We’re all generally accustomed to doing our best to manage stress when we are immediately faced with crisis, and for the most part we know it is important to take care of ourselves, but what about when we are the caretaker? The role of supporter can in, some instances, be as demanding and difficult as being a victim. Whether it is a loved one fighting cancer, or something potentially less devastating but ongoing, we need to remain aware of stress that can mount from being a caretaker.
Whether we are the victim of a traumatic event, or we’re trying to help someone else who is, we cannot ignore how important it is to take care of ourselves mentally and physically. For example, when I was little, I struggled with a pretty severe speech disfluency which obviously was difficult for me, but it also ended up having quite a profound impact on the rest of my family as well. My very concerned parents were tasked with trying to find support and help for me, and my sister, who I was very close to, took on a protective role with me anytime we were together and I ran into trouble with someone teasing me. My parents had each other to discuss their concerns about me, but for my sister, her situation was slightly more difficult, because she did not have an immediate peer she could go to for understanding support.
In stressful situations, always look for help. Don’t try to manage complex feelings by yourself. Some ideal resources to turn to may include:
- Individuals you know and trust
- Crisis professionals
- Law enforcement
Sometimes a friend or caregiver may find themselves in a position where someone comes to them with a very private issue. Generally, that doesn’t have to be a huge problem, but if the individual is threatening to self-harm or hurt someone else, obviously you must take action and contact necessary authorities or a crisis organizations that can step in on a professional level before someone gets hurt.
Bullying is another traumatic occurrence that can impact many more people than just the direct victim or victims. Encourage your children to speak up if they see bullying taking place. Make sure they understand what bullying is and that it is appropriate and imperative for them to approach a teacher or other authority figure if they have questions or witness bullying. In our current Internet-obsessed culture, online or cyberbullying is ballooning into epidemic proportions. With the anonymity that web handles provide, bullies can often go undetected and even unprosecuted for their vicious crimes. According to stopbullying.gov, some examples of cyberbullying include:
- Mean text messages or emails
- Rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites
- Embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.
Since children may not always report being bullied, it is important that parents pay attention to some potential signs that victims of bullying may display. Additional examples from stopbullying.gov include:
- Know the sites your kids visit and their online activities. Ask where they’re going, what they’re doing, and who they’re doing it with.
- Tell your kids that as a responsible parent you may review their online communications if you think there is reason for concern. Installing parental control filtering software or monitoring programs are one option for monitoring your child’s online behavior, but do not rely solely on these tools.
- Have a sense of what they do online and in texts. Learn about the sites they like. Try out the devices they use.
- Ask for their passwords, but tell them you’ll only use them in case of emergency.
- Ask to “friend” or “follow” your kids on social media sites or ask another trusted adult to do so.
- Encourage your kids to tell you immediately if they, or someone they know, is being cyberbullied. Explain that you will not take away their computers or cell phones if they confide in you about a problem they are having.
Creating a supportive network for children to know they can always go to their parents with concerns about a situation they were involved in that will not immediately result in punishment, even if a child is breaking a rule or causing harm to another individual. Some children are peer pressured into bullying another but then feel bad and responsible for their poor choices and actions. It is critical that parents hear a child out who is willing to talk about a situation because that may be the only effective means of stopping abuse from continuing.
As a parent, it is important to remember that it can be very stressful to manage the stress of children navigating their own experiences at school. Make sure that you discuss your own stresses as well, with friends or a spouse. Doing this will do two things. It will allow you to hear yourself explain the nature of the situation out loud, which can be helpful for keeping things in perspective, and it will also allow another person to comment on the scenario and gauge the true severity of a situation and what action if any should be taken.