This is a tough time for everyone, for a lot of reasons. But our kids are really taking this on the chin, at all ages— there’s a new reality for kids —they’re all missing their friends something fierce. They’re not interacting with any other adults. Some kids are home with frazzled, irritable, perhaps even abusive parents. Not getting meals from schools. High school and college seniors not getting to enjoy those magical last days of school.
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This isn’t about feeling sorry for our kids, because that just disempowers them.
A friend of mine sent me a picture the other day taken at the Black Lives Matter march here in Providence, which I went to and brought my 12 year old daughter with me, because when she heard about George Floyd, she was fired up to go. The picture shows her with two friends. Or should I say near two friends, because we were trying to stick to the whole socially distanced thing. In the picture, they’re holding their homemade signs—hers said color doesn’t determine rights, her friend has one that said justice for George, and her most woke friend had an ACAB sign. And they’re wearing masks. And I looked at the sign and was just like, 2020 is SO WEIRD. This is such a weird new reality for kids.
Of course, let me just stop right here and acknowledge the privileges my kids have of not feeling afraid to walk down the street, or of the police, or having to worry about where their next meal is coming from, or if they’re going to be safe in their home tonight or if someone’s going to be volatile and potentially violent.
The New Reality For Kids
No matter your circumstances, kids don’t have the perspective to be able to know that bad times end. They are isolated from their friends, spending all their time with family, in a weird new school reality, and depending on their age, perceiving different levels of how the world is an uncertain place right now.
Plus, Kids’ pick up on, and react to, our stress levels. I mean, have you been feeling a little on edge lately? Yeah. That’s contagious. Our stress also makes it a lot harder for us to be patient and non-reactive to the ways our kids are acting out these days because of their own upset. Believe me, I feel this one.
And the ways their stress can seep out can be pretty challenging behaviors for parents to handle at any time, but particularly when your emotional bandwidth is limited.
Isolating in their rooms
Staying up late
Crawling in your bed
Getting down on themselves
There are also physical ways stress can manifest in kids, like:
How To Support Your Kids Through These Challenging Times
It’s painful to see your kids struggling and knowing there’s only so much you can do. Now might be the time to find a therapist for them to talk to, or maybe it’s a virtual music lesson with someone in their 20s—getting another trusted adult on the scene might be a helpful outlet for them right now. Telehealth is being covered by insurance these days; if you don’t have insurance, online therapy, like betterhelp.com it pretty affordable, or maybe you enlist their favorite aunt or uncle to check in on them.
In the meantime, we’ve got to appreciate the good days, and remind ourselves that it’s natural to have bad days (I’ve noticed Mondays are really tough here as we’re still in school). And remember, even as painful as it is to see them struggle, they are building resilience. (I did an episode about how to support kids learning resilience week before last, it’s an interview I did with Emma Johnson, author of the kickass single mom, episode 197).
And finally, it’s up to us as parents to make sure we’re doing what it takes—or at least what we can in these uniquely stressful times—for you to have some kind of mental and emotional reset. Baths, walks, maybe getting up early before everyone else is up to have some you time. Meditating. Journaling. Talking with friends. We can’t make our kids’ stress go away, but we can model how to deal with it. You may think it’s not penetrating but you are laying down a blueprint for them that will realize they have at some point in their lives.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Which leads me to today’s tiny assignment, which is just to reflect for a minute, and think the new reality of kids and about how it they may be displaying their stress—what behaviors have you noticed? When you look at them through the lens of being the result of stress, does it change how you want to react to them? Is there something else you want to do to help support them now? If we don’t take a quiet, low-stress moment to think about this stuff, we’ll only ever be reacting to it in the moment when they’re acting out—and we’re not likely to do it very thoughtfully then.
I’m going to leave you with by reading an excerpt from the book the Parent’s Tao Te Ching, an awesome little book by William Martin that can help steady you in tough situations.
Your children are not mere lumps of clay
waiting for your expert hands.
They are the very energy of the universe
and will become what they will become.
They are sacred beings.
If you tamper with them
you will make everyone miserable.
They will find success
They will be happy
They will delight you
And disappoint you
They will be safe
And at great risk
They will live
And they will die
Stay at the center of your own soul
There is nothing else you can do.
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