Leading By Example: Overcoming Devastating Events As A Parent

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Picture by Josh Willink

If you want your children to be well-rounded individuals, confident, good-natured, generous, and kind, it takes hard work, dedication, and commitment.

In a lot of cases, children tend to follow by example rather than you telling them how and what they should do in certain situations. An essential part of your children growing up is you equipping them with the tools to cope with stressful situations, some of which they will witness you experiencing. A few tragic events you may encounter throughout your life, that will also impact your children are:

Loss of a loved one
Illness such as cancer
Divorce or breakup
Losing your job

“Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.” -Charles Swindoll

It may be difficult to navigate the best way to approach these subjects with your children, how much to reveal or hold back from them to protect them, and how much to expose of yourself to portray how you are dealing with an event. This is natural, just because we’re adults and now parents doesn't mean we have the answer to everything. So, here’s what you can do if a tragic event happens to you.

How Should You Act?

Don’t bottle up your emotions
Your feelings,
Your anger,
Your love,
Your fear,
Let it all out and be in peace - Meghna Mitra

It seems strange that some people assume the only way to get through scenarios such as death and losing a job is to be strong and appear resilient in front of the children. This is, in part, due to emotions being portrayed as weak. However, the best thing is to be yourself, whether this means you are bed-bound for a day or two in tears, admitting you need help, and support from your family to look after the children, or you break down on your car journey to drop the kids off at school. This is because what you’re children are witnessing is you being human, grieving over a situation, expressing your emotions, and saying it’s okay to be yourself and let it out opposed to bottling up your feelings which can be quite toxic.

A part of this process might be dedicating some of your time to review the situation extensively, such as wrongful death cases, to analyze it, and in some instances investigate and challenge what went wrong, in hope and preparation to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Getting Back Up

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” - Winston Churchill

The first stage mentioned of being yourself and being down in front of your children is essential. It’s not the be all and end all and your children will begin to realize that as you get back up from chemotherapy, bankruptcy, a breakup, or a loss in your family, you are able to gradually put the pieces of your life back together and move on. Each day they'll see you becoming stronger than the last either through praying, looking for a new job, reconnecting with past hobbies, taking a family day out or doing some of the normal routine things you once did as a family. With this, your children will sense and see normality and a routine being restored.

Parenthood is a minefield at the best of times, and it can be difficult to know what stance to take when working through the pitfalls of life. Having seen you go through the journey of a tragic loss, work through your emotions, and then come out the other side, this is a positive experience for your children to see that will hopefully encourage them to do the same when they experience one of life's setbacks.

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