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6 Tips to Help an Unhappy Child

1. A Comfort Zone

Raising kids in a stable household might sound like familiar advice, but Brian points out that for kids to feel secure they also need to believe that their Mum and Dad have an understanding of what’s going on in their lives. The suggestion is that parents should make an effort to ask their kids about what’s happening in ‘their’ world - and to listen to the answers.

2. Mood Monitoring

Knowing what your child is going through can help you to intervene early when you see a serious problem emerging, but it can also help you to understand the rise and fall of your child’s moods. With that knowledge in hand, you’re in a good position to counsel your child when he or she is unhappy.

“I think parents can do a lot to reassure their children that everyone goes through periods when their mood is down - and that being sad is part of growing up,” says Dr Graetz.

Kids can benefit from hearing that difficulties and disappointments are inevitable.

“(Let them know that) these are everyday occurrences and that feeling a bit down about it - well, that’s OK."

3. The Talking Solution

Talking to your child about the challenges you have faced and how you’ve tried to deal with them can be a very effective strategy. It’s also a smart way of introducing the idea that talking to people about your problems helps. Let your child know that when you’re having a difficult time you talk to your partner about it, or your sister or brother or a friend.

“Say: ‘I talk about these things. I don’t bottle them up’,” says Dr Graetz.

4. Next Steps

It’s also very valuable to share the idea that the first step to overcoming a problem is to consider your options. “And probably there is no one Golden Option,” counsels Dr Graetz. “There are options that will have various pluses and minuses attached to them.”

As your child comes up with suggestions, ask questions along the lines of “So do you think that’s likely to succeed?” and “What are the good things about that solution?” and “Can you see any downsides to that?”.

“It’s about getting the child to work through the options to arrive at what they think is an appropriate response,” says Dr Graetz.

5. All Things Must Pass

Above all kids benefit from an understanding that nothing lasts forever. “Kids need to learn that no matter how bad things get, things do change. These things aren’t permanent,“ advises Brian. “That really is a key lesson.”

6. A Show of Faith

You can also take the opportunity to remind your kids of how they’ve successfully dealt with problems in the past.

“I think sometimes kids don’t recognise when they’ve actually done something really useful,” says Brian. “Parents can underline that for them: you’ve done this before or there are elements of this that you’ve done in the past.”

That message can serve two purposes. It can give your child some solid evidence that the bad times will come and go, just as they have in the past. It’s also one of the ways that parents can contribute to that much sought after self esteem.

“It’s confidence building,” reiterates Brian. “It’s reminding kids that they do have the skills and capacities to deal with issues, that they can take steps to help themselves with some of this stuff.”