I’m thrilled to welcome Janine Halloran back for this guest post. If your child struggles with anxiety, stress, or anger, you need to check out her new workbook: Coping Skills for Kids, which includes 75 strategies and ideas to try at home.
It’s close to midnight when the storms that have been threatening all day finally arrive.
The rain pounds on the skylights, lightning flashes, and thunder roars.
The rain is getting more intense when all of a sudden, the lights go out. There are a few surprised shrieks, then rustling in the dark for flashlights and candles.
Suddenly, my daughter bursts into tears and wails “I don’t like storms and I really hate blackouts!”
When our kids get stressed or anxious, they need help and support to figure out ways to cope with it.
It’s our job to teach them what they can do in those moments, just like we teach them to brush their teeth or write their name.
Talk it through and reassure them
Ask about what’s bothering them. Use open-ended questions instead of closed questions. You may be surprised at what the real cause of the issue may be.
Address their questions and help reassure their concerns as much as you can.
I rub her back and lead her back to her bedroom as she’s crying. She tells me through tears that she doesn’t like blackouts because she thinks spiders are going to come into her room. I reassure her that spiders want to hang where they can get food, not by people who can squish them.
Give them something to hold
It could be a special stuffed animal or a blanket. It could be a small stone or shell. It could be a fidget toy. Sometimes just holding onto an object can help a child feel more calm.
She grabs her special stuffed brown bear and crawls into bed.
Distract them by playing games
Sometimes when kids feel stressed, you can take the stressor away. Are they in too many activities? You can drop one. If the sound of the vacuum bothers them, you can choose to vacuum when they’re not around.
But some things, like storms, are inescapable. The best thing to do is to try to find a highly engaging activity and to help them “escape.”
We talk about different things she can do to take her mind off the storm and spiders. I suggest we start playing a game that requires our minds. She stops crying and we start playing.
Starting with A, we go through the alphabet and list animals we can think of. A – Alligator, B – Bear, C – Cat, D – Dog. We take turns thinking of animals and we finally get to Z.
The storm is subsiding but the lights are still out. We go through the alphabet again, with the added challenge of using all new animals.
Stress and worries will happen in our children’s lives, but we can help them learn to successfully weather the storms.
After the second round she announces: “I’m glad my mind is occupied. I forgot I was in the dark and I forgot about spiders”
She settles into her bed to go to sleep.
Janine Halloran is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and the author of the Coping Skills for Kids Workbook, with over 75 coping skills for kids to use to deal with anxiety, stress, and anger. Learn more at copingskillsforkids.com.