As many of you know, my family is facing a time of uncertainty in a number of ways. First of all, my son Mujaahid is in a village that is under attack by rebel forces in Yemen. Secondly, we are facing a possible transition and move, and have yet to find a place to transition or move to. We are looking for community, and space to grow and expand our homesteading dreams, and a place where we can teach and share what we know with others. We are looking, and praying, for that place now. There are other things going on as well, mash’Allaah, that make life just a little edgy, and we place our trust in Allaah, knowing that there is good in every situation for the Muslims, and that He is the best of planners. This is not the first trial we have faced, and it most likely will not be the last, so we have patience and do our best to deal with the bumps in the road as best we can. What can we do, as parents, to help our children deal with those bumps as well? What creative and proactive approach can we take to help them understand and work through them all? Here are some of my ideas and methods; insh’Allaah some of them will work for you.
1. Children are smart. They are intuitive and bright and observant, and even though you think you are keeping things from them, you most likely are not. They can tell when something is up, and look to you to see how to deal with whatever it is. Don’t be afraid of this; rather, look to the best way to approach an issue with them and simply do it. Explain to them what is happening in a way that is appropriate to their ages and different levels of understanding. Don’t frighten them, just enlighten them. They don’t need all the details, but just the fact that you are talking to them about something makes it less worrisome for them. You are showing them that you trust them and view them as an integral part of the family unit.
2. Ask for their ideas and advice. Okay, to be honest, you won’t be able to use much of what they say (for example, that if you can’t afford groceries you could eat grass) but it makes them feel better to be able to contribute in some way. And they do actually come up with some really great ideas sometimes! Children can often look at things in a way that we do not, and something they say may even get you thinking in a new direction towards a solution you would otherwise not come up with. I also ask for their input and ideas for things that we can do together- once weekly expeditions or projects or whatever. They almost always come up with things that I would not have thought of!
3. Create a place of security and love. Not a physical place, but a heart-place. Children should always feel secure in your love for them, and their place in your life. Then when things go topsy turvy all around, they don’t feel the reverberations quite as much. I remember when we were in Damaaj and the Houthis were attacking, I went to great lengths to keep a sense of normalcy in their lives as much as possible while also making sure that we spent extra time together and said the things that needed to be said often. You know those things, things like a simple “I love you.”
4. Encourage them to express themselves in beneficial ways. As a little kid who bottled an awful lot up inside of myself, I am speaking from experience here. This is where creativity comes in. I encourage my children to keep journals, and they go through periods where they write in them a lot, and others where they are hardly opened. But they are there for them when they feel the need to work something out. I have noticed that some of them do a lot of drawing in their journals, while others write more. I enjoy using prompts with them, but I also remind them just to write in them at random. Make sure you have art supplies on hand: colored paper, yarn, glue, glitter, colors, paints, colored pencils, markers, beads, clay- look for sales and stock up, and have at least some supplies available for them to use as desired or needed.
5. Set aside a time that is just for them. For us, this is traditionally after naptime. Now this is not to say that we don’t spend a lot of time together outside of this period, because we do. We homeschool, and I am almost always at home, so we are together most of the time. But this time is just time for us to sit and connect. We like to drink tea, maybe have a treat, and talk over things that are happening, things we have read or seen, things we would like to do. I almost always crochet or do something else with my hands at the same time, and the girls often follow suit. Right now they are making scarves, fingerless gloves, and hats to sell, and I am making a bag for my sister. It’s amazing how fast projects move along when we work on them every day. If we miss the after naptime slot for whatever reason, we try for an hour or so before bed. Which brings us to the last point.
6. Take time at bedtime. My daddy used to do this with me. I would get into bed, and my mother would turn off the light, and I would lay quietly until my dad would come peek in the door. He would spend a few minutes just talking to me, usually about what we would do the next day. I remember looking forward to seeing his silhouette against the hall light, and feeling better after he closed the door. When Mujaahid was small I took this a step farther. Every night I would tuck him into his bed and we would go over what we did that day, what he enjoyed most about the day, and what he would like to do the next day. We would cuddle up and remember and dream, and we would both feel better afterward. I have done it with all of the children since, as much as possible. In fact, we just started doing this again after a lapse, and it has made all of us feel better and bedtime a happy time all the way around.
How about you? How do you help your children deal with change and chaos in their little worlds? Comment below, and let us know!