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Tips for Helping Young Children Cope with Things They Do Not Like and They Cannot Control

  • Listen–hear them out without interrupting.
  • Tell them their feelings make sense and empathize with their feelings.
  • Sometimes it helps to explain to them who did decide this, e.g. the dentist (brushing teeth, braces), the people who make laws (kids must go to school every day), the judge (custody arrangements).
  • Sometimes it helps to mention (but not repeat too often) that parents also have to do things they do not want to do: like brushing teeth, going to work when the boss says they must be there, etc. Do not say that you do not like parts of the parenting agreement or school rules or blame their other parent.
  • After listening, validating, empathizing and explaining who decided, then try to distract them with something they enjoy: play a game with them, read a story, enjoy a favorite snack.
  • Help them identify something enjoyable they can do when they are in the situation they do not like: sit next to another child they like in the school cafeteria, play with a certain game or toy that is at their other parent’s home, etc.

These tips should be used consistently and tailored to each individual child’s needs. Over a long period of time, with regular use, children can internalize these approaches and use them with less prompting.

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