Updated: Jun 22, 2020
There are certain questions that we actually don't want the answer to. Are you having sex? Are you doing drugs? But who would have thought that this week my question would have been as simple as “Are you scared?”
I've been checking in with all of my children every day about how they feel in terms of what's going on. My 21-year-old has been able to tell me that she feels angry, sad and a little bit guilty because of some of the privileges she has. My 16-year-old has been able to tell me that he is worried about his grandfather contracting this crazy virus. And up until this week, my 8-year-old has told me that she is bored, misses her friends and she wants to resume our regular life of going to museums, zoos, movies, and parties. I listened, gave words of encouragement, challenged each to think about what they could do for self-care and even asked them to come up with a plan to empower themselves. Check plus. I felt accomplished and checked off the emotional support box of parenting.
Except I kept getting this annoying feeling that I was missing something. Maybe it was because the 8-year-old kept getting stomach aches. Or that she had a difficult time falling asleep. I initially shrugged both off as the extra snacking and this new normal of arbitrary time. The next day, the conversation started as it usually does, How are you feeling today? Subconsciously, I was hoping for one of the familiar answers, which is what I got. (Sigh of relief!) I gave her a motivating talk about finding ways to connect to her friends. Check. I guess.
But something about the look in her eyes forced me to push her further, or really push myself. I asked, Are you scared or worried about something? And with that question, the flood gates were opened. She immediately began sobbing. At first, she wasn’t sure why she was crying but the more I probed she was able to tell me she was worried about if she would see her friends again, worried if any of them were sick, worried that we would never be able to do “regular” things again, worried that one of us or her might get “the virus” and even worried about death.
Me too! Turns out that even the little people, with all their electronics, TV, virtual learning, etc, have the same anxieties and questions we have. But because some of these feelings live in the subconscious they need help to express them, just like some of us adults. The problem is when they do not bring them to the conscious they turn into headaches, stomach aches, or other physical ailments. They need our help! Despite the craziness of all of this, what a wonderful opportunity to help children think about their feelings, the ones on the surface and those deep down. What a gift! So ask that hard question, whatever it might be for you! Let’s create a world of people who can deal with their emotions in real time, not 40+ years later.