by Dianna Flett
We are all feeling the uncertainty of the times right now. It can be quite overwhelming and part of our challenge as parents is helping our children come up with ways to process what’s happening. We often do a workshop activity in our (Girl Smarts) summer camps that focuses on uncertainty and what we can do to deal with it. It’s pretty basic and may help frame your discussions with your children in the coming days and weeks.
The idea is simple. You talk about a concern your child may be having and you break it down into its most basic parts. In our workshops, for instance, we talk about a particular course the children might find challenging. Let’s say it is math.
Then we ask them, “Can you control the fact that you are studying math?”
“No, it is a required class in school.”
“So what can you control?”
Then we talk through the things the girls can do to support their success. The storyline may go like this:
“Well, I can raise my hand and ask questions.”
“I can go focus on the teacher deliberately when she is teaching this subject.”
“I can ask for help during lunch, or after school.”
“I can look for some support online.”
“I can let you know what we’re studying and together we can work through it.”
Instead of focusing one what the girls cannot influence we focus on what they can influence. We also bring home the point that if they are doing the same thing over and over and it isn’t working, then they need to change up their approach.
How might that discussion look using today’s health scare? Maybe your child says they are scared about the virus. This is a good time to talk about all the things they can do to keep themselves and the people you care about safe.
“I can make sure I wash my hands with soap while I sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice in my head.”
“I can sneeze into my arm, a tissue, a napkin, instead of out into the air.”
“I can tell you if I start to feel the slightest bit sick so we can stay on top of keeping me healthy.”
“I can do things here in our house while school is out that keep me busy to keep my mind off things.”
“I can have a FaceTime playdate with Susie every day so I don’t get lonely.”
“I can write in my journal about my feelings so they don’t get too big for me.”
It’s also important when your children are young to keep the conversation truthful and youthful. Don’t give them more information than they are asking for, and don’t scare them by allowing them to overhear conversations that are too difficult for them to process. Keep the TV off the channels where information about the virus is being highlighted, and if they do hear something make sure to circle back and discuss with them what they heard and what they think about it, so you can dispel any irrational thoughts or concerns.
Children catch on pretty quickly when things are out of sorts. If we stay calm and set an azimuth for them to follow with our own behavior and our mindset, then we have a better chance of them feeling safe and protected when life events happen that may cause them angst. Communication is key. There is so much right now you cannot control, but there are many things you can.
It is important we respect what is happening in our world today. It is also important we consider our own strength and humanity as we turn our faces toward tomorrow and beyond.
In your mind leap forward and think about your son or daughter looking into their children’s eyes, and what they will say about how you nurtured them through this time. The reality you form with them now will be their stories of tomorrow.
I’m right here with you. We got this.