Our job as parents isn’t to provide certainty in a time of uncertainty. Our job is to help kids tolerate the uncertainty, to teach resilience, problem solving, creativity, and working together to create a peaceful harmonious environment.
The trauma or challenge during the pandemic continues to demand extraordinary flexibility, frustration tolerance, and problem-solving skills from us all—much more than we have been accustomed to in our daily lives. Ironically, however, those very skills we need the most right now start to disappear on us under chronically stressful situations like this.
Our children can learn from us if we guide them to understand that there are times that are more challenging than others and we can “ride the wave” and look forward to calmer times. It is important to increase communication during these times and get some understanding about how they are managing their thoughts and feelings.
We want to teach them how to tolerate “not knowing.” You should give them time and space to explain how they’re feeling and why. Validate those feelings by saying things like, ‘I have similar concerns and frustrations. Let’s brainstorm ideas on how we can make things better.’ Instead of just giving answers, you want to have a conversation and validate their feelings, allow them time to process them.
Getting kids, regardless of age, involved in problem-solving makes them feel empowered and like they’re part of the solution. If you ask vague questions, you’ll get vague answers, including the dreaded “I’m fine” (the quintessential conversational dead end). Instead, lead with curiosity and ask open-ended yet specific questions:
• What did you learn about today?
• What is something interesting or funny you heard about today?
• What was the most fun thing you did today?
• What are you most looking forward to tomorrow?
• What was the toughest part of your day today?
I do not recommend this discussion at bedtime - which is more a time to wind down for the day. Anxious kids have more worries at night. Don’t lead them down the path of more worry. Find a time, a neutral time, when there hasn’t been a big argument. Look for a calm moment - maybe laid-back discussions either during dinner, or while taking a family walk.
We want to help kids stay in the moment. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the unknown. All we know is what’s happening to us right now. Point out the positive changes - more time together, learning to connect through technology, perhaps finding different interests to concentrate on, cooking, gardening etc… A gratitude practice for those things we take for granted like our health, family and friends and each other.
Parents, children, and teachers are under an enormous amount of stress right now. Not only are we coping with distance learning and all the new challenges that it brings, but we are also dealing with uncertainties of the future. When humans feel threatened or vulnerable, it becomes impossible to perform at our highest ability due to our body's stress response. So give yourself and your children some slack and compassion. We are all struggling. Give yourself credit for what you have already managed and continue to do. Resilience is a lifelong skill.