Parenting Advice: 5 Ways to Support Your Child When You Can’t Fix Their Problem

As a parent, you want nothing more than to be able to make it “all better” for your child. But there are some things, like serious illness or the absence or death of a parent, that even the most doting parent can’t fix. When that happens, how do you show your child support and let them know that you’re there?

Here are five tidbits of parenting advice that can help you offer support when your child needs it. None of it will fix the unfixable, but it will help.

1. Remind them that they’re not alone.

When kids are hurting, they often feel like no one understands what they’re going through. Loving parents and step-parents can remind their kids that although no one shares their exact circumstances, plenty of people face similar situations.

Example: “I know you’re sad because you and your dad don’t live in the same house anymore. I’d be sad too – there’s no one else like your dad in the whole world. So I’ve never felt exactly how you feel, but I remember being sad when my parents got divorced too.”

Be truthful with your child – don’t pretend you’ve been in a similar situation if you haven’t – but do go back into your history and find some common ground. Almost everyone has missed someone, experienced grief, or been scared about their or someone else’s health.

2. Connect them with other kids in similar situations.

Kids don’t always want adults to understand them. Sometimes they’re just adamant that you can’t possibly “get it.”

And that’s okay.

Part of raising children responsibly is knowing when to connect them with another adult or peers who can help. Ask your child’s pediatrician, teacher, or pastor if there are any peer support groups nearby for children who have some of the same struggles as yours. Maybe your church or one nearby hosts a group that could help.

3. Make an appointment with a service provider.

Co-parenting is a tough gig, and handling a problem child with extra needs when you’re not their “real” mom or dad is even tougher. Don’t be afraid to go looking for help. Search for a child psychologist through the American Psychological Association or a reputable state or local organization. Again, your pediatrician or pastor may be able to help you out.

4. Pray with your child.

Children desperately need to know that someone bigger is looking out for them. It’s incredibly comforting for a child to turn their problems over to God and trust Him to offer support and strength, especially when it’s a big problem that adults can’t fix.

Children have to learn how to pray, just like they learn how to read or write or ride a bicycle. Gather some age-appropriate prayer activities and try them with your child. Help them to feel the comfort of knowing that God is always with us and will never leave us.

5. Offer a listening ear.

As much as you actively want to fix what’s going on for your child, and as frustrated as you are that you can’t, don’t underestimate the power of counseling children by just listening to them.

Remember, your child might not be able to put words to their feelings just yet, and that’s fine. Even adults can’t always figure that out, as anyone who’s ever tried explaining death to a child can verify. Don’t push them. Instead, just make space so they can talk when they feel ready.

  • Take your child on a one-on-one “parent date.” Sometimes kids open up better when other family members aren’t around.
  • Sit down with your child and ask them if they have any questions about what’s going on.  Answer as best you can.
  • Draw or color with your child. Start drawing a picture of the difficult situation and see what your child wants to add to the picture.
  • Send your child a text. Today’s kids are used to texting with their friends and may be uncomfortable opening up verbally. Even therapists are starting to offer text-based counseling!

Sometimes, words don’t need to be involved at all. Just a hug helps a child to release some of those bad feelings while also helping them to self-regulate.

Trust in God

Hopefully, this small snippet of co-parenting advice can help you in raising step-children and/or biological children during a difficult time. The Lord knows you need all the help you can get.


Parenting Advice: 5 Ways to Make All Your Children Feel Equally Loved

Raising children is like juggling Jell-O. It’s messy and slippery and the next thing you know, something’s gone splat.

Then you find yourself in a blended family. You thought you had trouble keeping three “flavors” in the air, and then all of a sudden there are five.

Of course, the stakes of raising step-children are much higher. Kids are sensitive to imbalances,  especially if you’re handling a problem child. Even more than others, they’ll jump on any sign that you might love one kid more than another.

Of course you tell them that you love them all equally, but they won’t believe it until you show them.

Raising Children Who Feel Cherished

When you’re co-parenting, you have to make a conscious effort to show that you love each of your children equally. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time – here are five tidbits of co-parenting advice.

1. Create a tradition or ritual with each child.

One-on-one connections are important to making children feel loved. With each of your children and step-children, develop a ritual that the two of you can share together.

  • Go to the park and play together.
  • Have “girl time” or “guy time” with your same-gender kids.
  • With your opposite-gender kids, have a “daddy date” or “mommy date.”
  • Cook or bake with your child.

Set a regular schedule for these special times. Once a week, once a month, or whatever your schedule can manage. Letting the child look forward to his or her special time is part of the magic.

2. Listen to each child talk about their passions.

Our interests are part of what make us individuals, and that’s just as true for children as it is for adults. Encourage each of your kids to talk about what they love, whether that’s soccer, science, or books. It’ll make them feel important and remind them that you love them for who they are, not just as one of “the kids.”

3. Show affection regularly with each child.

Physical affection gives children a tangible reminder that you love them. Hugs are especially great because they reduce stress hormones and helps them to feel safe near you. And it works both ways – you get the benefits too! Don’t force it, though. Kids need to know that they’re the bosses of their own bodies. If your kids prefer high fives to hugs, that’s fine.

And be mindful of how often you cuddle “your” kids versus your step-kids. If one kid prefers more affection than another, that’s okay, but be as equitable as you can with your hugs and kisses.

4. Make each child a “helper” for one chore.

Working together cultivates closeness. Pay attention to what household chores each kid prefers and “assign” each one to a particular activity. If Kid A helps you with the dishes, Kid B can vacuum with you on Saturday, and so on.

5. Do individual tuck-ins.

The moments before bed provide great opportunities for bonding between parent and kid. If you can work it out, try to have at least one bedtime ritual with each kid.

One meaningful way to do this is to say prayers one at a time instead of all together. You have plenty of other opportunities to pray as a family – mealtimes and Sundays, for example. Bedtime can be your chance to share God with each child, and that helps each of them experience God’s unconditional love.