By Neil McNerney, Parenting with Purpose
Right now, it is especially important that we remember that our kids are listening to us. Children’s biggest influence is their parents, and how we deal with day-to-day life has a major impact on their emotions and how they deal with adversity.
Although it pains me to say it, this year will bring even more uncertainty to the school year, and how we deal with it will directly affect how our children deal with it. It seems that very few people are happy with how the school year is beginning. Between in-person schooling, the mask mandate, policy 8040, and dealing with racial equity, our county has become extremely divided.
Each of us, I am sure, has opinions on these issues. But I am asking each of us, as parents, to consider how we talk about these issues in front of our children.
For instance, your child might be anxious about returning to school due to worry about catching COVID or possibly bringing it home to a family member. They will be looking to you for both assurance on this issue and for guidance. For instance, you can remind them of the things that their teachers will be doing to assure safety and remind them of the importance of wearing masks and washing hands. Regardless of your level of anxiety about this issue, it is important to send a message a calm reassurance. If you have reluctantly decided to send your child to school, be careful about transferring your anxiety to them.
If, on the other hand, you are not concerned about COVID, your child might still be anxious about returning to school. Try to listen carefully and calmly about what their concerns might be, and gently reassure them about their concerns. Don’t dismiss their worries. The way to minimize worry in children is not to just minimize; it is to validate, then try to reassure. If they don’t think that their worries are legitimate, they won’t stop worrying, but they will often stop sharing them.
Be careful about what they hear from you. I am stunned at what I see community members say about each other on social media, and I am worried that our children are hearing these comments. For our children’s sake, I believe it is important that we don’t denigrate those who hold different views than we hold, especially when they can hear us. There is a difference between helping our children understand our beliefs vs. denigrating those who hold different beliefs. It can be very distressing for kids to hear their parents call other adults names.
Yes, it is tiring to think about what we are saying all the time while at home, but I think it is an important leadership skill. We are leading our children every day, and we get to decide what lesson we teach them.
Neil McNerney is a licensed professional counselor and author of “Homework – A Parent’s Guide To Helping Out Without Freaking Out!” and “The Don’t Freak Out Guide for Parenting Kids with Asperger’s.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org