Summer vacation is finally here! Kids are everywhere enjoying the great weather and myriad activities Kodiak has to offer. Summer is a great time to reconnect with our kids and get to know their personalities and form relationships with them that will influence them for the rest of their lives. Today I want to share about what kids need, and how we as adults and parents can help them grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted adults, who can face life with confidence, poise and hope.
To grow up healthy, kids need supportive adults in their lives who take time to get to know them and take interest in their concerns and fears. Dealing with fear is something kids learn from their parents, and parental stress and fears can be emulated by children, resulting in anxiety problems.
Anxiety disorder is one of the most common psychiatric problems among children and adolescents. Childhood fears can progress into phobias through learned experiences, especially when they are not confronted. Phobias are fears resulting in disability and manifesting as physical reactions such as shaking, crying, tantrums, fast heartbeat, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and finally avoidance of the feared object or situation.
Children’s fears can be addressed many times by reassurance that their parents will protect them. Parents can help reduce their child’s fears by not using the feared object as a threat, by not humiliating their child because of their fears, and by not being indifferent to their child’s fears. Overprotection to avoid the fearful stimulus is not a good solution, because that will confirm the fear and reinforce avoidance behavior. Mental health specialists can help children when their fears are disabling and persistent, but parents play the greatest role in helping their children cope with fear.
Good parenting is a topic that I feel unworthy to tackle, since I struggle daily to show my kids unselfish love, patience, kindness and gentleness. I find it difficult to be fully present for my kids, as reading the newspaper, or reading or texting on my phone tends to be distracting when they are trying to talk to me. “Tuning out” my kids is not a good way to show them that I love them and value them as human beings. Consistent, loving discipline takes a lot of work and emotional energy, and sometimes I just feel too lazy to do it right.
Thankfully, I find that a sincere apology to my kids goes a long way when I know I could have done better. Kids learn a lot from seeing their parents react to tough situations, so I need to be careful of what behaviors I am showing them, and use any mistakes as teaching points. I find prayer to be essential every day, as I ask God for wisdom and patience and love for my kids, reflecting the love of God I have already been given. Friends and family are a great resource for wisdom and experience, as well as online parenting classes, and a parenting class offered at KANA, called “Parenting with Love and Limits.”
Let’s all make an effort to spend time with our kids (or neighbors’ or relatives’ kids) to show them that we care and that they are important to us. It doesn’t have to be a creative activity, but just involving them in what you would normally be doing is fun for them, too. Child neglect is the most common form of child abuse, so let’s be sure to care about their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
One great activity that occurs in the summer is vacation Bible school. Even if you do not believe in God, your child will learn great truths for life from the Bible and will find joy in a fun, wholesome environment with other kids and adults who care about them.
“But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God …’” (Luke 18:16).
Janet Abadir is a board certified general surgeon practicing at the Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center Specialty Clinic.