Recently I’ve been struck with how quickly, changing circumstances can throw families lives into a tail spin. As parents, it’s very challenging to be facing a difficult life situation while also deciding how much information to share with the children, and at what point to include them.
When tension is in the air, children usually pick up on the vibes. Often their imagination and half-overheard tidbits of conversation or emotion can conjure up a worst situation in their active little minds. Usually if the subject has not yet been openly discussed with children, their imagined fears will come out in misbehavior, hyperactivity, clinginess and sleep disturbances.
During times such as these, it’s likely that things at home will change quite a bit. Perhaps Mom will begin working outside the home, children may have new childcare arrangements. One parent might have to be away from the family for an extended period of time for work or military service. Often there’s a serious medical situation facing the family or drained finances may mean moving to a different home.
Whatever the situation, as parents, we worry immediately about how this news will affect our children. In most cases, however, the children just wish to be part of the solution. They want to know what will change for them, who will be there for them and what they can do to be included, even in a small way. Sometimes this family crisis that seems so foreboding, can become a time of sharing, trust, growth and bonding that unites everyone, oldest to the youngest, in a common goal.
A good example to use to impress on children the strength of your family in getting through difficult times together is to have everyone find a stick representing themselves. Demonstrate how with one strong snap, a single stick can be broken. Tying all the family members’ sticks together, however, and then trying to break them is extremely hard to do. Make up a few of these family stick bundles, tied with a ribbon for each child, to keep as a reminder of what your family can accomplish united together.
For parents, who are the ones having to make the hard decisions during this sensitive time, that’s exactly what your children are expecting from you. No apologies or guilt necessary. If the information is shared with them with confidence and conviction, this is what our family needs to do, you will find your children responding positively.
This is not to say there isn’t adjustment, tears, fears, insecurity. But when questions are encouraged and issues openly and frequently addressed, the children will feel embraced.
Parents, during times of stress, often forget about taking care of themselves and are reluctant to accept support and assistance from others, choosing to keep much of this burden very private. When friends and relatives reach out, let them. This will not only lessen your stress level but will widen both your own and your children’s circle of belonging.
To all families that are going through tough times, I salute you. Stay strong and whole like the sticks in your family bundle and look forward to brighter days ahead.
Family Resources offers free Family Coaching and Warmlines to any one who would like to discuss how to manage disruptions in your children’s lives or any other parenting question you may have. Just call Family Resources at 784-8125.