It’s understandable in this extremely stressful time to feel like immediate action is the only way to proceed safely. If a trusted official outlines the next strategy, we respond by reacting. But I would like to offer an alternative approach, called “Let’s wait and see.” It might be the best parenting strategy we can use during this pandemic.
Our local government declared that we must wear masks when venturing outside. Facial coverings are a problem for our child with sensory issues. On that day, we tried a mask on her, and she flipped out. Instead of forcing the issue, my husband and I decided to wait and see. We weren’t going anywhere, so why rush? A week later, a Mom of a child with Autism discovered you could put buttons on a hat and run the elastic meant for the ears around that. Then my aunt, a retired nurse, informed me that at the beginning of her career, mask ties were ribbons rather than ear elastic. A week later, the autism organization in our area produced a turtleneck like contraption. It is a perfect mask alternative. Wait and see worked.
On a different day, decided by government officials, school buildings across America closed for the year. Upon hearing the news, parents of school-age children prepared themselves to break the news. For many adults, this decision was heartbreaking and anxiety-inducing. So much of what should have happened was lost. With this sentiment in mind, some parents created comforting environments, favorite dinners, choosing to tell their children very gently. Others favored the rip the bandaid off philosophy, delivering in a quick, to the point announcement. Across America, parents’ words resulted in extreme sadness, anger, and some cheers.
On the same day, I was calling all of my family to tell them they were not to discuss the situation in front of us until they heard otherwise. This arbitrary day was not going to be the start of our conversation. We were going to wait and see.
The following weekend, the conversation started while playing in our driveway with a simple question, “When am I getting my pencil box back?” It continued with “Will I go onto the next grade?” and ended with an acknowledgment of this being hard. I am sure this is not the last time we’ll discuss it. Wait and see works.
Our conversations with our children don’t have to happen just because the world made a decision that day. We know our children and during this time, we have the right to control our narrative. Just because the world says we need to share the news, doesn’t mean we throw what we know about our families out the window and comply.
Adults are terrified right now. We are receiving tremendous amounts of information daily, and we are snapping to action. But kids don’t act that way. Research tells us that kids are resilient and given time to adjust to a situation, they will. Why? Because they don’t have the background experience to know that life should be any different. And if we, the adults in their life, allow essential conversations to happen naturally, they will follow their instincts to trust their humans, feel emotions when they need to, and continue living life.
So when the next development arises, think about this, what do you remember your Mom or Dad sitting down to have a serious talk with you about? For me, it always involved: death, divorce, or severe disruption to our lives. All sit-downs meant scary things that had a lasting impact on our lives.
We don’t know what is coming next. We can’t answer the questions our kids are asking us, so the best thing we can do for their mental health right now is to wait and see.