When I was little, I used to have a fear of needles. Not unusual. Nobody likes them and most kids will panic a little when they are told that an injection is in the offing. But I would get hysterical – tears, shaking, wailing, bargaining and pleading until the moment of terror arrived. Unfortunately, growing up, I needed regular blood tests and my poor parents would try and manage things (ie me!) as much as possible to minimise my suffering… but it was never pleasant – for any of us.
One day, my dad, clearly at the end of his tether, picked me up from school and drove me straight to the hospital for a test. No warning at all. I know he thought he was doing the right thing but I still remember clearly the sense of shock and of utter betrayal.
From the outside, my parents’ plan made complete sense. Rather than put me (and them) through 24 hours of hell by breaking the news to me the night before, they decided to minimise my mental agony by not giving me time to suffer.
But for all of that, their plan backfired.
Because you see, that time and anticipation was not just an opportunity to work myself up into a right old lather – as odd as it may sound, I needed that time if I was going to feel safe in the world.
We know that bad things happen. Regardless – if we are not going to be walking around in a state of constant heightened anxiety, we need to know that those same bad things don’t tend to happen out of the blue. And they don’t. We generally have some warning. The loss of a loved one is often preceded by watching them decline over time or being subject to an illness. Redundancy is presaged by the business doing badly or we can tell if the boss doesn’t like us and is about to fire us. Even with this current pandemic – whilst those in Wuhan were taken completely unawares, the rest of the world could see it was possibly coming (even if we didn’t all appreciate its magnitude).
That understanding that generally we get time to prepare applies equally to dealing with changes up ahead. It can be so tempting to avoid difficult conversations – about moving house or school, or the fact that Fido isn’t going to be with us forever, or that school will look different when the kids go back in September. We don’t want to sit with uncomfortable emotions and face questions that we don’t have the answers too. We don’t want those conversations to go on too long or to have to deal with them on a daily basis. Wouldn’t it be easier to just sweep it all under the carpet and only deal with it when we absolutely have to?
Obviously there’s a judgment call to be made. There was no point my dad telling me about a blood test a month in advance – but I did need a couple of days. Kids (like us) need time to prepare. They need to get their heads round what a situation might look like. They need to be able to ask questions. They need to be able to express their fears and concerns.
You don’t need to have all the answers. Nor do you have to pretend that everything will be completely fine. But you do need to have an honest and open conversation about changes ahead. Recognise the discomfort (“It’s going to be a bit odd having to sit in your bubble seat on the bus isn’t it?”) ask questions about how they feel (“what do you think it will be like when your year is split up- will that make a difference to you?”) and most importantly, keep having the conversations.
Above all – you don’t want any subject to be off the agenda… don’t let life’s difficulties be taboo: when their world is turning upside down and they don’t know how to make sense of it all – let your home be the place where you figure it out together.
And of course, this month, we’ve been sharing lots of tips on how to deal with lots of the upcoming changes including 3 videos on the subject, which you can find on our YouTube channel and of course do follow us on Facebook for plenty more…