From the time I was 13 years old until about 22, there were three things that I greatly disliked: sewing, ironing and Sunday afternoons. It wasn’t until my early 20’s when a friend asked me why I disliked those things that I realized I wasn’t really sure. I never felt annoyed when I had to sew a button. Once the ironing board was out, I found ironing to be quite relaxing. I always disliked Sunday afternoons because they were contaminated by the idea of Monday morning. Yet I wasn’t really sure what I dreaded about Monday mornings.
I could tell you what my mother dreaded though, and then it occurred to me: throughout all those years I recited and believed that I disliked those things because my mother did! My mother was vocal about many things during my adolescence but these three stuck, and somehow, I unknowingly absorbed her views. My mother never directly told me she disliked sewing, ironing or Sunday afternoons, but I would overhear her on the phone, in conversations with friends, or with family members during holidays. I simply adopted her ideas as my own. How powerful an impression caregivers can make without even trying!
Little kids have big ears, and our adolescents take in more than they let on. Our kids hear us even when we think they can’t or aren’t paying attention. This is something for adults to be aware of as we head into an uncertain and unfamiliar school year with the anxiety of COVID-19.
I am a big advocate of sharing our vulnerabilities with our children to connect and help them better understand and internalize that everyone feels sad or worried from time to time. When caregivers share this vulnerability, it gives a child a safe place to realize these feelings are normal. Sharing our vulnerability creates a space for our children to do the same.
It is understandable that we all have concerns about this school year, and talking with others is helpful. With the uncertainty of this unusual time, it is good to speak our concerns in a direct and open conversation with our children and avoid their “overhearing” our conversations with others. When they overhear our conversations, they can walk away with interpretations that can cause them anxiety we may not be aware of. This is something to keep in mind as we navigate our own mixed emotions toward this upcoming school year.
I wish you a wonderful last few weeks of summer! If you have any questions or concerns on how to speak to your children about school this September, please feel free to reach out. I would be thrilled to speak with you!