Parenting in Times of Turmoil

By Traci L. Gaffney

Many families are losing their homes right now. We have three empty houses on our street alone. As parents, we might wonder how to best approach these times with our children. Do we talk to our children about what is happening? Do we play dumb? Do we redirect the questions? If we talk about it, how much do we say? You may even wonder if your children really notice. They notice the empty house, but if they have not asked any questions, maybe it is not having an impact. Do we assume that because there are no questions being asked, there is no concern or interest? Or, do we assume our children are probably getting some type of information around the community, and we may want to have some input?

What I have chosen to do with my kids is to talk about what is happening around us. We also talk about what is happening in our own home. Where are we challenged? What can we do together to improve our situation? What can we do to support others? We talk about how it might have felt for the families who moved. We talk aboutcompassion, non-judgment, and we talk about the fact that this is not the end of the world.

What we are going through as a society is really tough. What we can do is arm our children with the insights andwisdom that we are gaining from these experiences. This is one of our gifts to them, that they learn the lessons we are learning now, and use them for their benefit in the future. If we protect our children from what is happening, attempting to protect them from being sad or afraid, we are actually robbing them of a huge opportunity to learn some wonderful lessons without having to experience them personally (and in some cases, they are already experiencing them personally). And, much of the time, they are still sad and/or afraid, and just have not had an avenue within which to express it.

Three tips for navigating these difficult conversations effectively:
1) Age appropriate.Make sure what you are sharing with your children is appropriate for where they are in their lives. These conversations that I am speaking of would not be shared with a two year old. They have no reference point, nor do they have the capacity to do anything with the subject. However, a ten year old would gain great value from the right conversation about what is happening in his/her community.

2) Safety.Make sure when you address concerns, you leave your child with a feeling of safety. They need to be able to trust that no matter how things end up around them, or in their own life, they are safe; you will make sure of it. We share to empower and to expand, not to create fear.

3) Ask questions.I suggest that you ask them to share with you where they are first. What have they noticed? What have they heard? What do they think? What do they feel? What would they like to know? Start there, and then follow your intuition, and follow their lead. In most cases, kids will take you to the point where they are complete. And, it is a lot easier than we think it will be, because we tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. Children are simple. They do not need a lot of details. They just need something. Let them tell you what that something is.

This is a time to connect with people, give and receive support, ask for what you need, and have compassion, not judgment, for what you and/or others are going through. Receive the lessons. Receive the gifts (they are in there somewhere).

Blessings and peace to all,

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