Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Parenting through a global pandemic.

If your situation is anything like mine, you are suddenly thrust upon the at-home schooling world while still dealing with your “usual” responsibilities (if there is such a thing anymore). It’s all more than a little overwhelming and I find myself often lost in my own perception of the situation. MY stress, MY feelings, MY aggravation and it’s very easy to fall into the old song and dance of, “why is this happening to ME?” I could write a book on being above or below the line (and that victim mentality is definitely below the line), but in this case I want to take another approach. Let’s put ourselves in the place of these kids and try to remember what our perception of the world looked like when we were the little ones. Let's keep in mind what it must feel like for them to witness this moment in history.

I know things weren’t always perfect when I was growing up. The world and my family had our share of problems, but during my younger years I was blissfully unaware and unconcerned about those issues for the most part. In the vast string of moments I now think of as “childhood,” I had a definite feeling that no matter what, everything was going to be OK. In my eyes, the world was controlled and held at bay by my parents. This is one of the wonders of being a kid and it is something we have all been doing our best to provide to our littles from the day they came into our lives. I was an adult when 9/11 came along, but that is the closest thing I can imagine to the psychological impact to this generation’s worldview right now. In one terrifying morning, I went from thinking the world was one way, to knowing it was another way altogether.

Now we're the grownups and all these kids (when did we have so many? LOL) are looking to us. Recent events like school being cancelled and being unable to see their friends, having the ability to go and do things they want, and lack of the ability to just live in what was “normal life” is very hard on the kids. Couple that with the bits of news they see, the concern for relatives they can't see and for themselves (Will I get sick? Will my parents?) and this is a slow burning traumatic event.

Whether they are verbalizing it or not, they are impacted. Whether they are showing us or not, they are concerned and worried. It is now painfully obvious to them that what happens in the world is not always controlled by their parents. This is a hard thing to reconcile for me and I’m trying my best to show some extra patience, to spend time (even when I don’t have it), to give an extra hug and to keep up every aspect of “normality” I can with the kids. I’m sorry they have to learn so soon how little we control, but I will make sure to teach them what we do control… our reactions to any situation. I talk with myself every morning about this and remind myself it’s not about me, my feelings and anxieties can take the backseat while the kids are watching. As the grown ups in the room, we can take it, we can pretend to be OK even if we're not at that moment, we can hold our tongue and watch our tone. We can check that outburst of frustration at schoolwork or their need for more supervision. Of course, there is still discipline and structure, but there is a big, big helping of grace needed for these little ones who woke up to find that everything they knew changed in a heartbeat. Keep this in mind… they will graduate, they will grow older, they will remember this time and more than anything, they will remember how we made them feel in the middle of it. Those frequent moments of insubordination, bickering, or apparent lack of motivation are natural responses to major stress. Have patience, show better ways to respond and give more hugs. Be easy parenting partners. We can do this.

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