Category: Parenting Tip

Parenting Tipsocial distancingteens and tweens

Navigating Friendships During Trauma

I have four beautiful children. Each one engages the world with their own, unique personality. I have introverts and extroverts. I have one who is best friends with everyone she meets and one who has a few select, close friends.

When our family experienced extreme trauma, crisis, and isolation four years ago due to cancer treatment, I did not realize how deeply friendships could be affected. I did not realize how much of a game changer trauma can be.

We had to move five hundred miles away so my daughter could receive the care she needed at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. My husband and I made the decision to pack up our family and move to Memphis so we could be together during that difficult time. We looked at the situation and decided it would be better to be together in a foreign land than to be split up. We left our community, our friends, our jobs, and our homeschool classes behind, expecting it all to be there when we returned.

If you have watched the show, Stranger Things, you will grasp this analogy. When we returned, I felt like we were in the upside down. We were in familiar territory, but yet not. The places and things and people we left were still there when we returned, but somehow everything was different. Only… it wasn’t everything… it was us. We were the walking wounded. We had been stripped down and laid bare by trauma. The Lord was healing us. He was giving us balm for our souls… but there is no overnight fix for trauma.

Experiencing pain, death of a loved one, a difficult pregnancy, a move, a sick child… a worldwide pandemic… should give pause. We cannot just rush through and hope for life to “go back to normal.” It will not go back to normal because you are changed. We came back from cancer treatment and I realized that new friendships had been formed while we were gone. My children’s friends had moved on and made new memories without them. And that was ok. It was a totally natural thing to have happen. I, however, returned broken and panic stricken… and not the extroverted, fun and confident person I had once been. I no longer knew how to engage groups of people without making it weird.

I’m not even kidding. I remember being at our town’s Christmas parade and being introduced to someone. I said to her, “I’m sorry. I’m socially awkward and don’t really know how to have light and fluffy conversation. If you need to talk about hard things or suffering, I’m your girl!” … You can imagine the look on her face.

Why am I sharing this? We are in a unique position of all experiencing trauma, simultaneously. We are not all experiencing it the same way, but we are all in it … in some form or another. We will come out of this quarantine, but normal will change. We will not ever go back to the days before…. at least not as we knew them. Everything will be overshadowed by COVID-19. I’m not saying that in a way to create fear… but in a reality kind of way. For a time, anyone who coughs in public will receive dirty looks. People will likely continue to wear masks. Those with immune compromised children will be even more hypervigilant than before. We will question all decisions involving crowds of people. Our decisions and thoughts and actions will now be filtered through the lens of COVID-19.

Healing will come, but it will take time and it will look different in different people. Eventually the wounds will heal… your guard will relax. You will smile and laugh and grocery shop with ease. But there will be scars.

Your friend group (and your child’s friend group) dynamic may change. The natural leaders may step back. The quiet ones may step up. Change may happen….. but so will healing… in time.

Here are some ways I think you can prepare your kids to re-enter the world and have grace on themselves and their friends.

  1. Be patient. Your friends may not be ready to re-engage right when you are. And… that is ok. Give them space. Keep inviting them without expectation. Let them know you are still here and love them. Be patient with your friend’s parents. Respect their decisions if they aren’t ready for their kids to go out in groups yet.
  2. Be aware. We all have experienced COVID-19 in some form or fashion. By the end of this, most of us will know someone or be someone who was personally affected and infected. Be aware that your friends have been hearing bits of information and processing in their own way. They may be cavalier… or they may be afraid. Be aware that we have all experienced the effects of this quarantine and bear some scars.
  3. If the friendship is important to you, be a friend for the long game. Your friend might never be the same…. so be willing to love them where they are and get to know them all over again. Engage your friends in ways that you can right now. If zoom is all you’ve got… use zoom! Text, call, drive by and wave, write a letter, play video games together. Be a voice that helps bring your friend up and out of sadness or depression. Don’t give up! If your children are young, set up virtual play dates for them! We started using Facebook messenger kids for my younger children. A friend of mine set up a Lego Club Facebook group where kids can be challenged and post their creations and interact with each other virtually. We did a drive by birthday party for a sweet little friend. Sometimes a car full of children will end up in our driveway… they stay in their car… we stay a safe distance a way and we talk and play for a bit.
  4. Give grace. For the most part, we have been quarantined for forty plus days with our families. Our worlds have become quite small and maybe we have forgotten the social niceties of the world at large. Most of us will emerge with some bit of social awkwardness. When zoom is over and we are face to face again… we may have to relearn making eye contact and natural flow of conversation. Give yourself and your friends grace.
  5. It’s ok to not be ok. Healing takes time. I was in a lay counseling class once at a church… simply meaning teaching people who are not professional counselors how to counsel. I remember reading that a miscarriage takes something like 6-9 months to grieve. I don’t know where they got their numbers, but when I experienced a miscarriage a couple of years later I found comfort in the fact that I didn’t have to be ok right away. They had different timelines for different degrees of trauma… but guess what y’all. This pandemic is a new thing. Yes… there have been pandemics before…but not in the age of technology where the world has become smaller and flatter and we all know what everyone is doing. This is an unfounded and uncertain time and we have no timeline for the healing or grieving process that will come. I’m not saying to wallow in self pity and depression…. but I am saying… don’t be surprised to find out that you have been deeply impacted. Your kids have been deeply impacted. Your friends and your kid’s friends have been forever impacted. We are living through an event that will be taught in future history classes. It’s ok to soak that in. I have since learned through experience that there is actually no timeline for grief… it can surprise you years down the road. But so can joy.

Trauma changes us. I do not have a degree in counseling or work with people who have experienced trauma. My husband does… and he is really good at it. But I do have my personal experiences. I know what it feels like to have the rug pulled out from under you… to have normal life changed in an instant. When we came back from my daughter’s cancer treatment, I desperately looked for the normal. I kept saying, “When will normal return?”. It took time… probably two years on the other side for me to realize that normal as I knew it was over. There was a new normal. A new pattern. A new lens through which to view life. New memories to be made.

The one constant… the one thing that did not change was the Lord. He has not changed through any of it. He is the same today as he was yesterday and will be forever more. I learned more of him. I clung to him. He is the constant, the anchor, the steady. I lost a lot when life halted and changed planes. I am still realizing the depths of the losses. But I did not lose Him. He promises to not leave us or forsake us. When we experience panic and anxiety in our home, we have the affected person slow down and think about things that are true…. starting small (like you have brown hair… you are wearing a long sleeve shirt, etc.) and moving to the more abstract (still true)… God is real. God is true. God is here and loves you. So… let’s look for the truths. Let’s take one day at a time. And let’s be hopeful for the days to come.

homeschool helpsParenting Tip

How To Combat Summer Boredom… Don’t

I have spent the last ten months of my life teaching these children, planning events, toting them around all over town to soccer practice, play rehearsal, the goat farm, youth group, play dates, enrichment classes, field trips, field day, celebrations, park days, and so. much. more.

I am on summer break just as much as they are. I have a list of things I cannot wait to accomplish. I have a stack of books to read. I have a book study I want to participate in with other moms. I have paintings I want to paint and t shirts I want to make and blog posts I want to write. I have things that I have put on hold for the year, waiting for the time when I could focus on… wait for it… me.

I do not care that you are bored, my sweet children. I really don’t. Because you know what… boredom fosters creativity.

Whenever my children come to me and say, “Mom, I’m bored.” I do not pull out a crafty, pinterest worthy boredom buster jar. I do not rattle off a list of activities to fill their time. I do not jump and say, “Oh, well let me entertain you.” I simply look at them and say,

Great! Boredom fosters creativity. I can’t wait to see where this leads.

Now… you have to be willing to let the creativity bloom. If you say boredom fosters creativity, but then you don’t allow space for that creativity… you might as well just go ahead and have the boredom buster jar ready… I’m not saying that sarcastically. If you need to have that sense of control and are not able to let your children explore, have the jar with approved activities. Go to Pinterest and search “Boredom Jar.” You’ll find all kinds of ideas.

Are you tracking with me? This post is not about giving you a list of things to combat summer boredom. My hope in this post is to give you the freedom to not entertain your children. To let them sit in the silence of their minds and have time to let creativity flow.

Our children (and ourselves for that matter) are surrounded by constant stimulation. Our culture really doesn’t allow for boredom. There is always something to do, something to make, something to watch, something to play, somewhere to go.

When we first moved to the mountains eight years ago, we lived in a neighborhood with a lot of kids. I knew they were there because I watched the schoolbus come day after day to deliver them home. I anticipated an elevation in noise and activity when summer came, but nothing changed. There were no kids out and about during the day. I discovered the culture of signing your kids up for camp, Boys and Girls club, all the Vacation Bible Schools in town. Summer does not mean downtime… it means different activities.

Our kids participate in our church’s VBS and one week of camp. The only reason they go to the one week of camp is that a local camp graciously opens its doors at the end of the regular season to children who have been touched by cancer. All four of my kids get to experience a great week with kids who have a common bond… either themselves or a family member have been through cancer in some form or another. It was an opportunity we could not pass up.

For the most part, however, we slow down in the summer. We do not schedule much. We join a local pool where we spend quite a bit of time. We do not do school. We do not do sports. We do go out into nature. We do have lazy mornings. We do spend time with friends. We do eat smores.

What would it look like in your home to let your child sit in their boredom? How do you think they might decide to fill their time? Can you look ahead to the future and see how when we give our children time to sit and stew in themselves, they might actually discover a little of who they are and how they are wired? What might happen if our children are allowed stillness in their day? What if we took away the programming and the schedules and allowed space for boredom?

Could it be that our children learn to be more self aware? Could it be that we discover things about them we never knew? What if, out of that stillness, emerged a happier and more confident, more capable person? Can you trust your child (and yourself) to survive and thrive in open ended, unfilled time?

Let me share with you some of the things that come out of a place of boredom in our home:

  • Old toys rediscovered– that crayon maker that has been sitting on the shelf for months, the play dough that sits unplayed with on the shelf, the nerf guns in the corner, the legos shoved in a box under the sofa, the American Girl dolls who have been so lonely during the school year, the whittling knife and wood under the bed, the silly putty, the slime, the wooden blocks, the scooters, the bikes, etc.
  • New skills are discovered– a love for cooking, a new musical instrument, painting, drawing, woodworking, fort building, modeling clay, jewelry making, house cleaning (for real.. I have one that loves to clean)
  • Honing the skills of observation– I have a child that has discovered that she loves to write observation journals. She has books she has made about the seasons, the trees in our yard, animals, people, family. All she needed was time and access to paper and pencils.
  • Digital music composition. My oldest saved his money and bought an iPad. he uses a digital keyboard and the Garage Band app on the iPad to compose.
  • Make Believe– oh the games these kids come up with! I have had prairie girls run through my house on the hunt for bears or preparing for the next blizzard. I have had ninjas appear in the corners. They challenge each other to complete tasks without being seen. I have pirates searching for buried treasure. I have walked in on chefs in the Master Chef kitchen being critiqued by Gordon Ramsey. My kids have always been gifted at coming up with games wherever they are.
  • Hide and Seek
  • Board games come out that haven’t been played in months
  • Drawing
  • Playing in the sprinkler
  • Homemade Obstacle Courses/ American Ninja Warrior Training
  • A child finds out they actually enjoy reading and fall in love with some amazing books and characters. My oldest daughter has been grieving over finishing the book, The Wizard of Oz. She is reading it again just so she can spend time with her favorite characters.
  • New business ventures are created. One child of mine has developed her own babysitter’s club. She intends to host a mother’s morning out at our home a couple of times this summer.
  • Risks are taken– learning to skateboard and creating ramps and obstacles to conquer.
  • Ping pong is played.
  • Photo Albums are looked through while memories are shared.

My kids do have screen time, but they do not have free, all day access. They have periods of time when they are responsible for how they fill their time. Does it get loud and energetic sometimes?…yes! Do I have to put an end to the play because the energy level is so high and I see disaster coming?… yes… absolutely. We have a large playroom in our basement. We have a large yard with plenty of room to explore and shade in sunny days. Even still… they like to be in the living room upstairs or in the kitchen or in my bedroom… so sometimes I have to redirect the play.

My encouragement to you this summer is to not try to bust the boredom. Do not jump to fill the time. Let your kids sit with the tension for a little while. Feel the freedom of not entertaining your child 24/7. Let them go and see what comes of it.

Have you experienced this freedom? What are some things that came out of boredom in your home? Comment below and share your story?