Our kids have lost so much during this quarantine! Talking with our kids about their losses during these CoVid-19 shutdowns can feel like an overwhelming task, especially because many of their losses are losses for us, too. But it’s a task we must take on for the good of our children and our family unit.
Social distancing has shut down schools, sports programs, birthday parties, and hangouts of any size. Visits with birth families have moved online or stopped altogether. Therapy of all kinds is being done by telemedicine — if they are happening at all. And now we’re in the midst of what was supposed to be graduation season. Whether your child was slated to graduate from pre-school, high school, or college, events like these look very different than years of tradition before coronavirus changed things.
We want our children to come out of this challenging season as healthy as they can be – physically, emotionally, and mentally. In our recent interview with Carol Lozier, LCSW, she touched on a few points that are helpful for talking with our kids about their losses and how to help them cope in healthy ways.
Validate Their Feelings of Loss
When you hear your child talk about what he misses, offer the validation of your empathy. Tell him that you hear him, you understand that it feels like a loss and that you are present for him. If he is “talking around” the idea of loss, try giving him words for that feeling. Helping your kids identify their feelings is skill-building at the same time that you are validating the emotions.
Talk About How Your Family Can Use This Time
For most families, we may never again have this kind of time together without the pull of outside activities, work, and other obligations ever again. Brainstorm what you want this time to be for your family. Ask each other what activities you can do to enhance your connections. Talk about what memories you want to have of this time and how to ensure that outcome.
- Play connecting board or card games together, with a minimal focus on competition.
- Tell stories of your own childhood memories or challenging events.
- Share your favorite childhood activities from “back when” there were no personal electronic devices available.
- Check out online gaming options that can span a wide range of ages if you don’t have board games in the house.
- Be intentional about activities that are relationship-builders rather than isolators.
- Respect your kids’ needs for solitude but seek a balance that works for all of you.
Help Your Tweens and Teens Stay Connected
The “stay at home” order means a massive loss of connection specifically for our tweens and teens. After all, this is the age in which they are naturally more drawn to peers. Work out a plan that allows your teen to stay active with her friends through social media interactions.
As your state’s restrictions ease in stages, revisit the conversation. Make sure that your kids know you care about their connections and keeping them safe at the same time.
However, be sure to also provide plenty of alternative activities to do as a family. Know your tween or teen’s needs and limits, then craft a plan together. Be open to adjusting the balance as the quarantine wears on her.
Respect that Distance Learning Means Loss To Your Kids
Most kids did not set out to be distance learners when this school year kicked off. Moving all their educational experiences to an online platform is another kind of loss for your kids. They need to hear that you recognize this as a loss as well. The end of this year might feel like “unfinished business” to your kids. Talk about how you can work together to finish the year strong as their classes wind down.
[sws_green_box box_size="515"] Did you catch this radio show on schooling your kids during the shutdown? [/sws_green_box]
Of course, you likely have a family plan for limiting screen time. It might feel like the school requirements for learning are infringing upon your limits in all the worst ways. You and your student should talk about a plan for how and when to be online for schooling. Demonstrate a willingness to adapt and be flexible by separating his educational screen time from entertainment time. Negotiating how to work with this new normal might need to be an on-going conversation as the school year winds down.
Acknowledge That Social Distancing Represents Loss, Too.
Recognize that changing HOW we spend time with our friends, family, and community is its own kind of loss. Each member of your family will have a different response to this loss. Acknowledging its presence can give them the freedom to face it and find ways to remediate it.
Have a family meeting to discuss how to stay connected to the ones you love and how to adjust to the changes that will with re-opening.
- Use Zoom calls or FaceTime to do family storytime with cousins.
- Ask Grandma and Grandpa to record a silly Happy Birthday video since they can’t be there for a party.
- Make funny videos together and send them to another family with a challenge to “one-up” you.
- Again, don’t count this time of connecting against the limits for entertainment time on screens.
Bring it Up More Than Once
Check-in frequently on your kids to see how they are processing this new normal. Be honest about the losses you personally are feeling and what you want to come out of this challenging season. It might feel awkward to bring up the topic occasionally, but it’s worth overcoming that discomfort. This season is full of unknowns. As it continues to change and we evaluate how to re-start the next new normal, there will be other losses to which we must adapt together.
Your kids need to know that you are with them, that you have similar thoughts and feelings that they have, and that you will be with them to walk through it to the end.
Image Credit: Robb North; Paul De Los Reyes; Allan Henderson