Discussing Uncertainty with Your Child
“These are unprecedented times.” Ironic how the unfamiliar has become what we are all too familiar with. But it is true, we are living during uncertain times! As a parent, what do you say or do when you don’t have all the answers?
Initiate the conversation. We may be comfortable in our silence but conversations about uncertainty are everywhere. It is likely your child may overhear something and not feel comfortable coming to you with their curiosity. For example, school plans are ever-changing, things may change at any moment. To uplift the burden of uncertainty in children, carry conversations to connect with them emotionally. Check in on their anxiety. You can start by first sharing your emotions and vulnerabilities about uncertainty and then invite your child to share.
Be honest. First and foremost, we must remain truthful about what we know and don’t know. Everyone is adjusting and adapting with the times and you can tell your child exactly that! “I don’t have all the answers, and I know it feels scary. But I’ve handled big things before and I know we can do this together.” Children must be able to perceive their parents and caregivers as safe and trustworthy. Establishing trust is the foundation for secure attachment, which predicts later health, resilience, and social-emotional development. The message is that as humans, we can handle big feelings, and we can do hard things-- especially when we do them together.
What to say versus how to say. The distinction between what to say and how to say is vital.When talking about uncertainty with children, we must focus on how. The way we say things, the tone of our voice, and our body language are essential in discussing unbalanced emotions. Use tones that are calm and assertive with words of reassurance to instill feelings of security. Words and pauses like, “So... um... Yeah...” do not reflect a handle on things.
Uncertainty is difficult for everyone, but especially children when they see uncertainty reflected in their parents. Remind yourself that you have been through hard times before and reassure your children that you will help them through their difficulties. Be honest, share what you know, and use a calm and assertive tone and you will help your child work through uncertain times!