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Natural Awakenings Richmond

Big Issues Create Big Feelings in Kids

Nov 02, 2023 09:42PM ● By Catherine Atienza
Big Issues Create Big Feelings in Kids
by Linda Zaffram

Raising kids can be a wild, exciting ride, comprising endless ups and downs, joys and
challenges. Every parent loves their kids to the core, but it is the hardest job on Earth, and no
child comes with an instruction book or manual. The past few years had been especially difficult
on parents and kids dealing with uncertainty, fear, school closures, social isolation and even
exposure to illness and death.

These factors all contributed to elevated stress and anxiety among our young ones. It was often
difficult to exhibit strength and calm when the world seemed so unsafe. Kids thrive on routine, a
sense of security and stability, but recent events presented many unexpected twists and turns so
nothing was really predictable.

If our kids are struggling, they are not alone. Many are unsure how to express their big feelings
or don’t want to burden others. Some might face fears or social struggles they haven’t
experienced before. It is important for parents and caregivers to understand that the need to
express such feelings is normal, indicating that a child is developing and growing up as expected.

We don’t always know what to do when our kids are having trouble. They are not looking for
perfect parents, so let's be gentle with ourselves. Children crave connection—they want to be understood, accepted, reassured and loved. Parents can help them label their emotions with
statements like, “You are feeling sad because your friend didn’t want to play with you during
recess today.” Validate their feelings with, “It’s frustrating that we can’t buy this toy right now,”
and help them find calm by staying present by their side, offering a hug, suggesting taking deep
breaths, exercising or talking to someone they trust.

With behavioral and emotional issues also come opportunities for improvement and growth,
strengthening their coping skills and resilience. Change is possible, and it happens every day. If
concerned about a child’s big feelings, reach out to a mental health professional to determine if
they need professional support.

Counseling can guide children how to cope with anxiety, depression, trauma and self-esteem, as
well as promote emotional regulation. Most importantly, it can provide a safe place to process
challenges, enhance self-awareness, develop life skills, improve communication and build
healthy relationships in order to realize their potential as they grow up.

Linda Zaffram, LCSW, PMH-C, CYT200, PYT, is the founder and owner of Healing Circle
Counseling, in Midlothian. For more information, visit