As if things couldn’t feel any harder, any more complicated, any more uncomfortable, or more $%&^… And to top it all off, we must parent our precious, unwitting children through the harshest of storms. Storms we haven’t had to weather. Storms we have not yet learnt from ourselves.
Thanks goodness that Dr. Andrew Wake of ‘The Good Enough Parent’ has put together a bit of a guide for how to navigate these stormy seas. His words certainly give us some comfort during these destabilizing times.
This is life at its peak hard-ness. The question for many of us is, when will it end? We have so many other questions and so few answers. And yet as sure as night following day, our children will wake us (too early, far too early) in the morning, asking for cuddles, food, laughter and fun. And, of course, to help them make sense of it all.
The discomfort we experience in our lives is a feeling we generally want to back away from, not lean in to or embrace. Perhaps our children are our saving grace forcing us to keep going.
It is up to us to safely and surely guide them to a safe emotional passage. Enter Dr. Wake. As he points out, the pandemic “activates many of our most primitive fears.” “Helplessness…fear of the stranger bringing danger…fear of sickness and death…social isolation, loneliness and feeling disconnected…”
Now is the time we need a roadmap for our emotions so we can help guide our children. Whilst this is all very new and, here’s that word again, unprecedented…. It isn’t the first (and it won’t be the last) time humanity has had to face such an almighty monster. Luckily for us, Dr. Andrew Wake is helping to explain and define the journey we need to take to overcome this emotional nightmare. “Acceptance is the key for dealing with unwanted reality.”
In order to reach that point, Dr. Wake believes we must navigate through the following stages;
- Denial; trying to avoid the reality of the situation by going out to restaurants, supermarkets and friends’ houses despite advice to the contrary
- Once this has been exhausted, we go into “bargaining our way out of the worry” through controlling behavior like hoarding etc.
- When we realize we can’t control our fear, we move into anger and blame.
We cannot avoid these steps of grief. It is important that we don’t get stuck in them, as they are not transformative on their own. We need to move through and release them. It is especially important our children don’t get caught in them either.
- Sadness is the next step. Feeling sad and allowing that sadness to be felt is the key to acceptance. To understand that “It is what it is” and it can’t be pretended away, organized or resolved through violence of thought or action.
- Once your child moves through this to acceptance, then they can make decisions and choices based on the reality of the situation not what they wish it were.
Dr. Wake has some great suggestions on how to help your child deal with the associated grief of Coronavirus and move through the stages of grief that adults also struggle to deal with;
- Togetherness: this decreases the sense of loneliness, and provides a sense that whatever happens we will face it together. If you as their parent can bear it, it must be bearable.
- Talking: listening to another’s story, validating their experiences, and playfully offering your own story and experiences.
- Forgiveness: blame generally keeps people stuck in anger, making acceptance hard to achieve. Having a family value of forgiveness helps your children to move beyond the anger and blame.
- Humor: after the seriousness has been validated, gradually and increasingly finding something to laugh about. It is often through shared humor that we feel most connected.
Whilst we can’t force our children to process and get to this point of acceptance, it is helpful to have this roadmap available just in case.
We wish you and your children a safe and loving time. Remember, it is important for every member of the family to eat well, particularly when we are under so much stress.