We recognize parents, this is such a difficult season to not only lead yourselves through, but your kids. The questions are endless and the shame can get quite heavy. Kids normalcy has been taken away; connection with others, structure and routine, interaction with smiles and joy, support from school and extracurricular activities, as well as narratives written around this world not being a safe place. I imagine it is so heavy to watch them walk through this and not be able to do much about it, so it leaves you at a place of, “how in the world do I go about this?”
This season of COVID has turned our world upside down. We have more questions than answers. Parents we empathize with you as you shepherd not only yourselves through this season, but your kids, who are just trying to understand.
I’m sure you are hearing questions from your kids like, “Why are we doing school online? Why can’t I see my friends? Why can’t we go to the pool? Why are people wearing masks? What is a virus? Why can’t I hug people?” I imagine too, parents you are navigating the swirling thoughts of, “Do I send my kids to school, or keep them home? Do we let them see their friends, or not? Should we make our kids wear a mask, or not? Are my kids doing okay without connection? How do I answer these questions they have, when we have never been through this to know? Am I doing an okay job leading them through this? What do my kids need to not be traumatized by this season? Is it okay if I have a different stance than my other mom friends?” The struggles you are facing in these questions and decisions are so real.
CJ, a licensed counselor at Restoration Counseling, with a specialty in child and teen trauma, walks us through the nuances of this season, validating the struggle, as well as providing parents with some resources on how to shepherd kids through this time of unknown.
Is it fair to call this season a season of trauma for kids?
“Yes! Trauma takes on many forms. We are in a season that began in March and has not let up. We have had glimmers of hope and then watched them be immediately taken away. An acronym to identify if it is in-fact trauma is: CUTS- Chronic Unpredictable Toxic Stress. That kind of stress often comes from unstable homes/unsafe environments, but we are experiencing that in a very different form now. Children are constantly feeling on edge and unsafe because at a global level we are undergoing chronic unpredictable toxic stress, not just a personal level.
What are some types of trauma kids are undergoing in this season?
Loss of support from school, loss of structure, as well as loss of rhythms that provide a sense of security and safety. These foundational losses cause confusion and questions around what else will be lost.
How do these losses affect kids? How do we see that expressed?
These losses affect everyone differently given their current circumstances. Although, the main emotions we see kids experiencing are confusion and shame. There is so much confusion, and the younger the child, the more the confusion. Often when there is confusion or they feel unsafe they go inward which can look like hiding, self protecting, becoming clingy etc. Often times too, when kids ask questions out of their confusion and their questions remain unanswered (which is more than likely in this season), they develop shame for remaining confused. This causes them to stop asking the questions, as well and going inward which can lead to depression, loneliness, and loss of enjoyment.
How can parents come alongside kids and their confusion or shame?
- Validate- We were made for connection, and so much of that has been taken away, so it is important to validate your child’s emotions and the struggle it is they may be feeling.
- Ask questions- They need help expressing what they are feeling or what they need. This may feel hard, and intimidating as you may not know what to ask, but it will be worth it to try.
- Create fun rhythms- Joy, laughter, and lighthearted moments are healing for kids. Try creating a weekly or bi-monthly rhythm where you can allow space for this. Ice cream is always a win 🙂
- Protect unity as a family- Given we are wired for connection, think of ways you can stay relationally connected as a family. Trying having family dinners, family game night etc. Your kids need you.
How do we invite God into this situation?
Reference the story of Hagar in Genesis 16:1-16. We see God ask questions, not provide for every need in the moment. He is present with her and sees her. She says “you are the God who sees me” Genesis 16:13. This is such a beautiful representation of what children need from parents, pointed to the God who sees them. He is healer; the One who brings them out of trauma, the One who sees the pain and the loss they are walking through, as well as the One who gives them hope for where they are headed. He sees them so much that He took on their flesh and understands being a vulnerable infant. He walked it. As parents, it isn’t your job to keep your kids unaffected by the world around your kids, but it is important to point them to the God that will never leave their side through it all.
Encouragement for parents
You are not alone. This is such a hard season. We have to get through this together. We want to affirm you and remind you their is hope in continuing to pursue your kid, your spouse and simple things like waking up in the morning. This is traumatic and unpredictable, which feels unlivable at times. We bless you and believe God will come alongside your every need in this season.
MORE TO COME! STAY TUNED!
There will be two more parts to this blog post where we will get to sit with CJ and ask more in-depth questions how to navigate this season as a parent.