I’m a proud responsibility.org ambassador this year and was compensated to write this blog post. As always all opinions are my own.
We are all experiencing a very unique time in history. As adults, we are thinking about how this has affected our daily routine, and we are struggling to find a way to work from home while our children are with us. Something that I’ve been trying to give more thought to recently is how this is affecting our children. The truth is, they are experiencing a loss of rituals, routine, and sense of community right now.
Responsibility.org has brought this topic to light, and they are committed to cultivating a culture of conversations with our kids. They are working to encourage these conversations between parents and their children from very young ages to help build up trust. The idea is that kids will continue to talk to their parents as they get older and their life choices evolve and become more complicated.
Understanding Loss of Rituals
With a global pandemic going on, I am grateful every day to have a family that is healthy. However, our children have missed out on many important milestones this year such as prom, graduation, field trips, Spring sports, birthday celebrations, and extracurricular activity performances.
These are experiences that they’ve dreamed of for years, and they are most likely feeling a great deal of disappointment. This is a time of grief and loss for kids of all ages. As parents, we can:
- Let our children know that it is okay to have difficult feelings
- Ask how they are feeling: How are you coping with what’s going on? What does this mean to you? Such a small gesture can create an open space to allow them to be vulnerable and confide in us.
- Celebrate every win, no matter how small!
- Be present and available to your child’s feelings of grief and loss. Despite being busy, ensure that they understand you are there for them as a support system.
- Let them know that there are ways to find certainty during uncertain times. Discuss how they are in control of their actions every day, even if they don’t leave the house, and all they can do is the next right thing. This would be the perfect time to cue the song “Next Right Thing” from Frozen 2.
Overcoming Loss of Rituals
Acknowledging that your child may be grieving is the first right step. Here are some ways that you can overcome these feelings of loss and grief.
Without school, our children are missing face-to-face social interaction with their friends. Depending on the age, this void may be the most difficult part to cope with. Encouraging your child to discuss their friendships with you can be a good way for them to understand how loved they are by others. It can also act as a time for them to be honest about friendships that may not be healthy for them.
Even if they cannot see each other in person, we can still help our kids find ways to connect virtually. Help them to set up daily or weekly meetings on Zoom, Google Chat, or social media. Seeing a friendly face and having a private conversation just may lift their spirits.
As parents, we so desperately want to connect with our children. We love them, and want to create a safe space for them. However, sometimes we talk too much (I know I’m guilty!). One way to overcome this is, for lack of a better phrase, stop talking so much. We need to allow our kids to share their feelings in their own voice and in their own time.
Part of getting to the heart of the matter is asking the right questions. Avoid “yes/no” questions, and instead opt for open-ended questions. For example, try:
“How are you feeling?” instead of “Are you okay?”
“What was the highlight of your day?” instead of “Did you have a good day?”
“What can I do to help you through this time?” instead of “Do you miss your friends?”
If they still don’t want to have an engaged conversation with you, simply let them know that your door is always open when they are ready.
Tune Into Your Child’s Unique Qualities
Think about what makes your child special, and what his/her strengths are. Help them to focus on that by giving them the space and time they need to practice their skills. Whether it’s reading, basketball, ballet, or creativity, make an effort to support their passions from home.
I know, I know, I’m always pushing the self-care topic. There’s a reason for that! It’s so important. You must carve out time for self-care, and make that time obvious to your children. You want to pass on the message that showing up for yourself is just as important as showing up for others.
Model positive ways to deal with a stressful environment. When it comes to alcohol, choose your words carefully. Kids are sponges, and they soak up what they see and hear, regardless of their age. Rather than saying “I need a drink”, try “I’d love to enjoy a glass of wine”. This is something that I have put a lot of attention on in the past year, because while I do enjoy an alcohol beverage every now and then, I don’t want to pass on the message that I need alcohol to cope.
The big message that I want to pass along is that your kids won’t practice or prioritize self-care if they don’t see their parents doing it. Make the time, and talk about it as a family.
I encourage you to check out Responsibility.org for further valuable information for kids as young as 6 through college age. You can also find them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For more information on how you can begin important conversations with your children, check out this post.