Over the past few months, the virus has influenced our lives in many profound ways…
Children, in particular, have experienced major shifts to their world at a rapid pace, not only in their household structure, cancelation of summer camps and the inability to see friends, some have also lost loved ones to the virus. They are navigating many new changes and unknowns; some are having a challenging time adjusting, leading to an increase in confusion, overwhelm and anxiety. Although life is always impermanent and uncertain, the virus has emphasized this reality.
Zen teacher Alan Watts poignantly stated: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
The good news is there are things we can do to help support children to dance through this time of change. Even just moving from the house to the car, or getting ready for bedtime, are examples of transition. We don’t think of such changes as a big deal but, for some, switching gears can be a challenge. This may be due to transitioning from a preferred activity (something they enjoy) to something they need to do, but don’t enjoy so much. This can understandably elicit frustration, disappointment and sometimes overwhelm. Acknowledging and communicating about the difficulty can create more space for self-awareness and compassion around what’s happening. But here are some specific ideas:
- Incorporate the use of countdowns. Before a transition happens, counting down can be a help children prepare themselves for change. You can experiment and see what duration works best for your child. Typically, start with 15 minutes, then 10 minutes, 5 minutes and time to leave. This can also be expanded on with bigger transitions, such as using a calendar and tracking upcoming events. Giving them a preview of what their day might look like in the form of a schedule can help ease some of the anxiety around the unknown. This small act can have a huge impact.
- Find ways to weave in music with the transition. Research has shown how music engages areas of the brain that are involved with paying attention. It can tune us into the present moment and help connect one environment to the next by providing a sense of continued safety and predictability. Creating a playful game that incorporates music and movement, such as “leapfrog” to the car, can link a positive impression with the transition. Finding a song to sing, or making up your own, can assist in releasing tension and bringing playfulness to difficult moments of transition.
- Rituals can be healing for children going through transitions. Creating your own family rituals can provide a child with a sense of predictability and meaning. The real goal of rituals is connection. By having a ritual that the family does together it creates a sense of unity and comfort, especially during times of immense change. You can get creative and use meals, activities, or bedtime to implement rituals. Lighting a candle and taking turns sharing talking about what you are grateful for can be a simple way to ground children, foster connection, and help them to stay connected to their feelings.
As we move through this period in human history of much uncertainty, let us remember to celebrate our existence. Sometimes all it takes is witnessing the stars on a dark night and marveling at what we are already a part of. Bringing children into nature can help cultivate this sense of aliveness and presence in each moment. Any worry of the future is lessened, and we can truly dance with uncertainty.