6 Powerful Ways To Help A Struggling Child

by | Feb 1, 2022

6 Things Parents Can Do To Meet Their Kids In Their Pain

What are some ways to help a struggling child? How do I help my teenager right now?

I’m sure these are questions many of us have asked ourselves. Parenting is not easy!

Kids and teens these days are dealing with a whole host of things that make their lives complicated and frustrating at times.

It’s not a question of if your child will struggle…because they will. The question is, what to do when your child is struggling. How do you help them? How do you meet them in their pain without hovering and trying to fix it all?

I’d like to share a list of 6 things you can do as parents to help your children when they are having a rough time.

Hopefully at the end of this article you will feel more equipped to help your kids out when they need you the most!

You can do this Mama!

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ways to help a struggling child

Listen more than talk

This is a great one to start with because I think it’s super challenging.

When our kids are struggling, it can be hard to not want to swoop in and fix their problems.

No one wants to watch their child suffer.

But when it comes to truly being there for our kids in hard times, we need to listen more than talk. It’s vital to let our kids share what’s on their minds rather than constantly push and pry or spout off our solutions.

Wondering if you’re pushing too hard? Flip roles. When you are struggling with a problem and you’re speaking to a friend or your spouse, are you always looking for a solution? Or sometimes do you just want to be heard?

With our kids and teens, they can tend to feel the same way. Especially teens!

How do I do this? I have such a difficult time not saying everything that’s on my mind, especially if the solution seems obvious!

That’s a great question!

Here are a few handy tips to help you listen more than speak when your kids are struggling:

  • Pray for self-control (James 1:19-20)
  • Tell your child you are there to listen and won’t give advice unless asked
  • Make good eye contact and respond to what they’re saying with head nods or comments like, “Thank you for sharing.” or “I’m sorry this is so hard.”
  • If they appreciate affection, put a hand on their shoulder or hold their hand
  • Resist the urge to chime in and try to just keep listening!

Remember, it’s their issues and struggles, so let them make the first move when it comes to sharing with you.

If they are younger, you can use great guiding questions to help them verbalize what’s happening. You are your child’s best and first example for how to communicate and process both good and hard things in life!

Ask good questions

There are good questions and bad questions when it comes to relationships. This can be applied to our relationships with our children as well.

If your child is struggling, I challenge you to be the parent that strives to ask good questions amid their struggles.

Good questions, when used properly, can help kids and teens in these ways:

  • Better communicate what is happening
  • Verbalize details
  • Realization of the problem/solution
  • See things from a different perspective
  • Not be stuck in the problem but potentially see a way out
  • Realize that things may not be as bad as they thought
  • Not feel so alone because someone cares enough to ask questions

Asking good questions can also help you, as the parent, see things from your child’s perspective. Maybe something has been off for a while but listening to your child talk and dig deeper allows you to see what’s really going on.

Use good guiding questions and pray that God gives you ears to hear and a compassionate heart to understand the matter at hand.

Here are some great questions to use with your kids and teens:

  • Is there anything that you would like to share with me? I’m here to listen.
  • I can see that you’re upset, would you mind telling me what’s been bothering you lately?
  • I’m so sorry that you’ve had trouble with friendships at school. Would you like me to sit with you or would you prefer to be alone? (This can help build trust because you’re showing your child that you’re willing to sit with them, but you’re also respecting that they might not want that at this time.)
  • What would be most helpful for you right now?
  • I don’t know what you’re going through, but I have struggled too in other ways. Would it be ok if I prayed with you?
  • Can I share with you about something I’m struggling with? Sometimes it’s nice to hear about someone else’s problems rather than focus on your own.
  • If you need anything, I’ll be in the kitchen. Feel free to text me if you’d like to chat, ok?

I hope these ideas jumpstart your mind as you think about how to connect with your kids and draw them out when they’re struggling.

Pray

When in doubt, pray, right?

There have been times in parenting and in marriage where I didn’t know what to do or say, so I stopped and prayed. It’s amazing the peace that God gives when we do that.

If the Bible mentions repeatedly the importance of prayer throughout our day, then we need to be incorporating it into our parenting!

In Philippians it says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

And again, in I Thessalonians 5:16-18 it says, “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I’ve written before about the importance of praying for our kids and teens. It’s one of the greatest ways we can love and serve them!

Don’t be intimidated by praying with your kids or praying out loud. Just think of it as having a normal conversation with God. God isn’t interested in fancy words or the length of the prayer, He just desires an honest and humble heart.

Here’s a parenting example from my life:

One time Addie was struggling with a friendship at school. She was very upset and felt that this child didn’t like her anymore. I could tell it was getting to her. This is how our conversation went.

Me: “Addie, will you come talk to me for a sec? I want to talk to you about ____.”

Addie: “I don’t think she wants to be my friend anymore. She’s always ignoring me and talks to everyone else but me.”

Me: “How does that make you feel?”

Addie: “Sad. I don’t understand why she’s doing that. I’m not going to be her friend anymore!”

Me: “You know what? I’m proud of you for trying to engage with her even though she’s ignoring you. That takes courage. And you don’t need to write her off as not your friend. Love keeps no record of wrongs, remember? How about we pray about this?”

Addie: “Ok. You pray.”

Me: “I’d like you to pray too. This is your friendship.”

And then we prayed together. Did it solve the problem? No.

But it was another opportunity to teach Addie to take all her requests to God and be anxious for nothing.

Even now, when she’s worried about something, she typically asks us to pray for her. It’s beautiful to see in her heart!

Pray with your child, for your child, when you’re working out or taking a shower. No matter how it happens, just lay your child and their burdens at the Lord’s feet, and practice being anxious for nothing!

Respect their space

This is an important one.

Too often in parenting we hover and try to fix all the problems in order to tie everything up in a bow for our kids…because we want it to be ok.

The sentiments aren’t wrong, but the methodology needs work.

When our kids and teens are walking through hard things, the last thing they want is a helicopter mom constantly hovering and saying, “Are you ok? Are you ok? Can I help?” repeatedly. No thank you. Adults don’t appreciate that and neither do kids.

We need to respect their space.

How do you respect your teen’s space when they’re going through something hard? I don’t know how to do that very well.

Thank you for your honesty! I have a few ideas.

Respecting your teen’s space may look like:

  • Letting them be alone in their room rather than making them talk
  • Not prying if they say they’d rather not talk about it yet
  • Giving them time to decide when they’re ready to share
  • Letting them play or do a preferred activity while processing their feelings
  • Being true to your word. If you say that you won’t bring it up again, don’t.
  • Putting the issue to rest unless parental intervention is necessary (if scary behaviors arise, emotions are escalating to out of control levels, etc.)
  • Honoring confidentiality

There are a variety of ways to respect your teen’s space as a parent. If you’re ever questioning your actions, just take a moment and turn the tables on yourself.

Think, Would I appreciate it if my husband kept prying when I asked him to stop? If my friend was telling everyone about my struggle, how would that make me feel?

When in doubt, just try to listen in love to what your teens and kids are going through and take some steps back if necessary. Respecting their space now may bring you much closer in your relationship later!

Good counseling

I say good counseling for a reason. There are some very poor options out there when it comes to counseling.

It’s necessary when looking into therapy for your child or teen, to do your research beforehand.

Ask your friends and network of people for good, reputable counselors.

It’s not just anxious children who can benefit from good counseling. There are many reasons a child might benefit from some type of therapy.

Here are some possible reasons a parent may seek out therapy for their child or teen:

  • Dealing with divorce
  • Emotionally disturbed
  • Attachment disorder
  • Death of a loved one
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger issues
  • ADHD
  • Developmentally delayed
  • Bi-polar disorder
  • Victim of abuse

I am not a licensed counselor by any means, so my advice to any of you who are thinking about therapy for your child, is to first speak with their pediatrician. Get them evaluated.

From there, pray about it with your spouse, and start to do your research so you can make an informed decision.

Regardless, there is no shame in counseling. It can be a life-giving and sometimes life-changing thing for children, teens, and adults! Sometimes our children need something that we cannot give to them ourselves.

This brings me to my final point.

Use your village!

We all know that famous adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

What does that even mean?

God has gifted us in unique ways. He has made our kids in unique ways too. You may have one child who is very similar to you, but another that is quite different. You can’t meet all their needs because you’re just one person!

Utilize the people in your life and in your network in order to best support your child. Don’t be selfish and prideful and try to do everything on your own. That’s missing the point anyways.

Sometimes one of the best things we can do for our struggling child, is allow another trusted voice in their lives besides our own.

Whether it’s their youth pastor, one of your friends, a teacher, uncle, cousin, or grandparent, just use the resources in your life in ways that will speak life and encouragement into your kids!

I can think of multiple times growing up where other people besides my parents helped guide me along, and I am grateful for their influence.

I appreciate my parents sending me to youth group and summer camp and for allowing me to be involved in sports and dance. Those pastors, counselors, coaches and teachers had a profound influence over my life!

Do yourself and your struggling child a favor by using the God-given resources in your life to help them navigate through life’s ups and downs.

Let’s wrap it up!

Thanks for hanging with me through this post! You really care about your kids and teens and meeting them in their struggles. Gold star!

Let me encourage you as we wrap this up.

Your kids and teens will struggle in life. It’s inevitable.

However, when you see your child struggling, rest easy and know that the entire burden does not fall on you to solve. God is in control. He loves your kids more than you do.

Try some of these strategies that I gave you and see how it goes.

When you’re going throughout your day, make an effort to pray for each of your kids. That’s the most important thing!

Remember, parenting isn’t about perfection, it’s about progress.

Growing closer to your kids while they go through hard times is definitely something worth celebrating.

My call to action for you is to please SHARE this article with a friend or on your social channels. Help me spread the encouragement around!

Lots of love to each of you!

Lisa

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

Cover Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels

6 Comments

  1. Jenn

    These are all excellent points for helping a struggling child. I’ll be sharing this with my homeschool co-op. Listening is so important, especially if you want your teens to open up. And a good counselor is a wise investment on the part of a parent – we don’t have to parent alone!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Yes, we definitely don’t have to parent alone!

  2. Rachel

    I love these pointers. Especially when suicide is so high.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      It’s crazy that the suicide rate is so high, especially since the pandemic. Knowledge is power, and knowing how to help our kids in their struggles is HUGE!

  3. Melisa

    I really appreciate this because I have two teens now. This will continue to help me grow with my children. I always utilize your article’s and wisdom to help navigate my kids in their times of need.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      You have such a willing heart to learn and grow as a parent. Thanks for your continual encouragement and support!

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