of play ground bullying. so, we turned to the school. they had nothing to report. the school year was ending so we hoped a summer break and a new school year might help bring a solution. summer went well…he was more settled and we were hopeful.

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this year was his third year of school and things were not better-they were going from bad to worse? my daughter began nursing school and her schedule became quite busy and stressful. the school began to call with reports of aggressive behaviour. what? we could not fathom what was happening.

the calls continued to come in from the teacher and my daughter was becoming more and more desperate. we arranged support meetings with the teacher, the assist principal and finally, the principal.

he continued to tell us stories that truly sounded like bullying.

the calls continued to come in. his teacher often explained that his aggressive behaviour seemed to be a result of other children “winding him up” as if he were retaliating. yet, when asked, there did not seem to be any support for him in preventing the “winding up”.

i volunteered to become a substitute (grand)parent aid since my daughter’s time was fully committed with her studies. i noticed an overwhelmed first year teacher, i noticed aggressive playground confrontations, and many situations where adult support was missing when it was much needed. we continued to schedule meetings with school staff attempting to resolve the situation. nothing…at all…was working.

my heart ached for my daughter and i began to feel concern for my grandson. this was not our little boy…he was becoming unhealthy, he was not our happy care-free child and he was becoming reserved and frustrated.

one day while on the playground with him, he pointed to a hedge at the back of the school and told me, “deedee, i used to hide in there during recess but they cut it down.” i was stunned, “jake, why did you hide in the hedge?” “because i’m afraid.”

i wanted to cry.

instead, we attempted to find support from the staff.

sadly, it was becoming clearer that the environment was not safe for him.

she withdrew him from the school at the end of the term and transferred him back to his old school.

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which brings me back to the phone call i described at the beginning of this post.

the change of environment is beginning to make a huge difference.

the principal has placed him in a classroom with a male teacher…which he loves. already, we can tell that his teacher understands how little boys think and learn…brilliant.

his smile and gentle demeanour are back. the pica disorder is hardly noticeable (and i expect it to cease altogether). most importantly, he is less stressed and safe.

what a relief…it may not solve all the issues we were facing but we are off to great start.

children are vulnerable and often find it difficult to communicate how they need help.

here are 6 ways to support children when they face difficult situations:
1. trust your instinct. you know your child better than anyone in the world. if things don’t add up, take action.

2. listen and believe them. although children can get facts wrong sometimes, it’s important to listen carefully. they will give you clues to the fact that there is a problem even if they don’t understand what the problem is. the clues are there: change in behaviour, frustration levels,
emotions and personality. you will find they will attempt to verbalize to the best of their ability, listen.

3. be involved. you will know, instinctively, if you are dealing with a situation that the child needs to work through him/herself. however, if he/she begins to struggle-be involved. sometimes, they just need to know there is back up support. sometimes, they need intervention.

4. be fearless to make the difficult decisions. give yourself the benefit of the doubt. there might be difficult decisions to make to ensure their well-being…make them.

5. ask for help and support. don’t be afraid to reach out for support. we all need help/support from time to time and that is what family and community are about. reach out!

6. don’t give up…no matter how long it takes to resolve. there were times when we were at our wits end. times, when we doubted what we did know, our instincts and decisions. however, my daughter didn’t give up. she started and stayed with it until she was able to narrow the issues down even to make an informed decision. it was stressful. it was difficult to get people to listen. we cried together but we DID NOT stop.

so, the day that my daughter called with good news…we celebrated!

we were grateful…all was well again.

do you have any tips to share about helping children through difficult situations? i would love to hear them. please share them in a comment below.

oh, and give your sweet babies a hug…that’s always a great place to start.

see you next time,
D

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