How to Protect Your Kids (when you’re not there to protect them)

I have this ache, a pit in my stomach, a tightening in my throat as if I’m going to throw up or have to swallow hard to hold back…. Something like that. It’s a pain, a fear for my children, of my children feeling pain – their own pain. My pain. I wish I could protect them from it all but, I know I can’t and I hate this.


This school year has been an awakening in many ways. My son entering kindergarten has been more than an entry into tardy bells,  PTA meetings, last minute projects, car pool lines, and site words; it has been an introduction to the possibility of my kid being hurt, feeling hurt and me not being there to protect him. This, for me, is tough.


My kid and I are both used to spending a lot of time together. Up until the end of August 2017 he stayed home with me all but 3 days a week, and when he wasn’t with me he was at an innocent preschool with other innocent preschool kids. No one was mean there. Not that I knew of anyway. And even if there were mean kids, my kid was too young to notice. He was happy and free.

But it seems that something changes once those elementary doors open: more time away, more independence, more maturity (I use this word loosely), less protection, more exposure, more possibility of hurt to incur off my watch. I think the thing that irks me the most is that I don’t know what’s happening. I can’t even guarantee that my kid will tell me if something hurtful does occur. What if he forgets to tell me or doesn’t want to tell me? What if he decides to deal with it on his own?. .  This phrase sounds like curse words to me. I fear for my 5 year old to handle hurt feelings “on his own”. No, I want him to run home and tell me every detail of what happened at recess that day. What made him happy. What made him sad. What made him mad. What made him excited. What made him afraid. I want to hear it all. But, like most other parents I don’t hear much, and that scares me.

I can ask the right questions. I can try. I can be present at pickup and notice when he seems a little “off”. I can be curious and create opportunities for him to share about his day, every day. But, I can’t protect him from experiencing pain, hurt, ridicule, and heartache. Sucks but it’s true. So, I have to focus on the things I can do that will help him develop resilience, confidence, and strength when the inevitable occurs. In this situation where I find myself feeling somewhat helpless and terrified, I have a good cry then I pull up my mom panties and focus on what I can do:

1) Engage, engage, engage.

It would be so much easier if we knew everything that went on while we were away. Better still, if our kids told us themselves. But, this is not always the case. So asking questions that inspire a thoughtful response is key. Think open ended questions such as, “Who did you play with today?” Instead of “Did you play at recess today?” Or “Who was nice today?” versus “Was everyone nice today?” Even if your kid doesn’t have a specific response to these questions it opens the door to get a conversation going instead of being shut down by a one word answer.


2) “What do you think about that?”

This is my favorite. We as adults tend to think we know what’s best, and sometimes we do, but ultimately we want our kids to have the ability to trust themselves to make good choices and problem solve when faced with challenges. When we ask our kids what they think we show them that we not only value what they think but that we trust them to know and decide for themselves. I want my children to have a belief in themselves that they inherently know what is right, even when someone else is telling them it’s wrong. What I want my kid to hear in his own head when faced with this is, “Well I like who I am, so even if you don’t like me, I like me.” Yes! That is the ultimate win right there.

3) Believe in the power of resilience.

This one is hard for me, I have to admit. My fear wants me to believe that one painful moment could lead to a lifetime of suffering. I have to remind myself that there is no life that isn’t touched by some amount of pain, hurt, or sadness. My child will be no different. I cannot predict the future or try to prevent it. I can only do the thing I know to do which is to love my kid by being present; encouraging him; acknowledging his struggle and his accomplishment; listening to him; and reminding him that he has a whole family that’s got his back, so he knows that no matter what he’s faced with, he’s not alone.
 
This parenting thing is hard. Just when I think I’ve got a leg up, I trip and fall over something I didn’t see there before. It’s new road, new terrain. We are not in this alone. Just as we want our kids to know this, we need to know this. Expecting to do it all right and get it all right the first time is an impossible standard to meet. My hope is that by showing my kids that I struggle they will know that I’m here to support them, accept them, and walk with them through their own struggle. Knowing they are not alone is more powerful than any hurtful words said on the playground, that i can know for sure.

			

NEW SCHOOL YEAR AHEAD! Preparing Your Child for Change: BEING POSITIVE

Last week I sent my daughter off to a new preschool. All anxiety, trepidation, and fear (on my part) was laid to rest as she went bounding into the room with a smile on her face, ready to take on the new adventure. In that moment I became very aware of two possibilities: either I am a very overactive nervous mommy OR I did a sufficient job preparing her for the change. Maybe both.

In my previous post we talked about preparing your child for the new school year through proactive prepping. Today we will focus on being positive in the face of change and all things new.

Now you might be thinking that in order to be a positive thinking parent you must be a positive thinking person. I am here to tell you, this is not true. You may, however, find that through some practice you will become a more positive person, and who doesn’t want that? I, by nature, am a skeptic. I’ve trained my brain to believe if I consider all the things that could go wrong I will then be able to prepare myself to handle it more successfully. Faulty logic, here. What actually ends up happening is I turn myself into a worrying, stressed, and irritable mess who’s actually less capable of handling the circumstances gracefully. Maybe a little positive, hopeful thinking is a worthwhile alternative to consider… I decided to give it a try.

Being positive doesn’t mean you ignore the negative. It means you include both potential pitfalls and potential successes by addressing them with a solution focused mindset.

Since we are talking about beginning a new school year, let’s take my son for example. He’s turning 5 next week and will be entering elementary school 4 days later. He’ll also be partaking in welcoming a new sibling within this exact time frame. 3 big milestones here!

My son happens to be a bit of a skeptic himself, thinking of what could go wrong before what could go right. Preparing him effectively takes a lot of positivity while still paying careful attention to his concerns. Again, we are not seeking to discount the supposed negatives here. How do I go about this delecate task? Let’s take a look…

How to be a Positive Parent when Facing Change


1). Listen Fully


As I reminded my son this morning that we were going to his kindergarten school to talk with the teacher, I could see the nerves creep up on him. “But why, mommy? I don’t want to. I don’t want you to leave me there. I will be scared.”

First, I needed to remind him what was actually going to take place. “I am not going to leave. I will be there the whole time while you talk to the teacher. We will be there for a little while then we’ll come back home.” (Proactive Prepping in action). “Oh, okay.”, he stated as his nerves soothed a bit.

It is crucial to listen to what your child is telling you, verbally and non verbally, so you can effectively respond. Being positive does not mean discounting the concern through statements such as, “It’s fine. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Don’t worry. Etc.” This causes your child to shut their fears inside where they remain unaddressed. Encourage them to let it out.

2). Validate their feelings.


“Honey, I know going new places and meeting new people can seem scary. It’s all so new! Let’s think of what you might do when you we get there. (More proactive preparing here).

3). Consider the Positives


Help your child consider the good things while validating the supposed ‘not so good ‘. “I bet the teacher will be so nice. And the classrooms – ooh man, I bet there are so many cool toys and crafts in there. You will have so many fun choices! What do you think it will be like?” “I think there will be computers?! And games?! Lots of things to color with?!” “Oh yeah! I bet you’re right! I can’t wait for us to go and check it out together!” This convo sounds like it’s taking a positive turn.

4). Let go….


There comes a time where you may need to release the grip and let your child see for himself that it really is “okay”. If you have a particularly anxious child, seeing is believing. After all your preparations and positivity they may still feel nervous, and that is okay. Having your positive belief that it really is okay will allow them to step forward in trust. There may be tears and little fists gripping your shirt that you have to pry loose with the jaws of life, but they can, and most likely will see for themself that it is okay. Better than okay even.

Monitoring your own anxiety is critical. If you’re child senses that you’re afraid, they will feel afraid. Remind yourself and your child that THIS IS A GOOD THING! You wouldn’t be doing this, on purpose, if it wasn’t.

Change can be daunting, or scary, but there sure are a lot of exciting things to be experienced on the other side. Have fun!

			

New School Year Ahead! Preparing Your Child for Change: Being Proactive

http://happymindhappyhome.com/new-school-year-ahead-proactively-preparing-child-change/

“I want to go to my new school!”, squeals my (almost) 3 year old. In a few short days she’ll be transitioning to a new daycare . My husband and I have been prepping her for this change for a couple months… and prepping ourselves as well. Due to multiple changes occurring within this month ahead (hello baby number 3, kindergarten here we come) we figured why not just throw in one more thing. Changes all around! No man left behind! Let’s go all in!


If you’ve read any of my most recent posts you understated that for me, change usually brings anxiety. But, we are not here to talk about anxiety today. I’m taking a break from anxiety for a while. Instead, I’m focusing on being proactive, positive, and peaceful. I’m keeping in mind that I can only control so much. The rest I must leave up to faith, hope, and trust. I have come to realize I really do know very very little about predicting the future. Psychic readings are not my calling. <huff>

Let’s take some time, shall we, to focus on these 3 “P” words: Proactive, Positive, and Peaceful. Given that there is much to be said on each one of these “P” words I am going to break it down to 3 separate posts over the next 3 weeks, which will be just in time for most of you as you get ready to send your kiddo off to a new school year. We’re going to start with the first, and most important, in my opinion –

Being Proactive:

Though I cannot know for certain how my children will adjust to their new schools, new friends, new teachers, new sibling, and all other things new, I can, however, prepare them for what to expect  (as best as I am able).

Let’s take my daughter for example. She has gone to the same daycare her whole life. This makes it difficult for my husband and I to move her somewhere new where she doesn’t know anyone. Somewhere new where we don’t know anyone. ** Now these two sentences here are important. Important because as parents we may have the tendency to project our feelings (anxiety or otherwise) onto our children. I may be feeling anxious, my husband may be feeling anxious, but my daughter, well that’s a maybe. All I know right now is she feels excited about going somewhere new. She likes new. She is an adventurous soul in this way. Me – not so much. All the more reason not to assume that I know how she’ll feel. I can know, with a little therapist background in my pocket, that preparing kids for changes is crucial no matter how fluidly they adapt to changes or not. We all like to know what’s ahead.

Proactive Prepping

So what is the best way to proactively prep your child for change? The number 1 rule I share with the parents I work work is:

Paint a Mental Picture for Your Child.
 

Not an actual picture, a mental picture. Children function through images. They develop understanding through seeing and doing as opposed to hearing. Learning through hearing is an acquired skill that develops more through development and growth. When children are young, they need to see and do in order to fully grasp ahold of a concept. This helps them feel empowered and in control.


With my daughter we’ve been driving by the school regularly, we made a visit to the school so she could see the classrooms, see the actual space she’ll be going to each day to play. This will help her feel a little safer when we return on her actual 1st day. Now, lucky for me I have the opportunity to bring her there for a trial morning in which she’ll get to return home with me after a couple hours versus a full day. To be honest, I’m not sure if this is more for my peace of mind or hers. Like I said, this is a change for everyone. I don’t know these people either!! I digress…. back to being proactive. If you don’t have the opportunity to physically see a change before it takes place, you can still very well assist your child in creating their mental picture. Most important is you want to speak your child’s language – play. Remember, they learn through seeing and doing.

Here are 3 simple ideas for how to do this:

  1. Draw a picture together
  2. Enact a scene using dolls and other toys.
  3. Dress up and act out a scene together of the first day.

How to get started:

  • Start out by reminding your child about the upcoming change.
  • Tell her that today you’re going to draw a picture/play a game together about the first day of school.
  • Allow her to select the materials to get started.
  • Ask questions along the way to help shape her mental picture, such as what will it look like, what colors will the room be, what will her teacher be like, what will she play with, what will she eat, etc. There are no limits really to how imaginative you can become. *It is important, though, that this picture be one grounded in reality. You want her mental picture to closely reflect what will actually happen.
  • Also helpful to include here is a play by play. “Mommy will bring you to school and walk you to your room where we’ll meet your new teacher. I’ll get you settled in your room then mommy will leave for work. After work I will come back to pick you up. I’ll be so excited to see and hear what you do on your first day!” Always great to end with something you can both look forward to.

All of these help shape your child’s understating of what will take place when this change occurs, aiding her in feeling masterful over what’s the come as opposed to feeling at the whim of the changing tides ahead.

Helping our children feel in control in a healthy way is the best way of preventing them to look for control in unhealthy ways. These little people deserve this help from us. And hey, you will likely find that it’s quite helpful for you as well!

I look forward to hearing how proactive prepping helps you and your child grow through change together. Please share. And come back next week for tips on a being a positive parent through change.

			

Change: Means Sometimes Saying Goodbye

Change Change. It is a’comin. We are nearing the end of a school year and for most that means saying goodbye to familiar faces (young and old), comfortable places (known for one year or many), multiple school assignments, drawings, paintings, and projects that were once the subject of much debate, success, or demise. And from here, we look onward to a new school year. Change, it is a’comin.


At least we still have summer…


I’m especially aware of this time of change as my oldest child will be heading to kindergarten in the Fall. I thought I was ready for this until I went to register him at the elementary school.  At first I felt excited about the newness of the building, the pretty flowers out front, and the friendliness of the office staff. Then, I glanced down the hallways…. the big, long hallways. Those are too big for my kid, I thought to myself. He’ll feel lost. Overwhelmed. Scared. Alone. Certainly they’ll let me stay with him through his whole first day. Yes, certainly they will.

At least we still have summer….

I walked away from the school feeling a little heavier than when I walked in and I realized: Change. It is a ‘comin.

Change is hard. For me at least. Everyone who knows me knows I suck at change. Change, even for a 5 year old, means saying goodbye. Goodbye to the familiar and Hello to the unknown. Even the most exciting of changes means some kind of goodbye. Even when you can’t wait to get away from the familiar, it is still goodbye.  Is some change easier to manage than others? Sure. Though, even in the best of cases you are leaving a part of yourself behind. Sometimes you must. Because the new place you’re going doesn’t have room for the old.

You can’t hang on and move on at the same time.

 Change is hard. It may feel sad. Even when it’s good. Tears of sadness may be mixed with tears of gratitude. Confused salty tears. Such is the taste of change.

But, at least we still have summer.