Finding a Light in Darkness. Discovering Peace in the Unknown of COVID-19.
Debbie Wheeler, MS, CCLS, Child Life Specialist, Cook Children's
As a Child Life Specialist, I am trained to help patients and families cope with health related illnesses, injuries and health care experiences. In 19 years of practice, I have had many moments of unknowns that I have been a part of with patients and families. I help navigate the unknowns of health care every time I come to work.
Yet, how does one then navigate the unknown of Covid-19?
As a parent, I too want my children to be prepared for all the hard things in life. I often wonder if I am putting the “right” tools in their tool box to deal with the hard things that will come their way. When Covid-19 hit, there were and continue to be so many questions. The amount of information is never ending and always fluid. It is overwhelming and life as we knew it drastically changed overnight. How does one cope with so much change? How do I help my child cope with the constant changes and unknown answers? How do I cope as a parent through this time?
It seems like so much darkness with all this change and the unknowns creep more and more into our daily ways of living-will our children ever go back to school? Will we have to wear masks out in public? What if me or my child gets Covid-19? When will I be able to see my family and friends again? The what if’s and the what will life look like post Covid-19 is far more encompassing than any of us can put a finger on as we just begin to process the layers of this pandemic. However, there is light in this darkness that lures around us. Let’s find the lights.
First, start with what we DO know. You know your child best. You know if he/she needs structure, or more school work, or less school work or an ice cream break. You know if they need a walk or to cuddle watching a movie. You know if they need a tea party with their favorite stuffed animals or if you need to kick the soccer ball around in the backyard. You know if they need space or if they need others. You know your child like no one else does, especially during this stay at home time. Helping a child cope with change or hard things in life is not a one time and one answer experience. Coping is ongoing and fluid just like Covid-19 is these days. It changes, it improves, it regresses, and it can spin out of control, and right side up again. What worked last week, may not work this week. It is okay. Try something new or even try it again. You know your child-this has not changed. There is a light for them. Just show up and keep trying. Your consistency will be their constant in the changing times.
Second, know your LIMITS as a parent. We need to learn this now more than ever. I can teach coping skills, but it doesn’t mean my own children cope wonderful 24 hours a day 7 days a week. When they are having a hard day or moment, I know that I am not always the answer they need. And if I am honest, I may not be coping well with it myself in the moment. This is the time to take a break if you can, go for a walk, jam out to some music, pray, read, call someone on the phone, and/or ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help as a parent. Nobody has all the answers and you can teach your child in your own vulnerability how to ask for help. You are the best role model to teach your children how to cope with all this change because you are living it alongside of them. We are on stage as parents. When we are anxious, our children are anxious. We do not need to say it; they feel, see, and know it internally in their own body just by being with us. Find your own light to help you cope.
Lastly, it is OK not to have answers. Let me say this again. As a professional and a parent, it is okay not to have all the answers. Your children need to learn this as well. This is not the first or last pandemic our world will face. There is always a light in the darkness of the unknown. There does not have to be a final answer to make everything better. It is a practice of learning how to take a step of trying the next best thing for you and your child that brings you peace but not always understanding. This is learning how to cope with the hard stuff. Finding a light in dark places. Discovering peace in the unknowns.