Supporting Children Through Times of Uncertainty

Summer break is fully in session! While many children and teens would usually be beaming with excitement at the fun summer days, many of them are now coping with the lack of closure to the school year, stories on the news, and uncertainties of the upcoming school year. Questions such as “When will I go back to school?,” “Will I get to see my friends?,” “Will I be able to finally participate in that school event that was postponed?,” “Why has this year been so hard?” and many more may be running through your child’s mind. As parents and caregivers, how can we help our children through these questions that nobody knows the answer to? Well first, take a deep breath and reassure yourself that we’re all in this together. Here are some suggestions on talking to your child when those tough questions or thoughts pop up this summer.

1. Connect, right brain to right brain. Despite the age of your child, connecting with his/her emotions and vulnerability in opening up to you is sooo important. Connecting means you pay full attention to your child, listen with empathy, and verbalize their feelings. You can say something like “It’s really hard for you not knowing what next year will look like” or “It saddens you that there is racism in our country and we’re seeing it today.”

2. Share in the emotions. Having a conversation about some of your shared feelings and letting your child know you are right there with them in the grief, sadness, stress, frustration, and worry will help them feel understood. It helps children to let them know it is ok to experience whatever emotions come up and then discuss some ways to cope.

3. Brainstorm solutions together. Partnering with your child on ways to cope through any tough emotions will help them feel empowered and a sense of control over their world. Exploring new fun things to do this summer, talking about pros and cons to the different schedule options districts are exploring, and making a plan for connecting with school counselors, teachers, or friends as we get closer to the upcoming school year can help your child feel equipped with some tools to ease those burning questions. When it comes to the current protests, brainstorm developmental and age-appropriate ways your child can take action such as what it means to be an ally or writing a letter to their community newspaper on thoughts and feelings about the racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

4. Practice self-regulation as a family. Self-regulation does not necessarily mean calming down your body and getting rid of those hard feelings. It’s important to acknowledge and experience tough emotions because they communicate to us what our body needs. Self-regulation is more about taking notice of the sensations in your body and finding a healthy way to give yourself what you need at that moment. A good place to start with self-regulation is to practice taking a quick body scan. Whether it’s in the morning, right before dinner, or at bedtime, focusing on any sensations in your head and working your way down your body can help you become more attuned to your body and what you need at that moment. Even taking a deep breath after your body scan can help you to bring awareness to positive sensations.

5. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a mental health professional. We are collectively grieving the sense of normalcy from our daily routine and fearing the uncertainties of the future. As cliche as “we are all in this together” may sound, it is absolutely true, and remembering the importance of putting on your own face mask as a caregiver is one of the greatest and most helpful things we can do at this time.

I again invite you to take a deep breath and give yourself some grace, knowing that just being present and acknowledging your child’s thoughts and feelings will go a long way. Click on the links below for more resources around talking to your child about racism, violence, and the criminal justice system.

How to talk to kids about racism, racial violence and police brutality

How to talk to kids about racism, protest and injustice

Talking to Kids About Race

How White Parents Can Talk About Race
Rosalie Piedra is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist™. She is the owner and clinical director of Mindful Connections Counseling. To inquire about services with Rosalie, visit our contact page here: