Reynolds Cancer Support House Support Group Facilitator, Gregory Roberts, Ph.D., continues his piece on emotional and spiritual health with tools for parents and caregivers to address anxieties in children.
You often counsel children, what are some specific concerns you have for children at this time and what are some tools parents and caregivers can use right now?
Structure and consistency: schedule and structure and familiarity facilitates security and the absence of anxiety for children. There is great potential as families are hunkered down in-home sheltering—potential for increased awareness of the personality, tendencies, bents, and idiosyncratic traits of those we love. We often teach in parenting that parents should become more of a student of their children. How well do parents really KNOW their children? Do we know our kids, or do we just tolerate and shake our heads at them? It is common that children can be remarkably like one or both of their parents and remarkably different. I find that many parents do not really know their children and therefore do not fully accept them. This is a time for some observing and contemplation of our families.
Children under the age of 8 most likely do not have a concept of what is going on. It would be best to be careful to not try to put upon them the fear and anxiety too much of these days. After the 9/11 event, I think we gathered our thoughts and realized that children may have questions, but young children are not needing or looking for a dissertation or a detailed explanation. Give them minimal information and ask them if they have more questions. A simple answer for young children is all that they need. What all children mostly want from their parents is to be accepted and not condemned and to be affirmed in their abilities and traits. My favorite quote in developmental psychology is from cognitive developmentalist, Jean Piaget. Piaget said, “children want to make interesting things last longer.” I think this to be profoundly true and it is even true for adults as well. Facilitate interesting things within a healthy family modality. I see this desire in children in many observations. It begins early and may last a lifetime.
Portions of this written piece are provided by Dr. Roberts from a podcast interview he conducted with Reverend Tasha Blackburn of First Presbyterian Church-Fort Smith. Dr. Roberts facilitates cancer support groups for adult male cancer patients and fathers of pediatric cancer patients at the Reynolds Cancer Support House.