How to Help Your Child Through a Difficult Time

Erin Smalley essentials

I’ve been in this place many times — and it’s never easy. However, if you are have the title of “mom,” walking through difficulties with your kids, no matter their age, is just part of the job description. As I’ve helped my kids deal with challenges — again and again — my comfort level and confidence has grown. My desire is to begin equipping them to walk through the difficulties of life, but let’s be honest, often “mama bear” gets in the way. She wants to take over and eliminate everyone and everything that causes them pain. But, I promise you, there is a better way!

My precious seven-year-old daughter, Annie, was born with something called amniotic band syndrome. Thus, she has a “special” left hand and cleft lip and palette. She has dealt with all of these challenges (10 surgeries to date), on top of being abandoned at birth and left in the middle of China to be found by a stranger and placed in an orphanage. Although, my three biological children (Taylor,21, Murphy,17, and Garrison,13) haven’t dealt with circumstances anything like Annie’s, they have had their own unique set of painful circumstances that they have been dealt. Think about the possibilities: a fight with their best friend, behavior issues at school, reading or speech delays, medical issues, a teacher who hurts their feelings, not making the team and the list goes on and on.

Each of our kids will have their own set of challenges and their own unique reaction to it. Sometimes the pain is short lived, and other times it’s a lifetime of working through it. However, mom to mom, I’ve discovered that “fixing it” isn’t always an option (although, at times it would be my preference to relieve their pain). What I can say after twenty-one years of motherhood, I’ve grown enormously as a result of navigating through challenging seasons and events with my babies and thankfully, so have they.

Here’s some of what I’ve learned:

1.Seek wisdom!

As a brand new mom, I can remember sitting in my first mom’s group at our new church. Greg and I had just moved to Los Angeles with our six-week-old baby girl and we had no one — no family and no friends. I was scared to death. However, this group of women wrapped around me and taught me more about being a mom than any book ever could have. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of great information out there in books and on the internet, but there is something amazing about walking with other women who have either been there or are currently walking in the same season of motherhood. Become great at asking questions and listening to what has worked for others. And then, go home (and figure out what will work for you and your child and their specific challenge.

2.Provide comfort and safety!

When your child comes home after a horrific day at school, make it your goal to provide a home that is emotionally safe. If you’re wondering what this means, basically it is an environment where they know they can talk to you without being judged and criticized, but instead validated and loved. Make it your first goal to really get great at understanding what happened to them, how they were left feeling as a result of it, andthen discussing what needs to be done — if anything. Sometimes, there will be discipline needed if they made poor choices or maybe a phone call made to alert the school of someone else’s poor choices, but ultimately, make it your goal to let them know that they can talk to you about anything. Let them know you are their biggest fan and that you believe in them.

3. Recognize you cannot always fix it!

Since we can’t always take the problem away, at times it can leave us feeling helpless as moms. However, I encourage you to look for the gift that can come out of the challenge. Often there is an opportunity for your child to learn and grow (and us too) in dealing with conflict; offering love or seeking forgiveness. The great news is they get to learn with you by their side.

Recently, my little Annie was struggling because she couldn’t conquer the monkey bars at school, as a result of her special hand. So, I found a group of moms whose kids also had similar challenges. The list of advice was heartwarming. Later in the week, I took Annie to the park, list in hand, and one by one we tried the different pieces of wisdom. In the end, none of them worked, but believe me, Annie won’t give up and neither will I. Although I couldn’t fix it for her, I could encourage her, hold her up and comfort her. And over the years, this is exactly what I’ve done for each of my kids.


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