As we navigate major life changes with our children, we slow down and take the time to do an emotional wellness check. It’s a challenge helping big kids with big changes, but we’re up to it. Safe, known, loved. These are the essentials.
helping big kids with big changes
A few nights ago, as we all huddled around our tiny living space in our temporary shophouse, I commended my oldest children for how well they have handled this major life transition. I don’t always feel great at helping big kids with big changes, so I asked them what had been most helpful to them as they worked through their feelings and emotions. I was surprised at how thoughtful their answers were, but I wasn’t surprised at their answers.
My husband and I have spent the last few years filling our emotional toolbox with useful and practical rules of life. So when the time came to face a monumental life challenge, we didn’t struggle with knowing what to do. We just focused on doing it well. I’d like to share a few of those tools with you, in case you ever need them. These are the things my children said helped them most.
Helping big kids feel safe, known, loved
We let them feel
Sometimes I’m really bad about policing feelings. The saying goes, “The Mom is the heart of the home”, and I think sometimes I can wear that as a burden around my neck. Someone feeling sad or frustrated feels like I’m doing a poor job. But that’s a very ME centric way of viewing the whole situation. So I’ve had to learn (and am still learning) that it’s okay to let people feel things.
I made a choice going into this new chapter that I would let my children be sad about saying goodbye to their home. I reminded myself that it’s okay if they don’t want what I want, and this simple decision gave them the freedom to speak openly and honestly about their struggles. My daughter said she was able to wrestle with her own disappointment without the added burden of loneliness. As a result, she has processed her feelings of loss and moved now to a place of hopefulness and excitement. Connection is powerful. But safety is the foundation.
We gave them us
In our situation, as everything in their lives was upheaved, it was really important for them to see that no matter what else changed, we were there. If they expressed anxiety over the unknown, we listened without judgement. When they were frustrated by the lack of space in their new home, they came to us to vent. If they missed their dad, we called him. When they were sad about their old house, we sat and talked about what they needed. It’s really incredible how being available is the simplest most effective cure for so many ailments. This major life transition came with a promise: We will give you ourselves. And It has been really meaningful to them to see us deliver on that promise. It’s a powerful thing to be seen and to feel known.
A garden of Yes
We are entering into a hard season when we are asking our children to do hard things. We are asking them to be brave as we enter into the unknown, and we are asking them to trust us as we make decisions about their future. So as they work to process the changes, disappointments, and losses, we are working hard to find ways to create a season of grace and abundance.
No, we can’t stay in our old house, but YES we can go out to eat on Friday night. YES, we can stay up late and read that book. YES, we can talk again about all the things that are worrying you. Sure, you can make cookies. Absolutely, I can buy you a new dollar store notebook.
We look for ways to shower them with love and lavish upon them all the fun, freedom, and attention we can afford. Because feeling loved fills your cup. And it’s easier to exercise patience, self-control, and cheerfulness when your cup is full. It’s a privilege helping big kids with big changes. It’s our duty to set them up for success. And it’s our joy to see them do it well.
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