I’ve needed to take a few days off while waiting for possible fire evacuation orders. While the fires are still raging, our little town is safe, for now, thanks to our terrific firefighters. The heightened stress made me even more aware of the burden all of are sharing that is even more challenging for parents. I couldn’t just sit uselessly any longer and needed to get back to my goal for this series, how to help parents keep their kids emotionally and physically healthy. These few days off have allowed me to get even clearer about the message I want to convey, so let’s get at it.
Since you’re reading this online, I can assume that you are both tech-savvy and need ideas. The preceding four blogs have given you a general idea of what I’m trying to accomplish by giving you useful and practical examples. These stories illustrate the general principles I am employing in this exercise. Before going on to more practical applications, I’d like to be more explicit about these rules to extrapolate from them and apply them more broadly.
Rule One – You come first.
We tend to put our children’s welfare ahead of our own, but in high-stress times you need to put your health first. This is the same rule you have heard every time you have taken an airplane … put your mask on first and then your child’s. In the case of play at home, this rule is critical because kids are hypersensitive to their parent’s stress level, and if you are not in control, you cannot help them. Remember to breathe and to stay in your body, and you will be fine.
Rule Two – Less is more.
We live in a time of abundance and feel compelled to give all we can to our kids. Children don’t do well with a profusion of options. They need deep rather than broad. Children thrive on complexity, but as adults, we tend to think that having many options as a good thing. On the other hand, kids look not so much for more things but for the connections that exist between them and the links that are possible. Too much stuff gets in the way of going deep.
Rule Three – Know the triggers.
Kids come with an innate alarm system that tells them when something in their environment needs to be explored. The examples in the introductory posts and those that follow are based on a primary trigger for playful exploration. I have written extensively about triggers in this blog over the years, and you can do a search here for triggers and get both the theory and a list.
Rule Four – Boredom is your friend.
Two phrases should cause you to perk up your ears; “that’s interesting,” and “I’m bored.” These are two sides of the same coin. It’s hard not to hear that your child is bored and not take that on as your job. You cannot fix boredom! That is your child’s job, and the more you intervene with your idea of what will be interesting, the more you will rob them of the essential tools of self-discovery. If you need a way to get things moving, have them come up with ten things that they think are cool and you, and they will be off to the races.
Rule Five – Hugs
We are in for a very long road to get back to anything like normal human society. Your children are suffering, and, as the pandemic drags on, the lack of social contact is causing ever greater harm to your child. It would be crazy for me to suggest any specific course of action. Suffice it to say that providing social interaction has to be your highest priority. Every parent is faced with the same challenge and is searching for solutions. Join those conversations.