We all need a little help from time to time; children are no different. It goes without saying that adults and children will more than likely go through challenging times during these periods of life. Adults may require help and support in a vast array of situations, such as relationships, jobs and finances. Sources of support can come from friends, family or various forms of therapy. They may simply just require a cuddle or a chat. Similarly, the spectrum of issues for children can be vast – from trivial, every-day issues such as being unable to put their socks on, to the more serious such as bullying or a bereavement.
So how can we teach children how to ask for help?
In a nutshell, using their voice.
Your child runs off to ride on a slide in a local park, but stops short of going on it because they feel uneasy about the height of it. Or the people riding it may be causing some anxiety for your child. They shout for you to ride it with them. Your initial thought may be: ‘You will be fine, you don’t need me’ – (which is fine by the way, as this encourages risk taking), but if your child isn’t ready for risk taking yet, what better way of teaching them that help is on its way by riding the slide with them. I guarantee they will want to go on it again—probably without you this time.
Encouraging your child to talk about their every day thoughts and feelings from an early age will stand them in good stead for when they reach their teenage years and adult life. Talking is a proven effective method as a way of coping with stresses and worries, whatever age.
Chatting things through and talking about a worry, an upcoming event or something which is bothering your child will enable you as a parent to find possible solutions for them. Maybe they are struggling to understand a subject at school. In this case, it is a great idea to establish a good, open dialogue between child and parent after school every day. It gives you a valuable insight in to the world in which they live. Having that two-way, open communication will hopefully provide them with the necessary tools and confidence to be able to come forward when more serious problems may arise, such as bullying.
Children learn from those closest to them. Creating a positive environment which promotes the feeling that it is absolutely fine to ask for help is the key. This kind of atmosphere should reassure your child (and yourself) that they will turn to you for some guidance and help as and when they need. Kids can be kids though, and they may go the other way and refuse to talk, but at least the option of talking is always there for them in the first instance. Your arms are always open, and your ears are always listening for their words.
If communication is a difficulty for you child, then it is important to spot differences in their behaviour, which may mean they require a little help with something. If alternative communication techniques such as PECS (picture exchange communication system), sign language or other visual aids are established make sure these are being fully utilised. Ask them to hand you an emotion card which can be used to gauge their probability they may need a little help.
We as parents should be aware of the dangers posed online for children, which again should be reflected in the dialogue and trust between parent and child. Creating boundaries for their usage as well as pointing them in the right direction when they encounter any possible problems such as trolling or cyber bullying is important. You should be the first point of contact for them.
How a child deals with a challenging situation should be treated as if yourself as an adult has just come across a problem. Talk it through first.
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