When you don’t have the answers: coping as a parent when the solutions are unclear

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When you don’t have the answers, coping as a parent can be tough.

There is nothing more frustrating than watching your child struggle with something that is out of your control. An illness, a heartbreak, a betrayal of a friend, getting overlooked in sports and hobbies, or any other challenge our kids face often take every trick in your parenting bag. Times of uncertainty can be emotionally draining for the parent as well as the child.

Coping as a parent when the solution is unclear

Finding the words can be very difficult when the opportunity arises to explain uncontrollable circumstances to our children. Recently, when my daughter was ill and we were grappling at explanations for her unrelenting stomach pain, I found myself getting frustrated with her for not allowing me to help her find relief. I felt terrible for her and wanted nothing more than to take it all away. She did not want to eat, she did not want to drink, all she wanted to do was sleep. She endured tests and appointments trying to get to the bottom of her symptoms. She was frustrated too. How could I get upset with my child that was confused and in pain?

In my mind, I was doing exactly what I was supposed to do as her mother. Couldn’t she see I just wanted her to feel better? I was treating each symptom and following the doctor’s suggestions. Why was she not cooperating? What I realized was that I was not upset with her, I was upset because I could not control her willingness to participate in her own care. I was upset that I had no control over her discomfort. I could not take away the pain, and I did not know why it was there.

As days went on in the process of eliminating the possibilities for her symptoms, my frustration changed to just focusing on comforting her through the pain. In my quest to fix things, I resolved myself to the fact that I needed to step back and breathe and remember to get back to what she needed most…me.

I have had my share of coping through super tough times with my kids through middle school and high school. For me, it always comes back to one thing, staying calm. When the fear of not knowing what is happening or how to fix things in times of distress with your child, what is most important is that your child knows you are present and there to lean on. They don’t always want you to fix it, but just be there. You can champion, advocate, go full-throttle “Mama Bear.” All of that is so important, but what the child needs most is just you.

Talking to other parents about what your child is going through is a must when we don’t have all the answers.

Coping as a parent when the solution is unclear in any situation is crucial for remaining a steady role model for your child. For me, faith and prayer help me to feel comfortable in the unknown. Listening to others share their experiences also offers me perspective and sometimes leads me towards a solution–if there is one. I learned that sometimes when you don’t have all the answers, you have to ease up on the gas and just set the car on cruise control for a while so you can get your bearings. The answers may be just over the horizon.

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