So much change is happening in our world right now. This is true on a large societal scale, in our individual homes, and in our own thoughts and feelings. Am I going to get sick? Will I lose my job? How is this impacting our economy? What is this summer going to look like? When will things go back to normal? There is an unfathomable amount of uncertainty that we each are trying to cope with in our own individual ways.
Our kids are hyper-attuned to our feelings. So, even if we aren’t outwardly expressing them, these kids have some crazy kid superpower that allows them to feel our emotions anyway (as if we don’t have enough pressure put on us as parents?) This definitely does not mean that we are not supposed to feel our feelings or even express them. Quite the opposite. We have to demonstrate for our kids what it looks like to feel the good, the bad, and the ugly; how to cope with the good, the bad, the ugly; and then, we have to adjust our expectations of what that looks like for them. I’m a grown-up (sometimes) and I am having difficulties processing all of my feelings about the Coronavirus and the state of my little world. My feelings include anxiety, grief, fear, and sadness as well as hope, love, and gratitude. Both my kids, three years old and a year and a half, have been channeling that dreaded superpower that they possess and are picking up on all these feelings! And to expect them to “appropriately” handle all of them is simply unrealistic. I swear this superpower is present from birth. So, while the realistic expectations will need adjusting based on each individual child, this superpower exists regardless of your child’s age or your stage of parenthood.
Expect setbacks and then stepback - Some of these may look like developmental regressions. In our house, there has been a resurgence of terrible two tantrums even though we are in our threes. Maybe for your little one, you notice changes in sleep or more wetting themselves or more neediness. To be honest, I’m physically exhausted from picking up my 40 lb three year old so often right now! But...he needs me and he needs this connection. The hope is that we can step back for a quick second and recognize that these so-called setbacks are just a response to these new, unfamiliar feelings that they are feeling themselves or picking up on from us. They need to have these emotional releases, even if it is through tantrums and outbursts. If we can change the lens with which we look at these behaviors, then we can see the desperate need that our children have to find connection, security, and safety in us in a confusing world. Not sure about you, but I really feel the weight of that statement. Our children, no matter their age, need us to connect and offer security and safety - physically, mentally, and emotionally.
They are doing the best they can. For many of us, life has been turned upside down. There is no more normal. We have lost so much during this time. This is also true for our children. They have lost structure, activities, school, friends, playgrounds. Everything that they have known as normal has been lost to them now as well. But they do not all understand or have the emotional capacity to understand why. All they know is that they have us. Just like we are, they are doing the very best that they can to make sense of this. However, most of them are not yet able to control nor understand their emotions the way we do.
I recognize that this topic is just adding to the pressure that we feel and I wrote about last week. But I felt compelled to talk about it. How are we supposed to do all of this for our children while also feeling so overwhelmed and confused ourselves? My answer is simple. By showing up and doing our best. By being real with them. And then by saying sorry when that realness doesn’t always look all that pretty. You are enough. You are exactly who your kids need right now.