My 8 year old son has always loved playing baseball. But when it came time to sign up again, he told us he was through with it. He would even get angry when we asked why he wanted to quit. Finally, at bedtime one night, he started crying. “I’ll try baseball one more time, Mom,” he said through his tears. He went onto explain that he was afraid he wouldn’t be very good this season, and that’s why he was scared to play again.
Children can exhibit emotions very differently from adults. Dr. Scott Turansky shares the 18 signs of fear, anger and sadness in children.
Signs your child may be experiencing fear:
- They have trouble separating from parents.
- They don’t want to be alone.
- They don’t want parents to travel.
- They ask questions about safety and security.
- They ask questions about why something bad happened.
- They ask if the bad thing can happen again
- They joke or use sarcasm with fear as an underlying theme.
- They experience nightmares or are afraid at night.
Some things to consider when helping children deal with fear:
- Be careful about lying to your children by saying, “It’s all okay.” Your children can see that things aren’t okay. In fact, this kind of statement can be counterproductive and cause children to feel like they can’t trust you, further increasing feelings of insecurity.
- Tell your children that God is with us always. We can trust Him. His angels protect us. God loves us and cares for us and He is in charge (Psalm 46). But, be prepared to answer their questions about why God allows bad things to happen in the world.
- Answer your child’s questions. Explain the details briefly in clear terms and then focus on the good and the people who are helping.
The solution for fear is to learn to trust. Trust is the ability to release control to another. Children can learn to trust when they take small steps of risk and have positive experiences over a period of time. Gently encourage children to take small risks of separation and then provide the comfort they need. During that process children need a lot of parental love, patience, encouragement, and support.
Signs your child may be experiencing anger:
- They talk about or act out revenge.
- Their play becomes more aggressive and mean.
- They have more frequent or intense angry outbursts.
- They use violent words or actions especially pointed toward those they blame.
- They demonstrate an unusually bad attitude.
- They are easily angered and have a short fuse.
Some things to consider when helping children deal with anger:
- Being angry isn’t wrong. In fact, anger identifies a problem. Seeking revenge is wrong and turns the angry person into an ugly person.
- It’s more productive to move toward sorrow than anger in many cases. You may even use the current events as an example, “These people who did this are deceived, angry people and have done terrible hurtful things. We don’t want to use anger to get back at them. It’s very sad when people deliberately hurt others.”
- The job of government is to provide justice and punish those who do wrong . Older children especially need to understand this difference between revenge and justice. Revenge is when individuals seek to get back at someone. Justice is when an authority punishes those who do wrong.
Signs your child may be experiencing sadness:
- They cry or are lethargic and appear sad.
- They appear depressed or withdrawn.
- They have an inability to experience joy or happiness.
- They have a loss of appetite or seem unmotivated to do anything.
Some things to consider when helping children deal with sadness:
- Look for ways to help others. Serving, comforting, and giving, help children to become part of the solution instead of wallowing in the problem. Be creative by giving money, time, and energy to worthy causes.
- Sadness often causes a person to become self-focused resulting in self pity. Contributing to solutions helps children get outside themselves and can be very therapeutic.
- A child who responds to tragedy by becoming sad is likely to be a sensitive and compassionate child. These are good character qualities and should be encouraged, but when children become overly introspective they may lose their ability to help others.
- Pray for government leaders, our president, victims, and families.
Allow children to grieve. It’s okay to be sad and mourn over current events and the pain behind the scenes. Be ready to talk and look for ways to draw your children out through questions, stories, and just observations of what you see in their behavior.