How can we parent our children optimally when we ourselves feel so unsettled inside about the lack of stability around us? We have no idea what lies ahead of us as far as schooling, food supply, finances, or how the emotional lives of our children will turn out. Is it possible to feel safe and secure when the future is as known to us as much as life on planet Mars is? The answer is yes!
The reason we can feel okay inside amidst all this turmoil is that our security does not come from knowledge of the future. In fact, nobody ever knew what the future would hold, even when life appeared more predictable in pre-Covid times. But we don’t even need to know what the next minute will bring in order to feel settled inside. Certainly, insecure thoughts will arise in our minds, but that’s okay because our thoughts can’t harm us, and we can let go of them one thought at a time. Security comes from the understanding that every single experience that comes our way in life is uniquely designed for us by Hashem because we need it, and surely we always have the tools to get through any challenge in life.
In order to truly connect with our children, we must be fully present with them. Let’s look at how this would play out the wrong way and the right way, in the context of life these days.
The Wrong Way: Your son comes home from school and tells you that three children were making fun of him on the bus. You start to have lots of insecure thoughts such as, “I hope his self-esteem isn’t damaged forever.” “I hope he doesn’t now go on to bully other children.” “Maybe this means he is lacking the skills to speak up for himself and I failed as a parent.” (Sound familiar?) You start to feel like all these worries about the future must be true and are very helpful, so you ask him why he didn’t just speak up, since you’ve taught him this a thousand times already. The next child walks in and you are short tempered with him too, all because you were engaging with your insecure thoughts about what the future “should” look like, and how your child’s chances of a bright future look very bleak.
The Right Way: Your son comes home from school and tells you that three children were making fun of him on the bus. You start to have lots of insecure thoughts such as, “I hope his self-esteem isn’t damaged forever.” “I hope he doesn’t now go on to bully other children.” “Maybe this means he is lacking the skills to speak up for himself and I failed as a parent.” You recognize that everyone has unhelpful worrisome thoughts about the future, and that you don’t need to know what the future holds in order to be okay right now. You also recognize the parts of your body that are feeling anxious, and you remind yourself that all feelings are normal. You simply listen to your son’s account of his difficult bus ride, and stay with him as an empathetic and loving ear. The next child walks in, and while you are feeling your low mood state, you welcome him home with a gentle smile and tell him how glad you are to see him. About 20 minutes later, your low mood passes, because you allowed yourself to feel the feelings, and once feelings are processed they all pass.
So next time you feel that you can’t feel calm around life’s challenges, remind yourself that that’s just another unhelpful thought, and this will help you stay present with your children.
Helpful and Healthful Tips
It’s amazing how different our quality of life is when we have a healthy understanding of the following truths:
- Nobody knows what will happen in the future, and that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be.
- Our thoughts can’t harm us, and we can choose not to engage with them when they are unhelpful.
- We have all the tools we need to deal with any challenge that we get.
- All feelings pass.