This is a post from the Daring Dads Daily email series.
These are new and challenging times for all of us. Our children are not excluded from the confusion and struggles. I was reminded yesterday that kids are pondering the unknown much like we adults.
Our 10-year-old was talking to me candidly about the transition to a new grade and how it might look if there is some hybrid of learning from home and physically going to school. He shared that it seemed like a lot without factoring in new kids and making new friends.
One of my many struggles as a parent is my tendency to use the wrong words when attempting to explain a difficult subject or when I’m helping to diffuse a difficult situation. I believe that for the most part, we should talk to our kids like adults but that responsibility exists for us to choose the best and most accessible words for our kids when doing so. And I often fail at that.
In this case, I told him that making friends in a new environment isn’t unique to his almost 5th grade world and that it’s something that all humans struggle with and have struggled with forever.
I’m able to share with you my exact quote because I wrote it down immediately after our exchange. I said, “making friends is inevitably lonely but does bring about complicated joy.” To which he responded without hesitation and weighted with a long roll of the eyes, “it’s amazing you have any friends” and he walked away. Later we talked and his mind was eased a bit. And to his point, it is remarkable.
I tell you this for a couple of reasons. First, it’s hilarious and I think humor helps us navigate difficult situations. But second, and maybe more importantly, even though I often choose the wrong words, I seemed to be saved by the fact that if I spend most of my time and energy listening and giving them space and time to adequately process their emotions instead of hurrying them through and just telling them it will be alright.
Even though we don’t intend to, when we nod and tell people it will be okay without actually listening, we give the perception that we don’t care what they are saying and that their situation is insignificant to whatever we have going on.
So, respond the best you can, but more importantly, foster the time and space for them to digest and process their struggles.