Watching our children in hard places that we cannot change is like a form of torture and is nothing short of discouraging and exhausting. Futility in month 22 of a pandemic is a whole different ballgame and is taking our helplessness to a whole new level.
We are in a constant ready position; remaining vigilant and on guard for what might be next for our kiddos who have already been stretched thin and although we try not to go there, I think for many of us we begin to wonder how much more can these developing humans take?
We are working hard to make sure that they know they are supported. We are tapping into creativity that we might not even know we have to create memories for milestones like birthdays and graduations. We are helping them navigate their grief when they miss the important practices, recitals, games, parties, and people. We are adapting and we are catching them as they come in the door confused, tired and disappointed. We wish this were different for them and we are working hard to buffer them from the full impact of this pandemic. We are seeing the impact of indefinite uncertainty and continuing ambiguity.
We can’t change this for them.
As a family therapist, I’m often asked, “what can I do?” and my sense is that the hard answer is it is less about what we can do for our kids right now but more about who we are for them. The relationship and connection we have with them is key. Being present, being available, being able to listen to their sad. Two ideas that I think are good reminders for us right now – acceptance and patience. Can we (even for moments) step back from all the fighting of all of this? Can we step back, breathe, feel what we need to feel and recognize that what our families are living right now is not ‘normal’ and that to continue to expect that right now is not so helpful? Even for one day. Or one hour. Can we integrate some play and fun into the mix? (Note photo below - April 2020 - our families' first attempt at Friday Family Fun Night that became a weekly release for our family during our first lockdown.) Can we accept that this is where we are, that our kids are being impacted and that it is hard. Can we practice patience in listening, supporting, and helping them to know that their futility has been heard? We also must remember that this is impacting us and practicing some extra self compassion and patience with ourselves is a part of this equation. Remembering that we are not doing this alone. Reminding each other that we need to reality check our expectations and that the idea of ‘good enough’ might be true. Our kids are watching us; they are taking their cues from us and if we can authentically demonstrate that self compassion and patience it will serve as an important antidote to the confusion, loss, and futility they are experiencing.
Leanne Shannon, MSW, RSW