I get it. That first week of school closures was a pleasant surprise for some of us. Our Superstars were excited to get on with homework! Some couldn’t wait to log on to Google Classroom, or Purple Mash, or SeeSaw – or dive into the pile of worksheets.
They were excited to spend time with us – bouncing along to PE with Joe, happily helping us in the kitchen, even enthusiastically doing chores!
(OK, that last one might be a stretch!)
And then… everything changed.
You were left doing PE with Joe alone.
Getting school work done required nagging, and even then it was half-hearted.
You’ve started wondering what on earth you’re doing wrong!
This is perfectly natural. Let me repeat that.
THIS IS COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY NATURAL!
This current situation is a traumatic experience for everyone, children included. We are experiencing grief – grief for the way life was, grief as we miss friends and family, and for some of us, grief for the loss of loved ones from this awful virus.
Some children react to trauma immediately. Trauma responses may be irritability, anger, being weepy, being withdrawn. Wanting to be with you constantly, or wanting to be alone. Being unable to focus. Feeling apathetic and lethargic, or hyperactive and unable to keep still. Nightmares and night terrors. Being unable to sleep, or wanting to sleep a lot. Spending hours on devices.
Others have a delayed response – occurring days, weeks, maybe months or years later. Very few don’t react at all. Responses will often come and go – one minute they seem absolutely fine, then all of a sudden they’re not.
DON’T feel as though it is your fault – it isn’t! (You may be experiencing a similar response to this too.)
There is no one-size-fits-all response to trauma, and there is no global solution to it either.
But here’s FIVE things that can help:
Go with the flow
Be prepared to change routines, or to drop them completely from time to time. Or be prepared to stick rigidly to a routine if that is what your child is more comfortable with.
Validate their feelings
They aren’t daft, these Superstars of ours. They are picking up on our emotions constantly, and will often reflect those back at us. Be mindful of their feelings – now is the time to reassure them, rather than dismiss fears. If your child is worried about you becoming ill, then acknowledge that this is possible, but that you are doing all you can to minimise any risk to yourself. A fear acknowledged and shared is unlikely to magnify and become catastrophic. And be prepared to do this more than once!
Don’t compare how your Superstar is doing to another Superstar – even in the same family. The Teen is coping admirably, The Tween isn’t. She needs much, much more support than her big brother RIGHT NOW. (Of course, this could change at any time!). Don’t compare how your family is doing to any families on social media. Remember – social media LIES BIG TIME! You only get to see the best bits!
You are not their teacher
You are their parent/carer. You are their support system, the person they come to in a crisis. You are their HOME. Yes, they learn lots from you all their life, but you are not their teacher for formal schooling. So if they simply don’t want you to help them, or get frustrated with you, understand that you are their safe space. This is really, really important! You are keeping them safe at home. THAT’S more important than teaching them how to work out percentages!
Let shit go
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – and if you’re really unlucky, I’ll sing it with actions in an Elsa costume. LET IT GO! Get rid of the expectations and work WITH your child when they are struggling with their emotions – even if that means not keeping to a rigid schedule. If they want to bake buns instead of completing a science project, watch The Trolls for the twentieth time instead of all the educational online lessons that are available – it’s ok. When they are in the midst of a trauma response, be their safe space. Their comfort zone. Their life-line. You are not alone – children all over the world right now are going through the same thing.
Remember – shout out if you need anything! We are all in this parenting lark together!
Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay sane, my lovelies!