Coping with an Uncertain Future
To help our children with their concerns or anxieties, we must first look at our own challenges.
Kids can only cope as well as the adults around them. We as adults must strive to find balance. Counter the time you allow yourself to contemplate this uncertainty with intentional time for gratitude and having fun with those in quarantine with you. Be thoughtful with your own coping mechanisms so you can help your kids do the same.
Uncertainty is disconcerting.
No one has dependable information on how our world will change in six months or a year from now. In its absence, we make up stories to fill in the blanks. So often the stories we make up turn out to be worse than the eventual reality. Whether better or worse, the future will differ more than any of us can imagine.
We expect to keep our children safe. Clearly, what’s happening is bigger than all of us, so we can’t control it in a way that really allows us to dowhat we’re used to. Health, financial security, and our way of life are all up in the air right now. How we will keep our families safe is in question for many right now.
Your activities for this week focus on 3 specific steps in coping with an uncertain future.
- How we adapt and how we have already learned to adapt as individuals
- How various people have helped us adapt
- How helping others results in empowerment
Before working on these steps with your child, recognize:
There may be challenges beyond or different than you imagine.
Some of what you imagine may not come to pass.
Humans have always survived due to our ability to adapt. We are:
Humans can’t survive in isolation, so we’re working together differently:
- Warehouse workers continue to move food
- People are sewing masks at home
- Industries are adapting equipment to make PPE
- Our military is converting buildings into hospitals
You can't make needed adaptation until you identify your needs. Ask yourself:
Am I watching more news than is healthy? Could I get information from a few select information sources once or twice a day instead?
Am I making wellness as a priority?
- Shopping online instead of going to stores
- Choosing healthy foods
- Finding ways to have fun
- Connecting with people who are uplifting to me
- Practicing gratitude daily
Activities for Growth
Activity #1: Trust
This activity focuses on individual coping skills. Each person will need one sheet of paper.
“At a time when it seems like everything is changing, we tend to lose track of the things that we can still trust. The things that bring some level of comfort because we know we can depend on these things.
“Draw a line down the center of your paper.
- On the left: Things that are changing.
- On the right: elements of this change that might still remain.”
|School is online||My teacher still cares about me|
|I can’t be with my Grandma||She still lets me know she loves me|
|I can’t be with my friends||We can still connect online|
Concluding Your Conversation: The parts that remain true (right column) don’t make up for the losses and changes (column 2), but it may be helpful to hold on to those we realize are helpful in the short run. Remember, this will not last forever. It will change our lives, but it won’t last forever.
Activity #2: How We Adapt as Individuals
Create three columns on a sheet of paper.
“Let’s think of the longest list we can of things you didn’t know how to do when you were younger, and you have learned how to do them.”
Ideas for Youngers
- When you were really little and I rolled a ball to you but then it bounced away, you would cry. Then you learned that if the ball didn’t stop at your feet, you could use your feet to go get the ball.
- When you played outside and the weather went from chilly to warm, you learned that you could adapt by taking off your coat.
- When you from training wheel on your bike to two wheels, you learned how to balance.
- In kindergarten, you learned that your teacher had different rules than we have at home. You knew to share both places, but at school, you learned how to line up and be patient in a way you didn’t have to be here.
- You went from picture books to books with words because you learned how to read.
Ideas for Olders
- On the first day of middle school, you learned where your locker was, how to get to classes and what to bring to each class.
- When I’m not able to be home, you learned how to entertain yourself, stay safe, and finish any chores.
“What skill did you learn to master each of these changes? What kind of skill did you use or develop to cope?”
“Who are the people who helped you with this?”
Concluding your conversation. Who is the hero inside of you (or the superpower you have) that helps you adapt? Are there things on our list that we could share with others to help them understand this concept of adaptability?
Activity #3: How to Get There From Here
This activity integrates individuals and people who help. Each person will need 3 pieces of paper.
“On your first piece of paper, draw everything you want to put into your picture about how things are right now. Find ways to represent everything that is important, or write in words if you can’t think of a way to draw it.“
“On your second piece of paper, draw what it will be like when the pandemic has been over long enough that we’ve been able to find the new ways of living such that we have adjusted and have found many things we’re grateful for… the picture of the eventual ‘OK. This is really OK. It was hard getting here, but I’m OK now.’”
“On your third piece of paper, draw people in your life who are helping you move forward. Who are they? How are they helping?”
Still on your third piece of paper… “There are ways that people in the community (or for younger kids, maybe people in your school) who are already doing things that will help in the coming weeks and months. Who are they and what are they doing? Add them to your drawing.”
Concluding Your Conversation: In looking at your 3 drawings, what’s one thing you can do to influence how your life moves toward that better place in the future?
You might want to draw many pictures. This could become a book that you bind in the future when you’ve drawn many many little steps that got you through. You will also be able to draw the real picture of “This is OK. Finally, this is OK.”
Activity #4: We Feel Better When We Can Help
Nobody wants to feel helpless! And one of the best ways to feel better is to be helping others. It helps us stop feeling sorry for ourselves, and it is one way we can have a little sense of control.
“Let’s make a list of all the people who are less fortunate than we are right now.”
Parents, you can help by suggesting what they don’t think of, like homeless kids, homeless anybody, older people afraid to go shopping, doctors and nurses who need masks and gloves. Make the list as long as you can.
Then go back and look at each one. “If someone could do something that would help these people, it might be…..If there were one thing that kids could do that might help it could be….”
Concluding the conversation. See if there is anything at all you can do to help those less fortunate that you.
Taking it further for olders
- Can you get a group of your classmates to come together to do something for one of these groups?
- Are there letters you could write that would help someone feel better?
Prompts for Meaningful Discussion
The following three prompts can be spread out over the week. Plan for at least 15 minutes to have these conversations.
Consider the following model:
- Have one person read the prompt.
- Let each person respond to the prompt, speaking uninterrupted as long as needed. (Younger children may need encouragement and questions to keep sharing.)
- Remind each person to respond to the question, not what anyone else has said.
- After everyone has spoken, talk about what you learned from each other and about each other. What did you have in common?
- Make a plan as a family to keep practicing the things you’ve each learned through your family discussion.
Prompt #1: Learning New Things
“Think of a time when you were going to learn something or do something new and you really didn’t know how it was going to turn out. You maybe didn’t even know how to start Talk about the scariest part of trying something new.
- When we’re learning how to get through something new sometimes it is helpful to have adults or role models who show us how to do it, or show us how to do something similar. What are some examples of that in your life? Who are the adults in your world who might have ideas on how to get through something new?
- Starting something new takes courage.
Let each person share. As a family, talk about how we find the courage to start something new.
Concluding Your Conversation: Although there are a lot of things that might be different than we thought in the future, we’ve already seen that people have been very creative in coming up with solutions to the challenges we face right now.
- Grocery stores figured out how to do curb-side pick-up.
- People have figured out how to leave something on the porch for someone and the people picking it up know to spray it with disinfectant.
- Teachers are teaching students online.
We never thought that everybody would be online for school! Today, think of ways that our coping strategies now might become a little bit more of our new normal. Even though we’ll be back in our classrooms some day, teachers might use online programs to give us some parts of our reading ahead of time, or send us videos that get us ready to learn a new concept.
Prompt #2: How People Invent Things
“There is someone who is very famous who invented something we use every day, and he failed 1000 times before the first one worked. Edison knew he was onto something, but he created 1000 lightbulbs that didn’t work before he came up with one that did. There were over 20 other inventors working on lightbulbs at the same time.
Why do you think Edison might have been successful?
- He didn’t give up
- He didn’t see the first 1000 lightbulbs as failures, but as steps toward the solution. He learned just a little bit more from each one — something that might work.
Let each person share. As a family, discuss the personal attributes Edison had that made the difference?
- Believing in himself (not letting others discourage him)
- Trust in his process
Concluding the conversation. We don’t know what we’ll need when this is all over, but some things will be different. What we have to remember is that there are many great minds that will help create the best of our new normal. You also need to realize that you have the ability to contribute to some of how your new normal will be. We are not just victims to this, we have an opportunity to have a hand in creating this new world.
Prompt 3: Anything Is Possible
“Margaret Drabble said, “When nothing is sure, anything is possible.” Although that is not entirely true by any means, there are some ways that it applies to our current situation. How might we apply that quote to our future?”
Let each person share. As a family, discuss what will determine whether people are kinder to one another or less kind in the future. After we’re through this, what will determine what kind of a friend you will be to others, and what kind of a friend they will be to you?
Concluding the conversation. This experience will change us. It will change our community. But we get to choose the kind of people we will be. Let’s choose to live with more empathy and appreciation for others. Let’s learn to be thankful for things every single day. And let’s appreciate that we can all get through anything together, even when we don’t know what the outcome will be.
Affirmations can help us focus most of our thoughts on positive things. Try these and then make some with your children!
- “Even though I don’t know how we’ll cope and adjust, I realize we will cope and adjust.”
- “I have people around me who want to help me move forward.”
- “Even when things feel uncertain, I can still choose to be kind.”
- “No matter how difficult today might seem, I can always find something for which to be thankful.”
Use the following mindfulness recording to help you and your child relax throughout the week. Use them as many times throughout the week as needed and remind each other of the concepts you’re learning.
Relaxing in Nature
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