Reframe it (Parenting in Hard Times 3)

So many of us have been trying to figure out how to be cheerful and not scare our kids, which seems at odds with being honest with them about the truth. It feels like either/or. Either we lie and stay peppy so they don't know anything's wrong, or we tell them the truth of how bad it is and crush their feelings and terrify them. But what if we reframe the entire situation to make it about what we want our kids to learn from this instead of what we're supposed to do perfectly?

Your job is to be kind to your kids, and one big way to be kind to them is to trust them to learn important things. Right now, in the midst of great sorrow, they can learn the most important things there are to know:

Your love for them is deeper than words.

They can trust you to do the best you can for them.

They are worth working hard for.

You will show them how to work for themselves.

When they get the chance to work for other people, they have to take it.

Relationships and community are of the highest value and are worth working for.

What if this crisis gives you the chance to apprentice your kids into being people who are strong and vulnerable, who can soothe themselves to be able to do what they need to do, and who work and fight for justice for others?

If you start thinking of these days as chances to show your kids that bad things happen but they can push back, even in teeny, quiet ways, you win. If you start thinking about what you tell them in terms of what will make them be able to make good decisions about how to act, you win. If you start looking for ways to teach empathy, kindness, and critical thinking, you win. You don’t have to worry about what information will do to them if you’re guiding them through how to receive and process and act on information as it comes in.

This is a tough request, especially when you’re feeling anxious and worried yourself. But it gives you a task to focus on that you know you can do. You’ve been helping your kids learn from the moment you met them. You can do this, too. Trust them to learn what you’re teaching, and trust yourself to be the teacher they need.

All my love,

Magda