Is cancelling beloved holiday gatherings with family and friends weighing on your emotions? How do we reconcile the loss in ourselves and with our children? Worry Management Expert, Denise Marek, helps parents with those difficult conversations on The Morning Show.
1. Talk With Your Kids
Sometimes we think we protect our children by sheltering them from what’s happening. But, kids are smart! They pick up on your stress and when left to imagine what’s wrong, it can cause them to worry. Talk with your kids.
⇒ Start the conversation now. You might not know every detail about how the holidays will look this year. However, where you do have concrete plans, share them. If you traditionally spend Christmas with extended family members and you know that’s not happening this year, tell your kids. This is particularly important for anxious children who count on routine and need time to adjust to new plans.
⇒ Follow your child’s prompts. Kids can surprise you. Your children may be fine with the change of plans for this year. By listening to their responses and to the questions they ask, you’ll gain an understanding of how they’re feeling and what’s important to them.
2. Validate Your Child’s Feelings
Have you ever seen your child crying and said, “Don’t be sad.”? This can invalidate his or her feelings. It can make children think they are wrong for feeling the way they do.
Here’s how to validate your child’s feelings:
⇒ Actively listen to make sure your child feels heard
⇒ Acknowledge his or her feelings
⇒ Reassure your child that it’s okay to feel the way he or she does
For example, if your child is sad about not seeing their grandparents this year, avoid saying “Don’t be sad. We’ll see them another time.” Instead try, “Of course you’re feeling sad. I feel sad too. We love your grandparents very much.”
There are long-term benefits of validating your children’s feelings:
⇒ Helps children to trust their needs and wants
⇒ Strengthens their ability to express their emotions
⇒ Gives them self-confidence to make healthy choices . . . even into adulthood
3. Cultivate Distanced Connections
Our mental and emotional wellbeing is closely related to our connection with others. This is an ideal time to get creative with your kids to find ways of connecting with loved ones whom you might not see in person this holiday season.
⇒ What can you do in your own family to cultivate those distanced connections with loved ones?
In my family, we brought back the tradition of sending Christmas cards. I had stopped sending cards a few years ago. This year, since we need connection more than ever, I brought back the card-sending tradition . . . with a twist. To make the cards special, we included more personalized notes in each card and, as an added surprise, we put actual photographs into each of the cards.
Something interesting happened as a result! Friends and family began sending us pictures of where they hung the pictures we had sent! It really deepened family connections despite the challenges of the pandemic.
4. Plan for the Future
The pandemic won’t last forever. Create a plan for an ultimate future family get together.
⇒ When it’s safe to do so, whom could you invite?
⇒ What fun things could you do?
Make sure you’re being honest and realistic. For instance, you don’t want to promise a sleepover with your child’s entire class if you have no intention in following through.
Planning for the future is about creating something to look forward to — something to hope for. Hope is a powerful force. Hope for a better tomorrow can boost your emotional wellbeing today.