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.