During this pandemic, it has been hard not to focus on the hardship people are facing. Folks are trying to navigate this new world fraught with unemployment, isolation, and overwhelming uncertainty… about, well, everything. Adults are not the only ones battling these stresses and anxieties; our kids are struggling too.
These tiny humans are facing the same uncertainties, but with only a limited understanding of how to cope and communicate. Take a moment to think about what this all may look like through their eyes. Their lives have been upended. They are no longer permitted to go to school, socialize with their peers, go to the park to play, attend birthday parties, or celebrate end of year grade promotions and graduations. Everything is canceled – all because of these scary “cooties” that no one can see but could be everywhere.
As a mom of three kids, ranging from 2 to 9, I have seen the confusion and frustration first hand. These are new and uncharted waters for all of us to navigate, but I have found some fun and easy ways to create positive dialogue with the kiddos. Every morning while trying to wrangle kids to the kitchen table for breakfast, we set goals for the day. We go around the table and ask each of them to share what their goals for the day are, why they want to achieve these goals, and how they plan to do so. It is a fun way to get the kids to view every day as an opportunity and help them avoid the monotony of quarantine life.
I discovered a great article on the US Department of Education’s website that blends with our goal setting family activity with positive inquiry. This article encourages educators to ask students what their ‘pits’ and ‘peaks’ are. The pit is the worst part of their day; the peak is the best. This dialogue allows kids to voice their stressors and look for the good.
My family took this idea and transferred it from the classroom to the dining room and have now made it a dinner time tradition. We begin by asking the kids to reflect on the goals they made that morning. Did they achieve them? If not, why? How can we, as a family, redesign those goals to make them more achievable? Next we ask the kids, “What were your pits and peaks today?” We start with the negative so that we can end on the positive. As the kids tell us their lows, my husband and I will ask why they choose that pit. We like to get the kids to take an in-depth look at their lows. Why, in their opinions, do they believe this pit happened? Questions like this help our kids feel like they are in control of the negative aspects of their day. Talking about the icky stuff also helps to relieves stress and tension they may be feeling.
We wrap up our dinner dialogue with a big finale by focusing on their peaks. Peaks aren’t always new toys, some days their peaks are as small as getting to have some candy. Every child is different; this exercise has given my husband and I the opportunity to learn more about our children: what they value, appreciate, and what makes them unique. Knowing what incentivizes and excites them allows us to tailor how we praise kind choices and reinforce good behavior. This deeper understanding of our children allows us, as a family, to create an environment where good decision making and seeking out the positive become the norm. Inquests like these have enabled my children to see that happiness starts with them and the choices they make.
Since making this a dinnertime tradition, the kids now fight over who gets to share their pits and peaks first. As they take turns going around the table, they will remind each other of any positives (peaks) they may have forgotten. What is most surprising is that as we have progressed, the kids are starting to be unable to find a pit. They realize that sometimes bad stuff happens, but that shouldn’t be our focus.
We cannot control the world and its ever-present chaos. All we can control is our ability to create good – and that starts with a positive and kind mind. We are all struggling – adults and kids alike. My call to action to you is, view this hardship as an opportunity. Let us empower our kids. Let’s really get to know our kids as individuals that will one day grow up to shape the world. Let’s teach them that a positive outlook costs you nothing, takes no formal education, and can never be taken from you.
So let’s have a round of applause for our littlest champions, the kids.
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