What a dynamic and unprecedented time in which we have been called to parent in this world. It’s time to honor and acknowledge that these continue to be incredibly challenging times where there is not a script on the right way to parent!
Benefits of Growing Up in Today’s World
I know what you’re thinking: “Benefits?! You’re saying there are benefits to growing up during a pandemic?” YES! This can be challenging, but we have to think about the good that will come from this time. As parents, we can be sensitive to the pain, loss, boredom, and disconnect that our children feel since their worlds have been turned upside down. It’s easy for us to feel sad or frustrated because of all the activities and opportunities that they’re missing out on. And sometimes, we inadvertently project our own narrative onto them.
You may have worked tirelessly to create a beautifully balanced schedule where your child’s social, academic, and physical needs were being met. Then, it was thrown out the window because of COVID, or air quality, or life! Because of this, you feel disappointed, or guilty that your child is unable to experience “normal” life. Have you found yourself saying things along the lines of “What a hard time, I can’t believe X got cancelled” or “Virtual schooling is just the worst, it’s so hard to learn through a screen!”? It’s so easy to highlight and emphasize the disappointment we feel about the things we, or our children are missing out on. What is really powerful, and what I truly believe is what we are being called to do right now as parents, is highlight the strengths that will come with this time.
Flexibility and Resiliency
I believe that the children growing up during the pandemic – through being exposed to adversity and challenge – have had to learn how to adapt, be flexible and display resilience. Keep pointing that out to them! “It’s so incredible that school was once in person, now it’s virtual, and soon it could be hybrid or back in person, and you are just rolling with it!” This provides an internal dialogue that builds strength and positivity during a time filled with question marks. These kiddos are learning and growing to be people in this world who are flexible and can do well regardless of what is thrown at them. They have the opportunity to be the generation of human beings that can adapt and show up to whatever is being asked of them with grace, flexibility, and positivity. While we certainly want to honor and validate the losses they are experiencing, let us not live there! That is a place of deficit and a “lacking” mentality.
Make the Change
Starting with you as the parent: use your own strength-based narrative that will help remind them of how spectacular they are doing despite the challenges they are facing. As a family, think about the opportunities that you have been presented during this time. This time allows for re-prioritization, the chance to determine what matters most in your world. With so much being taken away at the beginning of this, a lot of noise was turned down. On the other side of this, you are allowed to be more deliberate about activities that you are going to bring back into your world.
Be mindful as a parent. When all of these things were taken off your plate: sports, extracurriculars, sleepovers, and more, did you find any sense of peace? Was there a moment of quietness that was appreciated? If so, be intentional in what variables of your life you want to hold time and space for when we start returning or evolving into the next version of normal.
This Looks Different for Every Child
I’ve talked to parents with two kiddos in the same household that have very different personalities. One is introverted and their love for reading has blossomed during this time. The family is ordering books and trying to feed the need that their child has to dive into their imagination. Their other child is craving social connectivity, so they’ve “podded” together with other families, safely creating boundaries so that their children can gather together and feed the need that their child has to spend time with others.
Assess what your child needs. Be proactive and deliberate about how you address those needs. Once you find yourself in a place of reactivity, you lose the ability to do anything constructive. If your child has already been on electronics going on hour three and you realize that they haven’t done anything but stare at a screen all day, when you approach them to remove that stimulus you only shake things up, creating agitation. Once the train gets started down the track of dysregulation, it’s hard to turn it around. Instead, if you approach your child the night before and establish guidelines for what is expected of them the following day, you are setting them up for success. “We’re going to allow these electronics to be accessible during X time to X time, let’s brainstorm activities that you can do independently when they are not available and I am working.”
Think in advance. Talk to your children and facilitate an open, safe, communicative space where they can let you know what their hearts and minds need. What are they not getting enough of, or what can they be fed that will help them feel really great about themselves? This is going to take time, communication, and creativity to balance all things in a way that is harmonious, authentic and realistic for your family. I want to emphasize realistic. As a family, you may want to achieve X but can only deliver Y. That is OK! Be honest and don’t put yourself as a parent in a state of deficit.
Have a family meeting – what is it that your family values? If you could pick three adjectives that describe your child and how you want them to grow up, what are they? How do you create a garden around your kiddos that cultivate resiliency, creativity, and empathy despite the external obstacles that they are facing?
Utilize this time as a rebalance. Where you can be intentional about how your build your life and your child’s on the other side of this?