In a time where many are just taking life day-by-day, both kids and parents are struggling with their new reality. Knowing how to talk to kids about their feelings as they face the challenges of this uncertain time has the potential to benefit everyone — both you and your kids — for the rest of your lives.
“The more human we are about our struggles, our stumbles, our insecurities, the more we allow our kids to be human, and then we can work together as we cope with life’s challenges,” Rachel Macy Stafford tells Parentology. Stafford is a New York Times bestselling author of three books, including the recent book Live Love Now, as well as a certified special education teacher and inspirational speaker.
Here are her tips for learning how to talk to your kids about their feelings and open up communication for everyone in the family.
Top Stressors Kids Are Facing
Stafford points out three stressors kids are facing, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic:
- Major disruption of their lives and having to adjust to a new normal
- Worry about the future
- Despair/anger over loss of freedom and milestone experiences
When many kids first shifted to online learning, they couldn’t have imagined that almost every aspect of their life would be put on hold indefinitely: sports, extracurricular club activities, and seeing their friends daily. As we approach the end of the academic school year, the heavy reality of missing out on plays, concerts, sporting events, and graduation ceremonies they had waited so long for is becoming even more apparent. And for the time being, most kids have more questions than their parents can answer.
“What’s going to happen in my personal life as a result of this major life disruption? What’s going to happen to my loved ones? Will life ever be the same? These are just a few questions young people are grappling with right now,” Stafford explains.
As young people navigate online learning and other aspects of their “new normal,” Stafford emphasizes the importance of reminding children that “human beings are not proficient when we first start anything” so that it can “help them take the pressure off themselves.” Accepting and working through failure is just as valuable as succeeding when it comes to learning.
She quotes from her book, Live Love Now, “The trying matters more than knowing.”
As time passes and your children are working through these new situations, Stafford advises parents to point out their children’s strengths and “offer belief in their ability to overcome this current challenge.” Reaffirming that your child has the capability to overcome their present challenges can give them the push they need.
“By recognizing the specific ways young people are overcoming the current challenge – even thriving through it – reinforces the positive behaviors to continue and may point them to their path to purpose,” Stafford says.
Stafford asks parents to take the role of “Encourager” when confronting their children’s issues and to validate their children and their emotional response to a situation.
“This means I resist the urge to project my feelings into the situation and I resist the urge to have all the answers. Instead, I let my kids guide me to what they need—not what I think they need or what I needed when I was their age,” Stafford explains.
“Perfect parenting is not required to raise resilient and capable and fulfilled kids,” Stafford says. Using her book as an example, she explains, “When I wrote Live Love Now, I set out to talk about the feelings no one wants to talk about, the feelings we want to pretend we don’t have, the feelings that make us think there’s something wrong with us.”
Giving kids, teens, and yourself the opportunity to share their responses to the current crises can be key to preparing everyone for the next obstacle.
“Knowledge is power, knowledge is armor, knowledge is love. Whenever a window opens for a conversation about difficult topics with my children, I muster up the courage to seize the opportunity to talk about this beautiful and often challenging life,” says Stafford.
Rachel Macy Stafford is a New York Times bestselling author and founder of www.handsfreemama.com. In her latest book, Live Love Now, Rachel encourages, guides, and challenges people to be better. Live Love Now equips 21st-century parents with tools for 21st-century parenting that have the power to transform their home and heart into a healthier, happier place.