Children face emotional challenges, some more than others. Whether it’s anxiety, anger, or sadness, these challenges can have a significant impact on your child’s well-being and ability to thrive in daily life. But there is hope. With intentional, strategic work and a reliance on God’s grace, positive change is possible.
One approach to helping your child manage emotions is to focus on expanding the child’s comfort zone. Every person has a comfort zone, and for a child with emotional challenges, this zone may be very restricted. When things become confusing or unsettling, the comfort zone is breached, and anxiety or other negative emotions take over. The goal is to help the child receive God’s grace and enlarge the comfort zone, so the child is better equipped to handle challenging situations. The gospel provides important deeply-rooted strategies for emotional strength.
One way to work on this is by taking kids into the workshop of their own hearts. This is the place where they process life and many kids don’t have the skills to manage life challenges effectively. They have tools in there like the arguing tool, or the badgering tool, or the whining tool. But they need different tools that will contribute to a greater sense of emotional flexibility.
For example, if a child has an anger problem and regularly explodes when things don’t go his way, you might have a meeting, explain in a loving way that you’ll be saying no more often, and explain that receiving a no answer will take the child into the workshop of the heart to practice emotional flexibility. Likely your child will resist, but this isn’t an optional exercise. Instead of tiptoeing around a child who gets easily angered you instead are going to love the child by giving more opportunity to practice giving up his or her agenda and becoming more flexible.
This may appear to be unrealistic or even counter-intuitive but this is how people grow. Romans 5:3-4 says that “suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character hope.” Children with a narrow comfort zone for things not going as planned need to practice handling the challenges of interruptions and no answers more often. Parents not only need firmness, but they need a coaching mentality and a lot of grace to bring about change in an area of need.
It’s important to note that this process takes time and hard work, both for your child and for you as a parent. It’s not just one practice session that brings about change, but a consistent effort over time. It’s also important to remember that as your child expands the comfort zone, he may still be tempted to go back to old ways from time to time. That’s why it’s important to have a plan and to work that plan to stay the course.
At the heart of change both for the parent and the child is a reliance on God’s grace. Understanding the depth of emotions and the heart is important. As you work to help your child manage emotions, it’s important to remember that it’s ultimately God who brings about change. We must trust in him and seek his guidance as we navigate this journey with our children.
The Motivate Your Child Action Plan
Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN walk you through developing a character development plan personalized for your child. Begin by identifying a tendency that concerns you, then select a character quality to overcome that tendency. Next are step by step instructions to move your child from Point A to Point B. Downloadable audio sessions give you tips along the way, and each chapter outlines a suggested meeting with your child to communicate a sense of coaching and partnership. To access the audio sessions, use the URL found on the first page of the book.