Last night, as I was putting the girls to sleep, Isabela asked me a question. “Mommy, when will the virus end?” Such a loaded question coming from a 4-year old. Some parents may feel obliged to protect their kids from trauma and thus withhold the truth from them. But my personal stand with my kids is that I will always be radically honest with them. Alongside that honesty however, is the promise to walk them through it and help equip them to cope with the situation. I cannot protect them from the world, but I can make sure that I’m always there with them.
“Soon”, I said. “I mean, the virus will still be there… but soon we will be allowed to go out again.”
“Why, what are you feeling love?” I probed.
“Sad, Mommy.” she answered
“Why are you sad?” I followed up.
“I don’t want to get sick because of the virus.” she responded.
This never really occurred to me. All the COVID-19 explainers that people made for children – crafted with cartoons, drawings, sound effects all depicted children being sad because they cannot go out to play and be with their friends. And every time we would go through them with our kids, they never really connected with any of it. “I’m not sad that school is closed.” Isabela would always say. “Don’t you miss your friends?” I investigate further. “no, besides we can always call them right Mommy?” she answered.
“You must really be worried about getting sick yourself right?” I said. “Yes. And I don’t want to go to the hospital.” she followed up.
“Well Honey, what else are you sad about with the virus?” I asked.
“I”m sad that I can’t go out with Daddy to drink Babyccino. I’m sad that we can’t go out to buy toys.” she answered. “But Mommy I’m happy because school is just here in our house!”
“What about you Mommy? How are you feeling?” she asked me. The question itself is truly a delight. When our kids were still younger, one of the first few things we taught them was feelings identification, as a start of emotional literacy. We started with concepts of feelings on books (and we deliberately chose these “books of feelings”) and then sportscasted their own feelings as they experience it and as others do too. We also express our feelings to them. Whenever we would feel happy, frustrated, upset, we also expose our kids to the fact that just like them, parents have feelings too. And for Isabela to ask me this question, gives me a little sense of accomplishment that not only was she able to articulate her own feelings… she also cared to know what were mine… the starting point of empathy! And to give due respect to my child, I gave her a genuine non sugar-coated response and allowed her to connect to me and vice versa.
“Well, just like you, I’m scared of getting sick too. Not just me but anyone in our family. ” I said. “I’m also sad that we can’t see Mamu (grandma) and Lolo (grandpa) for a while. You know they were supposed to come here but they had to cancel their trip because of the virus.”
“Yeah, that makes me sad too.” Isabela affirmed.
“But I’m happy that I get to work here at home too and I don’t have to go to the office so I get to hug you guys anytime I want”.
“And yes, it can be scary now, but we just always have to be careful. As long as you are here at home, you are safe and you won’t get sick. And we can go out but when we do, we have to wear a mask and wash our hands all the time. As long as we do these things, we won’t get sick.” I just had to throw it in there to equip her on how to cope with the situation. I’m not one to promise her that things are going to be okay without her participation in it. I want her to learn that things can be okay and that she can help make sure of that. I want to empower her.
“Okay Mommy. I’m ready to sleep now.” she finally said.
“Mommy, I like talking with you. It makes me happy.” she concluded.
Oh I do hope this connection holds up until she grows up because it really makes me happy too (and of course I told her that).
ABOUT JEAN MADRID
Jean is a huge fan of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and believes that at some point in our lives, we have to focus on nurturing our spirituality. She is mom to two beautiful daughters: Isabela and Aria and is based in Singapore. Her day job is in the exciting world of data-driven marketing. But during lull times and when lightning strikes, she writes her insightful reflections on A Woman’s Reflections From The Peripheries, which is about her journey of faith, spirituality, marriage and motherhood.
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One thought on “Parenting in the Time of a Pandemic”
love it! 🙂 thanks for sharing Jean’s blog too. I just read her story about Aria saying no. Even if I’m no parent, I learn from it. Children are really wise teachers.