Everyone says raising a child is easy right? Like riding a bike—once you learn how, you’ll always know how and it will never change? Wrong, oh so wrong. When it comes to raising kids, things are constantly changing. Something as small as pollen count to something bigger like sleep and diet changes, or a new school year or schedule can change everything. All of these changes come together like a perfect storm to create a child who is irrational and difficult to soothe, to change your child from the perfect kid to the exorcist—a child you don’t even recognize as your own.
But give yourself a break! Just like riding a bike, there will be bumps in the road. Unfortunately, none of us have figured out how to prevent them yet (but if I do, you’ll be the first to know!). So until then, the best we can do is prepare ourselves in advance for these blips and bumps to pop up every so often.
One important thing to keep in mind with kids is that transitions almost always cause stress. Preparing not only yourself, but also your children, for transitions, such as a new school year or a new activity, well in advance can be one way to minimize these blips. Try talking about these transitions a month ahead of time at the dinner table in a positive way by asking what they are most looking forward to with said transition.
During these bumps in the road, your child probably seems inconsolable. As parents, we tend to jump to wanting to fix and solve their problems—and sometimes this is just what they need! But, before you do that, try just comforting and validating first. Sometimes all any of us need is to feel heard and understood when we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Validating is a very effective way to lower your child’s reactiveness and then hopefully they can communicate what sort of help they need from you.
If the validating doesn’t feel like enough, or the blip starts to feel more like a new pattern or personality, like you’ve completely lost sight of your happy child, then it might be time to seek some outside help from a therapist or school social worker to help your child better understand and handle what is going on.
In the meantime, I’ll keep looking for that magic wand to prevent future bumps in the road!
About the author:
Stephanie Kaufman, MSW is a social worker on staff at Light on Anxiety, a mental health treatment center that specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) for anxiety disorders and OCD. Stephanie received her Master of Social Work from the University of Chicago and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Science in Human Culture at Northwestern University. Stephanie’s previous clinical experiences include working at a Chicago-area junior high school as well as a local private practice specializing in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and OCD with evidence-based practices. Stephanie works with children, adolescents, and adults and is passionate about helping them get back to living valued lives.Stephanie believes in working collaboratively with her clients to meet their goals and uses humor and warmth to create a welcoming environment. Stephanie is an ADAA member.