As June arrives there is an anticipatory excitement in the air; we all feel it. Proms, graduations, summer weddings, camp. We are caught in the whirlwind of celebrations, of milestones that signify new beginnings. However, with coronavirus shifting our day-to-day lives, instead of sharing these events with friends and family, commencement addresses are given via Zoom. Streets are lined with congratulatory placards. This Spring has been anything but celebratory. The question we ask ourselves is how do we help our children cope with the changes the pandemic has brought when we are feeling the effects ourselves? How can we acknowledge and validate these milestones when anxiety and fear cast a shadow on even the most mundane activities? While we are all in unchartered territory, here are a few tips that may be helpful as you navigate your family’s way through this bittersweet time.
Acknowledge Our Sense of Loss
We should try to accept the sense of loss that we feel before we can help our children. Parents tend to want to make things better. It’s a natural instinct. We feel a loss of control when a situation arises that we can’t fix. And while we can’t change the effects of the pandemic, there are a few things we can do to help our children experience the joy of these milestones, while minimizing their fear.
Validate Their Feelings
Be open with your children about the loss they are experiencing: the inability to celebrate their special day with friends and family. Try not to comfort them by minimizing their sadness; join them wherever they are and make sure they feel comfortable speaking with you about their disappointment. Statements like, “it’s not that bad or there will be other graduations” will likely not get you far. Nor is bringing up the devastation of the loss of life and livelihood that others are experiencing. Fight the urge to minimize their sadness; they are entitled to grieve over their loss. It is real and it is significant.
Create a Feeling of Safety and Hope
Let them express not only their disappointment over their missed event, but their worry about the health and safety of themselves and their family members. Help them to understand that while the very real dangers of a pandemic exist, you and your family members are taking every precaution possible to keep safe and healthy. It may be helpful to review what these measures are and the reasons behind them. And make sure they feel hope; let them know that scientists are tirelessly working towards treatment and a vaccine. Yes, this a difficult time for everyone but navigating through these situations with your child will help build resiliency within them that can last a lifetime.
Bring Joy Back Into Your Home
While it may be hard to remember, we spoke about topics other than coronavirus before March, and they are still relevant. Try to bring these topics or create new ones. If you are looking for inspiration, read books together, play board games, and watch movies. Now may be the time to try new activities with your children like tie-dying, soap making or gardening. Explore interests, start new hobbies, cook together. Talk to your children about all the things you have to be grateful for. The list of possibilities is endless!
Don’t Forget to Celebrate
While we are all social distancing, there are creative ways to mark this milestone with friends and family. Orchestrate a Zoom celebration, complete with cap, gown, diploma and cake! Video tape congratulatory messages from family members, assemble a collage of your child’s interests and achievements at school. Help them to feel recognized, appreciated and loved.
And remember, we are all doing the best we can. While we can’t provide the graduation ceremony or celebration that our child had anticipated, we can create a warm and loving tribute to all their hard work and perseverance. It will certainly be a memory they won’t forget!