by Cynthia Hogan, M.S.W., LICSW
Pastoral Counseling Services
My name is Cynthia Hogan and I’m a licensed clinical social worker, coming to Pastoral Counseling with a background in work with children and families. My first six months have been a meaningful time of getting to know the caring folks at PCS, and meeting so many engaged parents who are committed to the best help they can get for their children.
It shouldn’t be surprising to me that the referral issue is frequently “my child is anxious”, but it does concern me that our youth feel under a kind of pressure that permeates through their home and school lives. I recall a much more carefree childhood and although I might wish the same for our kids, the fact is it’s a different world – one with very real concerns that we as the adults need to mediate for kids as best we can.
No, we can’t remove all the factors of life that create stress, nor would it be good for kids to grow up without facing obstacles that they need to wrestle through. But, we can be protective and try to minimize the extent to which adult size issues are on their minds.
I’m a proponent of children being made aware of the significance of events in family life. I wouldn’t want children to be ‘protected’ through secrecy. We know that children make up their own scenarios, and unfortunately they often put ‘blame’ on themselves for what’s occurring around them. I would advocate for kids being informed about losses, and changes, and events that will affect them. But, the key is that information be shared at a developmental level that enables the youth to integrate the news about ‘adult size’ matters. This is where an objective, professional voice can help a family navigate through family issues and be of assistance to all family members. This is work that Pastoral Counseling Services is positioned to do with families, with many experienced therapists who can accompany families on their journeys and who can bring a faith-based and spiritual perspective to that joining with the family system.
As NH kids are a month into their new classrooms there are steps parents can take to help children with the day to day stress of school life. Youth need to be ready to learn each day, meaning they need to be rested, and prepared, and open to new information. Good nutrition matters. Sleep matters. Play matters – carving out time to be outdoors. Being able to concentrate on tasks at hand rather than worrying about home life is key. Give kids responsibility, and help them to build organizational skills. Ask for help from teachers if each evening has become a homework battleground. Listen to your children and their classmates for information about what their days are like. Put yourselves in their shoes, helping you to recognize their day to day experiences and share thoughts and ideas with them. Model for your children what it means to approach each day with an attitude of ‘can-do’.
Lowering anxiety matters for all of us. It helps to be attuned to the sources of our stress. Help your kids identify what’s bothering them, and do it for yourself too. May the start of this school year be a source of excitement for your family!