The world can be a scary place. What makes it even more frightening is that you have to send your kids out into it every day. You’re not even allowed to go with them most of the time! With the start of the school year, they have to figure out new schools, teachers and schedules all by themselves. It’s unrealistic to think they won’t hit a few bumps in the road, but wouldn’t it be nice to smooth the way completely for them?
As they find their sometimes bump-filled way in the world, they are going to be exposed to more. Even if you are a vigilant parent, you can’t protect your kids from what they hear about or uncover when they are away from you. The best thing you can do to counteract this is to work at keeping communication open at home. If you find something to be particularly upsetting in recent current events, reaching out to their teacher may help. While a teacher may not address these issues in class directly, they at least will be able to share some of what kids may be talking about. If you know this, it will make it easier to start conversations at home.
When having important discussions at home, do your best to normalize them. By this I mean try to initiate these conversations in a relaxed setting. Also, don’t wait for something momentous, try to do daily or at the minimum weekly check-ins with your kids. This way you can establish a comfortable pattern of communication so when something uncomfortable arises, you already have a solid framework in place. If a topic is politically charged, it is helpful to discuss all aspects of it in a way that allows kids the freedom to form their own opinions. I often preface these types of conversations by telling my boys this is what I believe but not everyone feels the same. I’ll also share what others may believe, how they might have come to their conclusions and give my kids ample chances to ask me questions. No questions are off limits. If the questions cause me to have an emotional reaction, I try to take a pause before addressing it. I don’t want my emotions to influence their ideas or opinions.
Lately, what I’m reading and hearing in the news makes it nearly impossible for me to keep my emotions in check. I mostly try to keep a brave face for my boys and focus on the consistency of our routines at home. This seems to help. However, sometimes my fears get the better of me. At those times, I don’t shy away from my fear or my boys. They are smart kids, as all our kids tend to be, and can sense when I’m having a rough day. If I take the time to verbalize my fears and anxieties this helps ease the tension. I may show cracks in my exterior and the tears may fall, but no matter what, I always get on with my life. By living this type of example I am showing my boys emotions and fear don’t have to hold us back. They are a part of life but they don’t determine our fate. We choose that for ourselves. So, name your fears, share what scares you with people you trust and keep going.
Together. That’s how we can get through anything.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent