Expanding Your Child’s Emotional Comfort Zone
Children face emotional challenges, some more than others. Whether it’s anxiety, anger, or sadness, these challenges can have a significant impact on your child’s well-being and their ability to thrive in their daily life. But there is hope. With intentional, strategic work and a reliance on God’s grace, positive change is possible.
One approach to helping your child manage emotions is to focus on expanding their comfort zone. Every person has a comfort zone, and for a child with emotional challenges, this zone can be very restricted. When things become confusing or unsettling, their comfort zone is breached, and anxiety or other negative emotions take over. Our goal is to help our child receive God’s grace and enlarge their comfort zone, so they are better equipped to handle challenging situations. The gospel provides important deeply-rooted strategies for emotional strength.
One way to work on this is by taking kids into the workshop of their own hearts. This is the place where they process life and many kids don’t have the skills to manage life challenges effectively. They have tools in there like the arguing tool, or the badgering tool, or the whining tool. But they need different tools that will contribute to a greater sense of emotional flexibility.
For example, if a child has an anger problem and regularly explodes when they don’t get their way, you might have a meeting, explain in a loving way that you’ll be saying no more often, and explain that the receiving of a no answer will take them into the workshop of the heart to practice emotional flexibility. Likely your child will resist, but this isn’t an optional exercise. Instead of tiptoeing around a child who gets easily angered you instead are going to love them by giving them opportunity to practice giving up their agenda and becoming more flexible.
This may appear to be unrealistic or even counter-intuitive but this is how people grow. Romans 5:3-4 says that “suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character hope.” Children with a narrow comfort zone for things not going as planned need to practice handling the challenges of interruptions and no answers more often. Parents not only need firmness, but they need a coaching mentality and a lot of grace to bring about change in an area of need.
It’s important to note that this process takes time and hard work, both for your child and for yourself as a parent. It’s not just one practice session that brings about change, but a consistent effort over time. It’s also important to remember that as your child expands their comfort zone, they may still be tempted to go back to their old ways. That’s why it’s important to have a plan and to work that plan to stay the course.
At the heart of change both for the parent and the child is a reliance on God’s grace. Understanding the depth of emotions and the heart is important. As you work to help your child manage emotions, it’s important to remember that it’s ultimately God who brings about change. We must trust in him and seek his guidance as we navigate this journey with our children.