Learning to Listen To Your Children Improves Their Wellness

How can I tell that my child is upset?

Children express their worries in different ways. Here is a list of some ways that may signal that your child is upset:

  • A change in behavior: being more aggressive or being more quiet than usual
  • A return to thumbsucking, bedwetting, or being extra clingy
  • Night fears and sleeping problems
  • Headaches or stomachaches

Listen and talk with your child.

When upsetting world events occur, children often pick up information about them at school, on TV or the Web, or from adult conversations. Children may feel scared, worried, upset, or confused by what they hear.

  • In order to better understand how to help your child, you may want to find out what he or she has heard or understand by asking: Did you hear anything about...? This is especially important in the case of public events that don't affect your child directly but still may seem scary.
  • Respect your child's attempts to make sense of what happened. You want your child to feel comfortable talking with you about confusing things.
  • Children often express thoughts and worries through their make-believe play. Listen and watch. You may want to gently join in, but let your child lead.
  • Answer questions honestly but briefly. Use simple words.
  • Not all children want to talk. That's OK. Sometimes it feels best just to sit close to each other or do something special together.
  • Some children may develop more intense anxiety feelings that may benefit from calming skills such as deep breathing or other relaxation methods.

Help your children feel safe.

It's hard to talk with children about things that also upset us. If we are overwhelmed by fear or worry, our children may react similarly. Talking with other adults about the situation can help us deal with our own feelings (avoid these adult conversations in front of children). Then we can better help our children.

  • The most important thing for children to know is that they are safe and that you will take care of them.
  • Enjoy lots of family togetherness, talking, and cuddling.
  • You may want to spend time with relatives and friends. Let your child know that they can rely on their immediate family as well as a wider circle of loving, supportive adults.
  • Children may be aware that you are worried and upset. This can make them feel scared. Talk about your feelings. Acknowledge that a bad thing has happened, but try to be reassuring and optimistic.
  • Keep daily routines as normal as possible. It helps children feel comforted. Do chores, read stories, and watch favorite videos together.
  • Protect young children from seeing violent images on TV or the Web. You may particularly want to prevent children from repeatedly seeing or hearing about events. Children may think that the event is happening again and again.

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