30 Apr Message from the Head of School April 16
Somewhere in the blur of the past two weeks, my Google Drive staged a coup and my two largest Google folders – “TCS” and “KK Talks” – disappeared and could not be retrieved. What happened next was not pretty. I hadn’t realized, until that point, how much frustration and sadness and anxiety had built up in my heart and soul. This episode brought to the surface – and subsequently spilled out all over my family – those emotions that I was carrying just below the surface since this time of COVID began. I thought I was just angry at Google, but I realized I was actually angry at God. Confusion always makes me angry, so does wasted opportunity, wasted time, uncertainty, being out of control . . . you see where this is going. Anger is my go-to emotion, and God knows that. He met me where I was, and He reminded me of some words that were hidden in my heart about his faithfulness and his sovereignty.
Our behaviors – particularly our great, big, scary, crazy behaviors – are information. Information about how we’re doing, how healthy we are, how well we’re taking care of ourselves, how in step we are with God. And the same is true with our children. Their great, big, scary, crazy meltdowns are information. That is not to say that we need to tiptoe around and allow them to be disrespectful to adults, mean to siblings, or destructive. That is never ok. But it does mean that we might need to spend some time – once they are calm – to help them figure out what’s going on inside.
When children experience a change in their routines, they may feel confused or off-balance for a while before it shows up in their behavior. Sometimes children lack the words they need to share their feelings constructively. They may “tell” you through their behavior. In talking with many of you, it seems that the consistent responses regarding many of our children are:
- Melting down over seemingly trivial things
- Not tolerating being wrong, making mistakes
- Being moody, withdrawn, or unusually irritable
If you find that your children are displaying some of these behaviors, it’s not time to panic. I would offer these ideas:
- When your child is in a serious twist about something, don’t spend time trying to talk them into anything, to teach them some moral lesson. Their brains are off-line when they are in a melt-down. Wait until it subsides to talk with them. Use sound bites like “I’ll be ready to talk with you once you’ve finished being upset.” Say it kindly, maybe squatting down closer to their level if they’re on the floor. But then you need to politely walk away and busy yourself in another room until they are ready to talk. No drama from you, no shame, just a kind but firm boundary.
- Don’t negotiate with your child about your expectations unless your expectations are negotiable. Part of what we’re seeing in children is the fruit of our prolonged isolation with them. There are necessarily going to be times when we give in to our kids, when we have “had it” and throw up our arms in surrender, letting them do whatever they want (within reason). We just have to remember that if a strategy is “working” for them, they are going to try it more often. Children describe, explain, cajole; parents inform. If it’s a non-negotiable, like math or ELA, bedtime or dental hygiene, or whatever it is in your house, then do your best to stand firm.
- If you find yourself having to maneuver around your child’s strong emotions a number of times in a day, you probably need to add some sofa time. Sofa time is simply you and your children, one at a time, sitting on the sofa (or outside or wherever) having some uninterrupted time together. In sofa time, you have the conversations your child wants to have, play the board game your child wants to play, read the book your child wants to read. In these 20 minutes or so, your child sets the agenda. Again, you don’t tolerate misbehavior, rudeness, etc. during this time, but otherwise the child directs the time. If you are able to do this with each child on most days, I think you will see fewer melt-downs and more positive responses. Time out doesn’t work unless time in is really great. Sofa time is time in.
I offer these suggestions only if they help, of course. If you have a particular situation with one or more of your children that you wish to discuss, I would be happy to do that with you. I am working to make available some zoom coffee times in the evenings so that more can attend, and we’re focusing on one or two grade groups of parents at a time. This gives us an opportunity to talk together candidly, and I guarantee that you will find you are not alone in your struggles.
Please remember that what you’re doing at home is so much more than holding down the fort. You are ministering to your children in ways that would not be possible if we were in the school building. And while none of us would necessarily choose this situation, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If that makes you feel anxious, like you “don’t want to screw this up,” please let me assure you that you already have, so have I, so has every parent in the world. The goal is to be in step with the Lord, letting Him minister to you as you minister to your children. Enjoying time with Him and in His word to fill you with right thinking, immense gratitude, and healthy perspective. There is no other way to experience these except to be in right relationship with the Lord.
Praying for right relationship with the Lord for all of us,
p.s. In case you’re wondering, I have been able to rebuild those folders by finding the pieces that made up the originals, sort of. All will be well.