Other things you can do to help are to make sure she is getting enough sleep, limiting screen time (especially before bed), avoiding caffeine or energy drinks and getting some kind of regular movement—these are all things that can help decrease stress or anxiety.
Q: For the past two years we have had a nanny living with us, since my wife and I both work full time and sometimes don’t make it home until late. My children have gotten very attached to the nanny and say I should go back to work whenever I try to spend time with them. I don’t want to overreact, but this is very hurtful. Any advice?
A: First, good work acknowledging your own emotion of being hurt; we can’t work through emotions we don’t acknowledge. That said, you have hired a nanny that your kids feel close to, which is in the best interest of your family. Research consistently shows that the more supportive adults a child has, the more resilient they are going to be throughout their life.
To rebuild your connection with your kids, I encourage you to establish “special time” with each of them to have at least 10 minutes per week where you let them choose what you do together. For young children it might mean getting down on the floor and playing imaginative games or riding bikes around the neighborhood; for older children, it might be looking through their favorite graphic novel together or kicking the soccer ball. Make a point of connecting consistently in this way, scheduling time, if needed. Throughout the week, let your child know you are looking forward to your special time together. They might be a little unsure of what to do with your undivided attention at first, but over time, they will learn that your desire to connect with them is genuine.
Q: Are there different issues that kids struggle with at different ages?
A: What a great question! We know that over the course of childhood, brains develop and grow, which means that for each developmental stage in childhood, we are going to see different challenges for our children. Regardless of what age or developmental stage your child is in, the best things you can do when they are struggling are:
- Validate their emotion
- Let them know you are there for them
This might sound like, “I am so glad you told me you’re having a hard time with your friends. It sounds like you’re feeling left out. Do you want me to just listen today, or do you want me to help you solve this?”
I encourage families to keep in mind that they are raising children who will eventually be independent, and they must help them build those skills over time. This means letting them struggle through learning to tie their shoes when they are five, encouraging them to talk with their teacher when they’re in middle school and helping them through relationship challenges in high school.
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