As we move forward, searching for ways to make things work at home and balancing all that is asked of us — and as we care for our families, and ourselves — the challenges of “Safer at Home” are likely to weigh heavily on our shoulders. No matter how broad we thought they were.
“Safer at Home” is suddenly, overnight almost, a familiar phrase filled with unfamiliar expectations. Days usually spent at a worksite, outside of our homes, on play dates, visiting grandparents, traveling, going to movies and restaurants, are all upended. We’ve lost large parts of the life that were part of our norm until just days ago, and with that loss comes some grief and some fear and confusion. And a frequently unspoken fear that we aren’t acing parenting anymore, that with all these changes and challenges, we have to be okay with being a “good enough” parent. And while some of you with younger children may only be experiencing changes with attachments, others are likely facing challenging conversations.
Children are also likely to show some wear and tear. They may be misbehaving, having more big feelings, withdrawing, or regressing. They can’t control things any more than you can, but their toolboxes are so much smaller. It’s hard to manage our own feelings when we too are having big ones, but it is also okay for our children to have big feelings. We all do. Their ability to regulate their feelings and repair damage and pull from resilience is child-sized. It doesn’t necessarily make things easier for you, but also makes you feel for them even more, and understand how hard it may be for them to grapple with our new daily life experiences.
The most important thing your child needs to know is that they are safe. You will keep them safe. You’re going to need to tell them often, and show them that they are safe. It’s important to protect children when we can from too many images in the news and what may be overheard from our conversations. You might think about how you’re framing things for your children. It’s dangerous or not good to be too close or go to the park, instead we can say, “right now, it’s safer to stay (play, work, eat) at home.” Our words can send nuanced messages that this is temporary and reaffirms the positive rather than fear-instilled language.
Show them that you are a “helper.” Fred Rogers told children to always look for the “helpers” and there you are. Maybe find ways they can be a helper too? Maybe by sending letters and pictures to grandparents, videoing a dance to send to a friend, or cleaning a closet with you. They might want to make a feelings book, draw pictures, and dictate a story. Or act out things with their toys with you.
On top of it all, you need to take care of yourself. Sleep when you can. Make a daily plan. Eat good foods for your body. And walk. If mediation might help, check out Headspace. Our children will be using bits and pieces in the fall for our mindfulness practices and there’s something to it for us grownups too.
On Tuesday, April 14th at 8 PM, Sharon Lee and I will be offering a Zoom conversation for our Piper parents. Look for an invite soon. There will be open conversation on strategies for managing the challenges we all face.
So dear parents, as we close out another week at home, know that we send to you our love and compassion for what has happened to all of your lives. We will journey together and we will support you as best we can along the way.
On behalf of all of us Piper Peeps, stay well and safe,