Good Parenting in Hard Times: 3 Things to Get Right


by Chris Torrone



As parents, we are always trying to teach our children the right way to behave and the best way to make decisions, and we hope that they learn from us. However, sometimes things happen that make us wonder if we are doing enough. Whether you are struggling with knowing how to get them through a divorce or family crisis, or dealing with your own stress during the pandemic, it can be difficult to know how to be a good parent. In this article, we will talk about 3 important things to get right when parenting your children in difficult seasons. 

1) Listen To Your Children And Help Them Feel Heard

When life gets tough for everyone, kids need their parents more than ever before. They want to feel heard, even when they don’t have much time to spend together with their parents as a result of all the changes going on around them. If you are feeling stressed out yourself, then chances are your child is too. When you listen to what they say, you show them that you care about them. You also give them an opportunity to vent without judgment. It may not seem like much at first, but over time, listening to your children and making sure they feel heard could help improve your relationship with them.

Practice active listening by giving your children verbal prompts and nonverbal cues, such as nodding or holding their hand. Make sure your phone is out of sight and there are no other distractions. This assures your kids that they have your full attention. Don’t jump to problem-solving or giving advice right away unless they specifically ask for it. Instead, ask gentle questions to help them open up and ask them what they need from you.

Asking questions helps you gain insight into your child and helps you develop empathy. Try using simple statements such as “What happened next?” or “How did that make you feel?” or “What do you think about that?” These types of questions allow you to explore the inner workings of your child’s mind. Once you’ve gained insight into his or her emotional state, you’ll be able to respond appropriately.

Another useful technique for increasing your level of empathy and helping your child feel heard is paying attention. In order to truly understand how they feel, you must pay close attention to details. Look closely at their facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and gestures. Another helpful method for building empathy is listening carefully to the story behind the emotion expressed. Most people tend to interpret events based on past experiences rather than current circumstances. If you’re trying to figure out what they are upset about or how they are processing the hard thing your family is going through, consider whether something from the past has triggered their present reaction. 

Sometimes it is enough for your child just to get their feelings out and have you validate them. Other times they may want to talk about ways to cope or address whatever challenging situation your family is facing. When you make time to actively listen and build a family culture of empathy, your kids may pleasantly surprise you with their perspective and insight on the stressful events you are going through.

mother working through parenting concerns with her children

2) Model Self Care

During difficult times, many people find themselves overwhelmed and unable to focus on anything else besides work, taking care of their kids, and just getting through each day. This means that you might start neglecting some aspects of your personal health or wellness. While self-care should never take priority over caring for children who depend on you, it does mean that you need to set aside some time every day where you do nothing except relax and enjoy being alone. When you model self-care to your children, you are teaching them that prioritizing oneself is healthy and necessary. 

Kids learn by observing others. So if you want them to be confident, productive, healthy, and have a positive outlook on life, then you have to model these behaviors for them and help them make the connection between these attributes and self-care. Your children will start to see the difference when you make time for yourself, and then return to them recharged and energized. When they see you make time for a hobby or activity that gives you joy, it will empower them to pursue their own interests simply for the joy of it. Being intentional about self-care gives you more tools to weather the storm of difficult times.

Effective self-care also includes checking in with your emotions and giving yourself permission to feel them. It can be tempting to stuff your emotions or avoid processing them because they feel overwhelming. But remember that your mental state affects how you interact with your kids. If you’re stressed out and holding it in, chances are you end up losing your cool at some point. You may lash out at them and unintentionally cause a rift in your relationship. That is why it is  crucial to maintain balance between self-care and caring for your kids. It doesn’t just model a healthy skill for your children, but it gives you the space you need to process your own emotions over your difficult situation in a way that won’t negatively affect them.

father working through parenting concerns with his child

3. Make time for fun and recreation as a family

Children thrive on having fun. Whether it’s playing games, reading books, making art, singing or playing instruments together, dancing, riding bikes, doing puzzles or anything else, spending time with your kid is essential to their development. Studies suggest that laughter actually boosts brain development. So, try to laugh as much as possible while interacting with your kids. The best part? They’ll love it!

When life gets tough, it can be hard to make intentional time together. But children crave quality time with their parents and loved ones. And making time for a fun activity or even a mini getaway can give your family a much-needed break from the stressors in your life. It’s not about escaping the world and running away from your problems; it’s about intentionally connecting with your family and giving yourselves a break to enjoy each other. You’ll return recharged and with a more hopeful outlook on your situation.

Even something as simple as a weekly family movie night can fulfill this need to connect. And when done regularly, whatever family activity you choose can be a touchstone, a time to reset as a family. Building family time and recreation into your schedule will help build a positive relationship with your kids and give them a sense of consistency, even in uncertain times. Having a consistent point of connection can give your kids a sense of control, which can help them cope better with tough times, a traumatic event, or a life-changing situation.

Keeping your family healthy is our priority. At Torrone Law, we provide compassionate care and expert legal support with the goal of bringing your family to wholeness.

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