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Talking To Your Children About COVID19 (And Other Hard Things)

– Written by Elizabeth Scoville, Family Interventionist

A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine was putting her eight-year-old son to bed, and he was crying.

“What’s wrong?” she asked him.

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life.”

Raise your hand if you agree with him.

 

When COVID-19 pushed school districts to close, parents were at a loss with how to help their children cope because the adults felt scared and uncertain. How are we supposed to talk to our children about something we don’t understand? Wouldn’t it be better if we protect them from all the negativity, chaos, and uncertainty?

When we don’t talk to children about difficult things, we put them at a disadvantage and potentially harm their healing processes. Children have an idea of what is going on. They see their parents are more stressed out than usual; they see things are different. The children in our lives are going just as stir crazy as the rest of us. They miss their teachers, friends, and their sense of normalcy. If we pretend that everything is a-okay the children might think something is wrong with them for feeling scared.

Instead of pretending that nothing is wrong in front of our children, we can (and have a responsibility to) talk to them about these challenging things–COVID19, addiction, ACEs–in a way that doesn’t traumatize them. We don’t need to tell them every single detail. But we do need to tell what’s going on. Their schedules and routines have changed. We shouldn’t lie to them when they ask us questions. Don’t dumb it down, rather answer their questions in a way they can digest.

Developmentally, children feel the same emotions that adults feel, and they feel them at the same intensity. As adults, we can identify our feelings (even the uncomfortable ones) and manage them. Children don’t have that skill set yet. They are building it. That’s why children throw tantrums; they don’t know what to do with all of their emotions, so they may react and explode.

Talking about these difficult, hard things and how we feel about them helps children improve their ability to cope by expanding their emotional literacy and vocabulary. As adults we literally set the example and show them another way to cope with their emotions by giving them language to describe their emotions so they understand how to talk about their feelings. Children need to know that it’s okay to talk about this. It will prepare them for the hard things that they will experience in the future. And when they go through hard things, they’ll be able to talk about it and cope with it rather than push it down and ignore it.

Here are some ways you can help your child right now:

  1. You might be worried about paying bills and your job. Your children are worried about their friends and what school will look like next year. Both are important. Don’t forget to focus on your children, their emotions, and their experience through this, too.
  2. Increase mindfulness and honor the here and now, the present moment with your children. As much as possible, leave the future in the future.
  3. Normalize and validate their struggles. They need to know that how they feel (no matter what those feelings are) is normal and okay.
  4. Be authentic with your children. Show your children that YOU have emotions, too. It will allow them to increase their emotional awareness and talk about emotions.
  5. Create a place where it is safe for children to get it wrong. Parents set the example for how to cope, but children aren’t perfect mimics. Take advantage of the extra time with your children to teach them healthy coping skills.
Published on June 18, 2020

Mom Guilt

by Candise Hendricks, Grant Writer for The Next Door

Hello! My name is Candise, and I am The Next Door’s grant writer. I’m blessed to be the mother of two beautiful little girls. Both are under the age of three. Prayers for patience and sleep are appreciated! After both of my daughters were born, many people asked me if I was going to continue to work full-time, and often, when I confirmed that that was my decision, the response was some kind of variation of “Oh, I bet you are going to miss those precious babies!” And IT would hit me.

Mom Guilt.

Yikes. I felt horrible for continuing to work; how can I leave those sweet girls with someone else for hours and hours when I should be the one caring for them?! I would have to remind myself of the discussions I had with my husband. I loved having my own career outside of being a mom; it was and is a part of my identity. I realized that I would feel ashamed about NOT working, too. Mom Guilt can be completely irrational.

While I’ve learned how to handle it better, I still deal with this on a regular basis. Any time I choose to do something for myself, no matter how small or beneficial, I feel a little twinge of unease. Go on a movie date with the hubs? Mom Guilt. Ask my mother-in-law to watch the kids for an hour so that I can work out? Mom Guilt. Take five more minutes of time in the bathroom to just breathe with my eldest screaming at the door? MOM GUILT.

How does this tie back to my job? Because I’m often holed up writing and researching, I don’t get many chances to interact with the women seeking substance abuse treatment at The Next Door. However, one thing I do know from my brief interactions with these ladies (usually on my way back and forth from the coffee machine) is that most are mothers or caretakers in some way. This isn’t surprising for a facility devoted to the care of women. However, with Mother’s Day coming up soon, it hit me that these women must be feeling massive waves of Mom Guilt.

I cannot imagine how much strength it would take to admit that I needed help, to focus entirely on MY disease of addiction, and to commit to take the time AWAY from my children to get the treatment I needed. Even though working toward recovery and getting mentally, physically, and spiritually healthier would be life-changing, getting over this mental barrier of guilt and shame would be overwhelming for me. But the women who are here at The Next Door do it ALL. THE. TIME. There are women here who are being successful at managing their substance addiction and conquering this internal struggle every day!

This year, for Mother’s Day, I’ve challenged myself to completely let go of my meaningless Mom Guilt and accept the idea that sometimes taking care of me IS taking care of my family, as well. And every time I get the urge to feel bad about it, I will send up a prayer for the women receiving life-saving substance abuse treatment at The Next Door, who are facing all sorts of challenges to live better lives for their families and for themselves.

Many Blessings and HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Blog Post – Strong

Sallie Hussey

I grew up in a family of strong women. My sisters and I were fortunate to have vibrant, talented women, like my grandmother, and even great grandmother, who were wonderful examples. My grandmother, a newspaper reporter, gave me a giant hard-back Webster’s dictionary when I started first grade. She told me to “ask if I didn’t know the answer” and “find whatever you need to do your job.” I didn’t really understand that in elementary school but, certainly as the years passed, it started to sink in.

Growing up in the 70s and 80s, I saw my mother and grandmother juggle career and family. I know they had adult problems and struggles, but I was shielded from them. Now I see how truly difficult it often was and how many challenges and obstacles they faced. Today is no different, in many respects for women in 2017. The challenges of motherhood and career can be overwhelming. The stigma of addiction and mental health is real and still one of the many barriers a woman must face.

Maybe being raised in a family of women (mostly) helped prepare me for work at TND. I see amazing women every day who are here and are working to overcome the most extraordinary circumstances life has given them – balancing family, careers, maybe school, and now overcoming addiction. Women are resilient and we are born to survive. The Next Door is uniquely, and wonderfully, equipped to help women and we do it, every day. I smile when I see our case managers and therapists just chatting with a woman in the hall, or when I see how easily our clinical assistants bond with a frightened young woman on her first day. Each day women help women here and it’s beautiful to see.

My grandmother would say we’re helping these women “find what they need” to do their job. Those jobs are numerous and diverse – wife, mother, CEO, business owner, care taker, home owner, sister, friend, student, and so much more. I know what a blessing it was to grow up in a family of strong women. I’m blessed now, too, to have even a very small part in helping these amazingly strong women in their recovery from addiction. We would love to have you join us.

Sallie Hussey serves as the Chief Development Officer at The Next Door.