The ongoing pandemic has overturned your kids’ classes, school, and extracurricular activities - not to mention their major life events and celebrations. At this time, there are limited or no birthday parties, limited or no graduation festivities, limited or no social gatherings to celebrate personal milestones. There are also limited or no sports games, music recitals, and school plays your kids looked forward to participating in while you sat in the audience, cheering them on! As a result, your children continue to mourn the loss of these missed milestones and experiences.
If you have a teen, it may be challenging again this year for them to find a safe summer job or safely visit post-secondary education campuses. Other fun activities your teen is planning may be put off indefinitely and they will need extra support to manage their feelings and find alternative ways to connect with some of their friends, relatives, and school community. As a result, your teen continues to mourn the loss of these missed milestones and experiences.
The reality is, everyone must continue practicing physical distancing for now and connect with some peers and extended family virtually. However, there is light at the end of this long dark tunnel. Read on for my advice on how you and your kids can deal with unexpected losses of missed milestones and other life events right now.
Acknowledge your kids’ feelings. Your kids may express feelings of frustration, sadness, or disappointment knowing they are still not able to experience life as they once knew over two years ago. Acknowledge their feelings and reassure them that it’s okay to feel sad about the ongoing situation. Allow them time to grieve the missed milestones and celebrations. At the same time, recognize that some kiddos - those who are introverted or those who experience anxiety - may not be as negatively affected by change.
Be honest. Everyone is experiencing collective loss and disruption of one’s sense of safety. This is a time of uncertainty, so it’s important to talk with your children and ask them how they are feeling today and ask them if they need help with creating ways to celebrate their milestones in creative and unique ways! They may be looking for answers that you don’t have and that’s okay. Tell them that you are unsure or don’t know. Ask your kids to help you search online for fun family activities you can do together (TikTok challenges may be a good place to start).
Sharing your own feelings with your kids and the physical and mental steps you take to cope with the pandemic can help your kids continue to cope with the pandemic, too. However, be cautious about oversharing with your kids as they may worry if they sense that you are overly stressed about the situation. Reassure them that it’s okay to feel sad, anxious, even angry about missed opportunities over the past couple years.
Build resilience. Children and teens are resilient and can build upon past adverse experiences to help them cope through challenging times. The losses and missed milestones from COVID-19 can build their resilience and their ability to better cope with future challenges. Talk with them about past challenging experiences and how they overcame them. Encourage them to apply those same steps now. Building resilience may not be easy, but it can help you and your family move forward during times of adversity.
Promote social connectedness. Social connectedness can reduce feelings of isolation and stress. Encourage your kids to continue to connect with their peers by using social tools such as FaceTime or Zoom. Your older kids or teens may find that talking with their friends, a school counsellor, or their sports coach or music teacher, for example, can help them cope and manage their negative feelings. At home, schedule game or movie nights or a time where you can cook a meal together and have some fun!
Be patient. You may be eager to talk with your kids and provide them with a solution but give them space to process their feelings at their own pace. Your teen may not want to talk at a time that’s convenient for you. If they don’t want to talk to you, suggest journaling to help them put their feelings into words. At the same time, it’s important for you to be there if they’re ready to talk to you.
Celebrate your kids’ achievements. You can still honor and commemorate your children’s achievements and important milestones during the pandemic. Brainstorm with your teen creative ways to celebrate missed events or participate in a school activity. It may be that you stage an at-home graduation with family over Zoom. You can also have them perform their part in the school play with other classmates. While these activities won’t replace a missed event, finding ways to honor their accomplishments can help them cope and build resilience.
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