With the speed of technology in today’s world, our children can be very abreast of current events. Often times, they are aware of things happening before we ever have a clue. My middle schooler informed me about coronavirus long before it was in the news. I brushed him off a bit—I guess I should have listened! Our children, especially teens, are very aware of the woes of the world. With such great awareness, as parents we have to ask ourselves, how are these events impacting our children, and more importantly, how do we respond to it?
In our home, with three teenagers, we saw varying degrees of impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on our children. Our 13 year old seemed to experience a minimal impact. He had a few moments of sadness when he realized that he would not return to school, never see some of his peers again (because of high school enrollment), or get to experience any of the 8th-grade rites of passage that his sisters before him had the pleasure to participate in. Our then 16-year-old, who is very social and vocal, had a more difficult time adjusting. No friends, very limited boyfriend visits, and being stuck at home were not among her top choices. This brought on great frustration for her. Our college freshman experienced the greatest negative impact. She could not return to her campus or dorm after spring break. Her freedoms had been removed and she was back at home. She is a very diligent student, so she adapted quickly to completing the semester online. We did everything we could to make her comfortable from purchasing a drafting desk and reorganizing workspaces to giving her quiet time when she virtually presented projects to her professor. Still, none of this replaced the actual joy of being away at college.
As we all became more accustomed to learning and working from home (my husband and I are both teachers), we were hit with the most current social injustices. These events really caused a climax of frustration in our home. Many questions began to form. Most of disbelief. My 19-year-old came to my husband and me to express her sadness, frustration, and fear regarding racial injustices and the following protests, riots, and looting. Her greatest fear was for her brother, who is a very carefree and friendly 13-year-old male with brown skin. She also shared a feeling that I can best describe as helplessness. Her conversation with us turned to politics and her frustration with political choices to the point that she would almost rather not vote. This year’s election is her first opportunity to cast a ballot.
For our children, especially teenagers, they have great hope in their future lives. Lives that right now, look like they may be altered in some way for them. This uncertainty can cause massive frustration. How, as parents, do we respond to this? How do we address what is glaringly obvious while still providing our teens encouragement to pursue their dreams and goals in dark times? This is how we responded—
Acknowledge their fear and frustration.
It does no good to pretend like everything is fine. Our children (even the smallest) are smarter than that. Empathy closes gaps. Our children need to know that we genuinely understand their feelings. It was important for us to share with our children that we get it and even share our own feelings of fear and/or frustration.
Listen without judgment.
Sometimes as parents, we have already formed our thoughts and opinions about topics. Children, especially older children, who are beginning to form their own view of the world, need to know that they can freely express these thoughts to us in their safe space (home). We need to stop and listen. For some parents, this understandably is very difficult. As parents, when we can listen without judgment, it plays a critical role in being able to truly hear from our children’s hearts.
Challenge and empower them.
It is great for our children to form an opinion about the perils of this world. It is understandable that they will have fears. It is not acceptable though, for us as parents to allow them to waddle and remain in their opinion or fears. Giving children the courage to take action gives them hope, squashes fear, and can rebuild their confidence in the face of the uncertainty they have experienced. For our daughter, for example, we encouraged her to use her gifts and skill set to take action. She did, and as a result, her fears no longer took center stage and were replaced with determination.
Love them immensely.
My goal as a mom is to see and love my children right now where they are, but help them cultivate their future selves. None of us want to anticipate perilous times, we hope for only the fairy tale life. So when the bad times come, the most lasting gift to give is love. Our love is safety for our children. Study them, spend time with them doing things that they love, listen to their hearts, share with them your own. We have the ability to curb darkness in our children’s lives by constantly nurturing life and light into them.
Our children will experience the complexities of life (good and bad). The manner in which we respond to these twists and turns can help or hurt their journey. I have always felt as a mom, that I am tasked with building dynamic humans. My position is to be the greatest support to my children — helping them take lemons and turn them into lemonade. Our feelings will never lead us, or our children for that matter, to this destination. For this reason, we have to choose, carefully, our responses to our children in the midst of crises.
About the Author
Fannethia is a native Floridian who primarily resided in Northwest St. Johns County since the age of seven. Her beautiful family of five includes her easy-going husband David and three teens Mikayla, Shawna, and Bryce. Fannethia and her family are St. Augustine residents who love their proximity to the beach, shopping, and the interstate for travel purposes. After graduating from Nease High School, Fannethia earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Florida (Go Gators). She’s also earned a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Concordia University-Portland. Having attended St. Johns County Schools, one of her proudest accomplishments is having the opportunity to impact lives in the same school district that she received her education. In addition to teaching, Fannethia also loves sharing products to help women and girls care for their skin! Spending time with family, traveling, writing, and creating whatever her mind dreams up are some of her favorite pastimes. Fannethia is a loving encourager who understands her life mission to be one that helps others become their best self. You can follow Fannethia on Instagram @fanvitolo.