Remember that in times of uncertainty and chaos, it is being with the people we love that makes us all feel safer.
Johannesburg, South Africa (13 July 2021) – A post is being shared across South Africa’s social media about creating a calm and secure space for your child during chaos.
The post relates both to the current riots, looting and the last 500 days of COVID trauma.
Naomi Holdt is an Educational Psychologist, Speaker and author with over two decades of experience in working with children and families.
“I am passionate about helping parents develop deep and meaningful relationships with their children through positive and gentle parenting.
Behind the scenes of speaking engagements, therapy sessions and creating material, I am just a REAL mom who experiences the joys and challenges of parenting. I know what it’s like to get it wrong sometimes, despite the best of intentions. So much of the time we are all “winging it”, but there are tools I’d like to share that can make the parenting journey an awesome and achievable one.
I aim to keep parenting guidance real, supportive and relatable. We’re all in this together, and when we focus on connection and relationship with our kids, families and individuals can thrive.”
We have received the post numerous times, so we have decided to repost it, but if you want to follow Naomi, then click here.
Creating A Calm And Secure Space For Your Child During Chaos!
Our Land is Burning. We have had sixteen months of COVID turmoil, and now we are being rocked by violence right on our doorsteps… What do we tell our children, and how do we ensure that they feel safe?
The most important aspect, ALWAYS, is how WE as parents are within ourselves. Remember that your children don’t just pick up on what you say to them. We communicate our own stress as parents all the time through everything we do- through all our verbal and non-verbal communication. So most importantly, as concerned as you may be right now, try and find ways to keep your own stress in check. Whatever that may be. Hug your dog, take ten deep breaths every five minutes, do some yoga, talk to a level-headed friend…(without your children in earshot). Do what you need to do to be able to show up for your children in the emotional space that they may be in right now.
It’s so easy to get swept away by all the panic on social media and the various messages coming through on WhatsApp… While it’s important to stay informed, also keep in mind that information overload (especially when fake media has crept in) is a sure way for panic to spread quickly. Make sure that the information you are reading and sending along is accurate and verified.
Despite the chaos out there at the moment, and it’s pretty big in my hometown, remember the following when it comes to talking to your kids about why today is a different day- why you may not be at work (this time it’s not lockdown-related), why you aren’t going to the shops and why plans may have changed. At all costs, avoid putting further fear into them:
Use a neutral tone of voice. Communicate factually and age-appropriately. You might say something along these lines:
“Sometimes people do bad things, and we don’t always understand why. At the moment, some people are doing some pretty bad things. Roads are being blocked, things are being stolen from shops, and some fires are being started. The safest place for us to be today is at home.
The police are doing their very best to keep us safe.
We are helping them by staying at home, and here’s what we are going to do at home today….” (Then tell them your ‘at home’ plans.)
Make time to talk and allow your kids to talk. Let their questions be the guide on how much information you share. Watch for clues that your kids may need to talk more or may have questions to ask. Such a sign may be them hanging around you more than usual. Answer questions as honestly and age-appropriately as you can. Remember, children don’t need the details; they just need to feel the safety of having a parent who is available to ask and a parent who is mindfully present when they are asking- that’s where their sense of safety and security comes from.
Just accept that today is not going to be like the day you planned. You are not likely to get all the work done you had scheduled, and your to-do list is probably not going to get ticked off. That’s okay. Your children need YOU today; they need your presence. So in between emails and other things you are trying to do, make time to BE with them, to play, whether it’s a card game or reading, or baking, or watching a movie with them- just BE with them. Be available.
Remember that in times of uncertainty, it is being with the people we love that makes us all feel safer.
If you have teens, have open conversations with them, encourage debate, most importantly, HEAR their perspectives and frustrations and let them speak without interrupting.
We all feel more empowered when we can help. So get your kids to help. Let me give you an example. We received a notification to prepare in case we are cut off of water and electricity. My son saw me filling up water bottles and immediately went to find some more to fill up too. This morning they baked the family some pecan muffins and cleaned up the kitchen. Kids are more incredible than we give them credit for. Give your children age-appropriate responsibility in times of chaos- watch how empowered they feel.
VERY IMPORTANT: Be aware of what you watch and listen to around your children. If you are glued to your phone with a panic-struck look on your face, they will sense your fear and be afraid. Do not let your kids watch video clips on social media or the news. Let the factual information come from you in a safe, age-appropriate manner.
Remember that your child’s brain is still developing. Many children may have the cognitive capacity to understand events, but they do not yet have the emotional capacity to process these. This can increase stress and anxiety significantly and contribute to a sense of overwhelmingness. Be patient and understanding and ready to embrace the overwhelm.
Allow space for big emotions… and for BIG emotional meltdowns. Talk about emotions often. Your kids need to know that you can handle their big feelings and that in the safety of the space with you, they can talk about and express anything.
As crazy as the world out there seems now, try to keep as normal a routine as possible. Eat breakfast at breakfast time, teeth brushing is compulsory, playtime, whatever it may be. Obviously, there will be variations today, but remember that there is a sense of normality and safety in routine.
Remember that your role as a parent is NOT to fix; it’s never to fix, and currently fixing is impossible. Your role is just to be there and to understand your child’s emotional space.
Work can wait – play play play. Just BE with them. Today, your kids need YOU – not the perfect parent, just YOU. Show up as you are. Be gentle with yourself, plan to do your family’s favourite activities. It’s okay if things in your home aren’t okay today. Just do what you need to do to make it through the day. If that means a little extra screen time, that’s okay too. Whatever you need to do, make your most important aim connection.
For kids that have been exposed to the news or any images doing the rounds, have a discussion about the helpers. There are so many people in South Africa trying to help at the moment. Policemen and women, community members, our doctors and nurses who continue to help Covid Patients. In the words of Fred Rogers, “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would always say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”
Always look for the helpers. They are always there, doing their very best.
“The great news is that as hard as it may feel to keep your children calm and safe, we don’t need much to do that. Our children only need us, as mindfully present as we can be at this time.
So my fellow parent, in these unsettling times, look after your own emotional health first. Your children just need you in as calm a mental space as possible. Breathe, play and just BE. Let today, most importantly, be a day that they remember not fear but connection.”