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How Parents Can Model Resilience to Support Kids in Times of Uncertainty

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As part of her literature program, my daughter chose to write a composition about the time her little sister was hospitalized for failure to thrive. The assignment was to write a story about a memory your sibling may not remember, and I was pleasantly surprised with her choice given the arrival of Feeding Tube Awareness Week.

However, what truly warmed my heart was the way my daughter described the experience through her eyes. If I had been asked to reminiscence, I would have conjured up a mix of vomit, tube feeds, exasperation, tears, and sheer exhaustion, but my 7-year-old didn’t remember it that way.

Unlike others in the same situation, both of my kids have chronic health issues. So the act of being hospitalized with my 2-month-old at the time also included careful navigation of the needs of my then-6-year-old who was dependent on me as her primary caregiver.

In her story, she didn’t focus on the fear of sleeping alone with Dad instead of Mom, having her entire world uprooted, experiencing a limited Halloween, or missing some of her therapies. She wrote about taking showers with me in the hospital when she would come visit, taking trips to the eighth floor so we could look at the galaxy display, and going to the cafe every night for ice cream and soy milk. She barely mentioned the NG tube and certainly glossed over the endless crying of her sister and the isolation she had to feel at times as her role as the only child was swiftly and firmly put to bed.

These experiences that I carefully planned to meet her needs were magical experiences for her, which proves how transformative perception can be. When she visited in the afternoon/evening, I had to make sure she was allowing her hair to be washed, she was eating something, and she was stretching her legs some.

She only remembers the positive, and I think it’s largely because we tried our best to live in the moment and create stability — even when we felt like our world was coming apart at the seams.

This lesson of resilience is something we can all learn from today. Whether you are a parent of a child with a chronic illness wondering how the challenges are shaping your child or a parent simply trying to weather the pandemic, how we act is shaping our children more than the actual environment around them.

The parent of a child with health conditions knows their life is always in flux, but the pandemic has brought this same emotion into every household. So many parents struggling with “how their kids will survive, how will this affect them, etc.”

I believe we need to keep our eyes on the good, make it through the bad, and build memories that last regardless of the environment they were built within. It all comes down to the behavior we are modeling for our children. It won’t matter what happened this year, so long as you make it a good one for them. Kids don’t need flashy experiences, competitions and endless activities. What they need is a sense of stability and purpose. The rest is just background noise in the story that is their childhood, and with any luck, the pandemic will be a footnote in their story.

Getty image by Ridofranz.

Originally published: April 14, 2021
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