Over the past year, I’ve had a lot of conversations with parents about the weird world of school we currently live in. One of the most important things we can do for our children is provide them with the right framework for dealing with crises. (And the current school situation is a crisis.) For some students, providing the right framework is a make-or-break issue.

Between the two categories of people, children and adults, which group generally adapts faster to changing circumstances? It’s the children—as long as they are given the opportunity to adapt. Yes, their reactions tend to be sharper than adults, and yes, they tend to overreact more than adults. But when adults act with equilibrium, balance, and poise, and the children see that everything is really okay, they recover quickly.

When my father died suddenly fourteen years ago, it took me two years to fully move through the grieving process. Oh, sure, along the way I would have said that I was mostly doing well—and I mostly was—but I wasn’t even really aware of how much pain and sense of loss remained. Another example: I know a woman who grew up believing that her mother didn’t like pets. She only learned when she was in her late thirties or early forties what the truth really is: as an adult, her mother had had a dog, and when it died, it broke her heart, and she never wanted to experience that again; so instead she wouldn’t let her children have pets. (I don’t say this to be critical; I recognize that human emotion is a complex thing.)

In the summer of 2018, our family dog was hit by a car. At the time our daughter was only seven (almost eight). When the dog died, guess who got over it soonest. Not I. Not my wife. It was our young daughter. This ability of children to overcome grief tends to be the case. Adults tend to become less and less adaptable as we get older. Unfortunately, it’s easy to take this out on our children—without knowing that we’re doing it. But if we actively work to handle the crises and communicate both by our words and by our behaviors that it’s going to be okay, our children tend to take their cues from us and—especially if we are consistent—they tend to recover quickly. If, on the other hand, we panic and criticize and complain, then we communicate to our children that things are not really okay, and even though they often aren’t conscious of it, they feel and act out that things really aren’t okay.

One of the best gifts we can give our children is to model for them the truth that it is going to be okay, even if we don’t know how it’s going to be okay or even what the next move is. “We will get through this!” is an essential message that every child needs to learn. The sooner they get to learn it, the better off they will be. It’s a message with an accompanying life-skill that will reap huge rewards for them for decades to come.

Let me know how I can help.


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