Into the Unknown
By Jessica Morgan
I hate being afraid. I hate not being fully aware of my circumstances so that I have a better chance of controlling the outcome. If I am being uncomfortably honest, I would admit that my fear is often expressed as frustration or anger. I want so much to keep all my people safe and secure. When that feels threatened I can be very impatient and short with the people I most want to love and protect. I have the slightest suspicion that I may not be the only parent like this. And, if that is the case, then for parents like us, people who feel that being in control = safety, well, pandemics can really throw us for a loop.
If you find that in all the unknown and chaos you are struggling, I would like to share some things that have helped at our house when the Mama Bear is scared.
For real. If your insides are threatening to turn you inside out, find somewhere private (bathrooms work just fine) and breathe. Twenty minutes alone and steady breathing will legit (like MRI legit) change your brain… as well as slow your pulse and lower blood pressure.
2) Tell the truth
Your kids know something is off, no matter their age. They also know when a parent is trying to throw them off the scent and this can increase their anxiety. In age appropriate words tell them what is happening. And, if you don’t know the answers to their follow-up questions… say so. Then tell them what you know. If you are a person of faith, this is an excellent time to remind them of God’s ever-present care and provision. Whatever your worldview, tell them they are loved and you are there for them.
3) Tell them “I’m sorry”
If the news and CDC updates are freaking you out and you lose your cool… apologize. Sit with them, say what you said (or how you said it) was wrong and ask for their forgiveness. A lot of healing for both of you comes from these moments.
However, if the apples are not falling far from the tree at your house, and it is your precious children that are struggling with the unknowns and feeling as though they are not able to control life right now, then you may need to walk them through these methods.
When a child comes to me overwhelmed, the first thing I have them do is breathe. The change is incredible. I breathe with them to help them pace. It brings a lot of calm fairly quickly. That makes discussing things far more effective.
In those discussions we flesh out their feelings to get to the root, which is usually a fear they did not know how to express until someone walked them through it. Sometimes children are overpoweringly aware of their feelings, but are not able to connect the dots of where that fear comes from. Asking the right questions in a gentle and calm way can help them quiet the emotion and address the fear of “what if” with the assurance of “what is”.
All of that is great…. except that sometimes the little people “lose it” just like the big people. Helping them learn how to confess when they have handled things badly, ask forgiveness, and receive forgiveness is a powerful tool that will aid them for their entire life in almost every relationship.
I hope that this time of public health concern, constantly changing news, and the upheaval to our schedules will turn into many moments of intimacy and connectedness for you and your family. My prayers are for all of us as we walk through these days.