Amidst a generation-defining trifecta of scary stuff, the kids are NOT alright.
Kids see and hear everything — especially the stuff you don't want them to. And right now, many kids are trying their best to process a generation-defining trifecta of scary stuff: the COVID-19 pandemic, separation from lives they have known (school, friends, teams, routines) the terrifying video of George Floyd’s brutal death with consecutive weeks of protests and violence in our streets, and unprecedented political and economic upheaval.
This is an opportunity to give your children real world coping skills.
Yes, kids are resilient. But in these highly formative years, the relentless stress, fear and isolation are taking a heavy toll. For a week or a month, you could wish it away, but now into our sixth month, it’s become a defining experience for their generation. Our world has become permanently changed, and this is now the new world they will inherit. Yes, we are still surrounded by great people doing great things, heroes around every corner, but our world is now an unstable and uncertain place. And signs point to an increasing instability as we move forward.
So, how do we parent effectively in these times of uncertainty and shifting norms?
- Lead by example. Your kids are watching and learning more from what you do than what you say. How you manage your emotions, how you react to stress, to news, to social media, and most important, how you are regulating your behaviors. From wearing a mask to respecting science to supporting your community, these are powerful lessons you are teaching by example.
- Read your child vs. reacting to them. Be open to learning from them how this random world is impacting their development. From watching for signs of regression, to sensing when they are off track, it’s time to be more parental and nurturing than ever before. Let them feel their feelings, let them express themselves, and be present to observe and work with them where they are at any given moment. Don’t deny their fears with false reassurances.
- Create a safe space for your kids to deal with their true feelings. The days of overprotective parenting – lawnmower or helicopter parenting – are gone. Make room for expression with acceptance and support. The more you allow them to experience adversities in a safe and supportive environment, the better you’ll help them build strength and resilience. Get the tough topics out in the open: Why do we wear masks? What if mom or dad get sick? What are the protests about? How are different kids in your classroom treated? What do you think they are feeling?
- Build an age appropriate plan together with your kids. Work together to come up with solutions that validate their reality while supporting them in overcoming their fears. Focus on what they can control in the ‘now’ and build accomplishable tasks that provide a sense of measurable progress and victory. This plan creates structure and control in an otherwise uncontrollable world. For example, ask your kids: what do you want to learn about today? What do they want to try to cook today? What games can we play outside today? What new sport can we learn?
Through this, we are creating solution minded kids that have strength to weather uncertain times. You are giving them real world coping skills.
Our next big dilemma is coming up fast: Can we safely send our kids back to school? Of course the school experience is essential for the healthy development of our children, but what is the smart path forward? Every parent will face this decision in their own way, but I encourage you to seek out facts and guidance from experts. I recommend watching “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” -a panel discussion about school reopening from Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. It’s an ongoing video series, and a great source of factual information for parents.
Let me know how you and your family are doing. Comment on the “Contact Us” page.