Tragedies happen everyday and throughout life, kids will have many different stresses. Here are some ways to build character during a difficult time.
How to Build Character During a Difficult Time
Sometimes life events prove difficult for adults and must also be shared with our children; the way in which we do that can impact our children’s understanding and reactions. Tragedy or illness, particularly the declining or uncertain health of a loved one, is something that is an almost inevitable part of life, and can be difficult for children to comprehend.
When a family member or close friend becomes seriously ill, it is always a topic that needs to be thought through about whether to tell our children or not. Each family and situation is different, and the developmental stage of the children must also be taken into consideration. We don’t want our children to worry, but they are clever and will always know when we’re stressed. I believe it’s important to involve our children in a truthful and developmentally-appropriate way.
We want to protect our children from worry, but if the outcome isn’t as we’d hoped we cannot protect them from sorrow and pain. By telling our children someone they love is ill, we can help prepare them to come to terms with an undesirable outcome rather than it to be a colossal shock out of the blue. They will have time to think about what they’re feeling and ask questions. Don’t quash those queries from youngsters. They may catch you off guard, and if that happens, ask them to give you a few minutes to think of the best way to explain, and then do so. Creating a veil of secrecy and cover-ups does not set a good example and only helps to harbour the mystery surrounding life and death.
Building Support Systems
Children can be great support in times of stress, and we can teach them how to comfort others in ways that work for them. My son always knows just when I need a hug and will come running into the room unexpectedly and give me a big bear hug, which always puts a smile on my face. A kind hand on an arm, a smile, or even a wink can lift a person’s spirits.
Brainstorm with your children to come up with other ways in which they help both the person who is ill, as well as those around them. Often putting energy into being productive can help everyone feel a little better. What skills do they have that can be used in this situation? Can they help clean, run some errands, help cook meals, read a story, draw a picture, sing, say a prayer? Let your child come up with their own ideas, too, so they feel part of the process.
Building Character Through Honesty and Education
If it’s appropriate, help your children learn about what is happening, and what the doctors are doing to try to remedy the illness. If it’s trouble with the heart, then set up a biology class where they can learn about how the heart works and what has gone wrong with it. What will medications or surgery do? Involving children like this can help them feel more knowledgeable and less powerless. Perhaps this will be the event that sparks the determination to become a future doctor or scientist.
Hopefully everything will be okay and everyone can rejoice; that is always the desired outcome for any illness or tragedy. However, death is a part of life, and life’s only certainty. It isn’t something that anyone looks forward to, but the ways in which we teach our children to come to terms with it can help them now, as well as in the future.
How have you involved your children in difficult times? Share your experience in the comments and we can learn together.
About the Author
Crystal McClean is a Canadian homeschooling her family in Northern Ireland. Her family loves to learn about culture and they find it fun to do this by reading books, creating activities and recipes as well as attending cultural events when they can. When she isn’t home with her family she’ll be at the writing letters at library, taking photos at the local camera club, or counting wildlife along the loughshore with friends. You can learn more about their adventures at Castle View Academy or follow along via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.