Dear parents wondering how to talk to their kids about going back to school or not back to school,
It feels like deja vu! This was the hot topic last spring helping kids cope with missing graduations and end of the year festivities. And yet, here we are going back to school and still in the same pickle and conundrums!
Still, with no magical answers to ease the frustration, confusion, fear, and million other emotions rolled into and out of this pandemic. I get it, I understand 1000%. I don’t like to complain about how overwhelming this panDAMNED situation is because 1. I don’t want to draw more energy towards what I don't want more of 2. I don't want to seem like I can’t handle it or I am a wimp 3. I keep thinking it will end and will go back to “normal” or whatever the hell “normal” was or is!
This is not how I thought it would be either. BUT, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO? I continuously think about how I will balance writing, clients, homeschool, folding the damn laundry or how I will even remember to brush my hair! At first, it was a novelty to have my kids out of school and be a stay at home mom. Everyday felt like Saturday. Walks for 1st period. Eating breakfast was an activity and cooking meals was part of the curriculum. Going on scavenger hunts outside was considered geography class! Going on a different walking route was a field trip. It seemed doable, like an obtainable challenge. Now it is a THING. The novelty has worn off and it is our REALITY. And, it ain’t so cute anymore!
So, let me ask you, who has the anxiety about going back to school? Is it ME? Is it US the parents? Or is it really the kids? Is it us that needs to ask how to talk to kids or is it us that needs the speaking to?
Let me start off by saying that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. What do I mean by that? If you are freaking out about the kids going back to school- then they are freaking out! If they are having anxiety, they are picking up on that. Sure, you might say you are fine, but are ya really? You may not talk about the going back to school situation as a negative, but are you talking about financial concerns? Not seeing your friends? Not seeing your family? Canceling the family trip? The promotion you didn’t get at work? The damn unemployment or PPP that did or didn’t happen? How coped up you feel? How bored you are? Blah blah blah blah…
I am not saying concern or worry is bad, and yeh, our kids have to deal with reality! I am just saying no matter your kid’s age, they pick up on things and are and act as a direct reflection of what is going on in their world. Have you seen a mirror?
My grandma Marion would say, in her heaviest New York, Jewish accent, “a child is a product of their environment”. She would also then flop her wrist/hand down and kind of shew you away after she said it. Brush it off like it is no big deal. Like dah, if the parents are a mess, their kids are a mess- it is not rocket science! Look, I am not saying this is the case in every family and there are not parents that are chill and kids are experiencing anxiety and/or vice versa. I am just saying if it walks like a duck and it quacks, it’s a duck!
PARENTS: MANAGE YOUR OWN ANXIETY AND KEEP YOUR SHIFT TOGETHER!!
Again, really check in with yourself how you, the parental role model, parent, boss person are dealing with this whole situation before you go freaking out how your kids are doing?
Then, let’s discuss how to talk to your kids once you do a good talking to, to yourself! Let me also say, if you are worried and in states of panic about the current status of going back to school or anything else related to the pandemic, when we grew up there was also some kind of crisis. And guess what, we all survived it and we survived our parents through it and your kids will survive you. Don’t go beating yourself up how you have dealt with it all thus far! You're not a crappy parent. In fact it is the opposite. You are rocking parenthood because the only thing you are at fault for or guilty of is loving your child/children and having an interest in their well-being. Of course momma and papa bear are going to do whatever it takes to protect our cubs. Let’s just put any ounce of guilt or shoulding (should have done it better or differently) aside.
So, how do we talk to our kids?
As we know, no two kids are the same- bio individuality! There is no script, no magical parent guide, or any perfect way to do this! You cannot talk to two kids in the same house, the same class, or the same age the same way. You most certainly can’t talk to kids of different ages the same.
* Know your child.
* Know what their level of communication and comprehension is.
* Ask them questions about how they feel.
* Ask them questions of what they understand.
* Ask them their opinion.
* Ask them what they think.
* Get a gauge where they are at.
* Look them in the eye when talking to them.
* Express your concerns in one sentence. I feel ____ because_____.
* Talk to them how you want to be talked to.
The key in communicating with a child (of all ages, infant to 18 (adults too)) is how you deliver the message. Remember, it is not what you say, but how you say it! If you start a sentence with “I have bad news”, your child is not going to take it well. If you are upset or disappointed about the delay of school starting or virtual education, your child will be also. Kids are perceptive and intuitive, they detect and pick up on your energy. Kids have secret spidey senses that know what is going on before we do without spying on our texts messages!
* Be genuine and sincere and present challenging information or roadblocks in a positive way that your offer cannot be refused!
* Do not lie! I repeat, DO NOT LIE! Lying when you are teaching your kids to trust you and for them to be honest is worse than yelling at them to be quiet (like all of us have not done that, right?!?)
* Explain to them how it will play out in the end with play by play details as descriptively as you can. Incorporate how they will feel, what they will see. Use all their senses.
* Paint and create a graphic, vivid picture of how this experience will be in the future as if it has already happened.
* Tell them they do not have to see it the way you are seeing it and they do not have to believe it. Ask them if they are okay for you to see it.
* Create a vision they cannot turn down or refuse!
* Find a silver lining and make it be matter of fact in a way that any obstacle or disappointment ahead can’t not happen.
* Present it in a way that you believe it with conviction (even if you are apprehensive).
* Remind your kids that this is all temporary and is a bleep in the radar.
* Acknowledge with connection that you understand how they may be feeling.
* Give your kids credit how proud you are of them for how they are handling transition. Throw some cookies. (Don’t literally throw food or reward positive behavior with food.) Get really excited about what you want more of from your kids (and get really excited for what kind of behaviors you want more of from yourself- PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH!)
Remember one last thing, when your child was born, whether you thought you had a clue or felt completely clueless about raising your child, you just did it. If you are reading this, you are further ahead of child rearing then you even think you are and your child is lucky to have you as you are to have them. More than any fancy schmancy shrink or mom advice I or anyone else can give you, you have something invaluable, special, and priceless. YOU LOVE YOUR CHILDREN. You can never love them too much. If all else fails or if all else succeeds, TELL THEM YOU LOVE THEM, HUG THEM AND KEEP TELLING THEM YOU LOVE THEM. Love is ageless and limitless. Squeeze them tight and remind them everything is okay.