Three cheers for Melisandre! She’s awoken the much-perforated Jon Snow, bringing him gasping back into a frozen world full of mysterious enemies… enemies who are plotting a surreptitious attack… at an unspecified time… with undetermined numbers of men… at an unidentified location. Clearly, it’s not the best time to know nothing. Welcome back, Jon!
Could Jon Snow have been better prepared for his role in the ferocious war games that have decimated the Stark family? Certainly, it would have been helpful if his father, Ned Stark, had lived to finish that conversation he promised they’d have about the identity of Jon’s mother. But in the larger picture, if Jon had had a more solid base of parental support, he might have made better choices when faced with adversity.
While the chances that we’ll need to prepare our children to battle a White Walker invasion are relatively slim, our roles as their supporters, sounding boards, and in-home counselors are just as essential. Perhaps we’ll be called upon to help a child who is being ostracized by his peers, or a child who is buckling under the pressure of a rigorous academic program, or a child whose perfectionist tendencies aren’t allowing her to ever reach her goals. There are a myriad small indignities our children suffer through quietly, which, if left to fester, can morph into substantial issues that threaten their happiness and success and, by extension, House [Your Name Here].
We’re most likely to learn about problems that are troubling our children when they start to show outward signs of stress—anxiety, not sleeping well, irritability, etc. Until they are teenagers, it is difficult for children to describe what bothers them. The more we ask, the more frustrated they become. Thus, our job is two-fold: to determine the source of a problem and to offer solutions to help manage the stress that the problem is creating.
Ned Stark was a busy guy. He essentially left Jon to his own devices and offered up cryptic, manly advice when pressed. Caitlyn Stark kind of hated Jon, and was perfectly happy to ignore him whenever possible. When Jon chose to join the Night’s Watch based on a misguided, romanticized view of life there, that would have been the perfect time for one of his parents to step in and have a heart-to-heart with Jon about what was driving his need to… oh, let’s call it “throw his life away” (although, admittedly, we would have lost the chance to watch a number of rousing battles.)
When you suspect you have a brooding, troubled child who is potentially “Heading for The Wall,” try these ten steps to help drill down to the core of their distress and steer them toward more favorable decisions.
To help your child communicate his/her feelings, try:
1. Role-playing. If you take the part of the frustrating teacher, or aggravating peer, you can see first-hand how your child is handling the events in the dragon pit, and offer targeted advice.
2. Personal journaling. Sometimes a face-to-face discussion is too difficult. You may be surprised what you’ll read when you ask your child to answer the prompt, “What makes me angry,” or “My hidden self.”
3. Bibliotherapy. Pave the way for a discussion by first offering a book or movie that touches on the situation you suspect is troubling your child. You can search for subject-specific books in Bookfinder: When Kids Need Books, or on the internet.
To help your child handle stress, try:
4. Adjusting self-talk. Help your child pinpoint the negative messages he’s sending himself (“You screwed it up again, you idiot”) and replace them with supportive ones (“Oh well, you learned from that and you’ll try again”).
5. Increasing awareness of irrational beliefs. If you find your child is operating on internal rules, like “I must be perfect in all areas” or “Everyone must like me,” you can help them recognize the futility of those thoughts, and understand the concepts of relativity and practicality.
6. Active ignoring. While your child can’t change the behavior of others, she can change the way she reacts to it. Provide your child with positive affirmations she can fall back on, such as “I feel bad for you” when someone is acting unpleasant, or help her learn to purposefully think of positive things when stressful thoughts threaten to take over.
7. Worst case imagination. Talk about the worst thing that could possibly happen in the situation that is bothering your child, then discuss the very slim chance that that outlying possibility will ever occur.
8. Compartmentalizing. Teach your child to leave stressful situations where they are, rather than to allow them to spoil other, less stressful areas of his life.
9. Calming techniques. Create a stable of stress-relieving activities, such as exercise, yoga, deep breathing, sleep, or meditation. Encourage your child to fall back on her favorite as necessary when out in the world.
10. Humor. Point out the absurdities in a situation and help him put it in perspective. Also, simply enjoying funny books or movies can flood the body with the endorphins that will give your child’s brain a break from whatever stresses he is enduring.
And remember, Valar Morgulis (or in other words, keep the big picture in mind).