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Q: My daughter was so excited to be going back to school so she could see her friends again. However, it’s not what she was expecting. She’s not allowed to socialize outside of her class, physical-distancing measures are in place, and all her friends are in other classes or not back in person. I realize that on the scale of things, this is a small problem. But do you have any suggestions? I’m at a loss for how to help her.
A: This is so hard, isn’t it? My daughter started at a new school this year and is finding it all very difficult as well. As parents, we want to find a way to take our child’s pain away, but what can we do when that’s not possible?
Help your daughter remember that it takes time to make new friends. You could help her think back to a time when she was in a similar situation and had to adjust.
You can also ask her teacher if they might be able to facilitate any appropriate introductions in the new class. You also might do some social-skills coaching or role play to help her make new connections.
If it’s possible and desirable, help your daughter stay in touch with her old friends either over video chat or during outdoor, physically distanced visits.
Remind your daughter (and yourself) that COVID-19 won’t last forever. We might be living like this for another year, and that is a long time in a child’s life. But it isn’t forever. Someday we will be back to playdates and sleepovers.
Finally, we need to remind ourselves that even if it were possible to make our child’s life painless, we should not try to do so. The unintended consequence of trying to prevent your child from experiencing any hardship is a child who doesn’t develop resilience. Resilience, the ability to recover after a setback, is what equips us to handle the inevitable challenges in life.
Be prepared to listen and empathize when she tells you how much she misses her friends, or how hard it is to not know anyone, or how it’s no fun to play when kids have to wear masks and can’t go near each other.
But try to resist the temptation to try to get her to see the bright side. Try not to dismiss her feelings by telling her how easy her life is compared with other children. Your empathy can help her process the feelings and move on.
If we hear, “I’m sorry this is so hard” instead of “you shouldn’t be upset,” we can feel our feelings, recover and move on. And most importantly, she knows you understand and she’s not alone.
You can make things easier for your daughter by trying to help her see her old friends and make new ones, and by putting the pandemic in perspective. But you’ll be giving her skills for life if you can teach her that she can handle anything. Empathize and welcome the feelings, knowing that this is what she needs to get to the other side.
Sarah Rosensweet is a parenting coach who lives in Toronto with her husband and three children, ages 12, 15 and 18. Do you have a parenting question? Send your dilemmas to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.