School?! Home, Virtual, Traditional, and other and tricky decisions:
Lately, my social media feed has been flooded with this sentiment: "When you get the news about school, Mama, take some time on your own to center yourself, and then tell your kids about it with a positive attitude. Because mama sets the tone." And honestly, I love this. I think it is a great idea to keep the complaints somewhere safe, to have our first emotional response, and then have time to think about how to present it to our children. I love all of it. Deliberate parenting is beautiful, and for me, a gentle reminder is always welcome.
But… I have something to add to this. And I think it's a BIG BUT.
We should not shelter our children from our disappointment.
While it is natural to have this desire, it is not a good idea to want to keep them from knowing that we, as adults, sometimes have "bad" (i.e. not the most fun) feelings.
Feelings like anger, disappointment, and frustration are natural and real and adults have them too. It is even good for our kids to know how we are feeling because when we do, two beautiful things happen:
- They can see us cope with our sadness, our disappointment, and our anger in positive forward-moving ways.
- We indirectly give them permission to have those feelings themselves and come to us with them.
When I was interning in a children's hospital cancer center, I met a little girl and her grandma (full-time care provider) who were going through the steps to finding out her cancer diagnosis. They both were keenly aware something was wrong. It was my job to support them as they went through some imaging procedures.
Grandma pulled me aside and whispered to me with fevered tears in her voice: "I never let her see me get scared or sad. I don't want to put that on my baby." I nodded, as an inexperienced intern that I was and just listened.
I went in to meet with the little girl about her having her scans. She was about 8 years old, smart, and sweet.
I did a quick feedback question to determine her understanding of my teaching about the scans and to see how she was feeling about doing them. "When you think about doing your MRI, does it sound easy, hard, or somewhere in between?"
"Easy," she said and smiled. Then grandma stepped out. The sweet girl looked at me and said "I never let her see me scared or sad. I don't want this to be hard for her."
Grandma was doing such a wonderful job loving, supporting, and protecting her from what she could. However, through doing so she unintentionally set an example for her little girl.
That we protect the people we love from our hard feelings.
Friends, let us not try to be so brave and so positive that we miss an opportunity to teach our children about dealing with hard feelings. Let's not accidentally teach them that we hide our hard feelings from those that we love to protect them. Parents, we can handle our hard feelings and our children's. And so can they.
After you take the time to process and vent and feel your feelings about your school decision/s and you do sit down to talk to your sweethearts about what's next… don't be afraid to let them see the tear in your eye or hear the mild frustration in your voice.
Tell them, "I really really wanted you to be able to go back to school with your friends and so I am sad. But we don't have to stay sad. We can find some ways to make this better together. When you're ready, I have ideas and I want to hear yours."
OR "What do you think when Dad says you aren't going to be able to start school in the fall? Do you want to talk about it now, or take some time to think about it?"
OR "I know you were excited about the idea of staying home for school this year. I was excited too! But as we researched/prayed/talked, we decided that when school opens back up that what is best for our family is that you will go back to in-person learning. It is ok to feel nervous because I feel nervous too. I am here to talk with you about that. The good news is we have learned a lot since the virus first began spreading and so we are able to put a lot of safety guards in place so that we can move in the world. But I want to hear about what you are thinking! Chances are mama is thinking it too and we can figure it out together."
Whether your family is staying home and going virtual, going to school, or staying home and doing it yourself, you and your kids are going to have feelings about it. Big and small. Our adult support systems are a perfect place for venting, crying, laughing, and losing our minds a little bit.
But our kiddos need to see some of our real feelings too, a balance of protection and authenticity. So that when they need to learn how to vent, how to balance, and who can handle their real feelings they come to us first.
Because our families…they were made a masterpiece, they can be beautiful and handle hard things.
Child Life Specialist &
ED for A Children's House For The Soul
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Written By: Lindsay O'Sullivan
Child Life Specialist & ED for A Children's House For The Soul
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