Words from a Catholic Dad: The times, they are a-changin'

From the time they are little, according to all the parenting books, our kids crave routine. If we want them at their best, we need to help them expect what they know, and know what to expect. And then everything changes. Frequently. Here are four ways to help your kids navigate their ever-changing world.

Be the Rock

My son started middle school last fall. New, bigger building. More students. Much earlier start time. He was nervous. Before school started, I said to him: “Tell you what. I promise to get up with you. Every single morning. You and me, without fail.” From 6:30-7:23 a.m., I was a Swiss Army Dad: combination alarm clock, breakfast cook and to-do-list keeper. He still had to do middle school, but I could bring some familiarity to an unfamiliar situation. I didn’t miss a day, because I’d made a promise — a covenant, if you will. It made a huge difference.

Pinpoint the Noise

In his book “The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down,” author Haemin Sunim talks about how his many obligations create stress for him. He writes: “But then I realize it isn’t the outside world that is a whirlwind; it is only my mind. The world has never complained about how busy it is.” We can help our kids recognize that the chaos of changes associated with school, family, friends, church and extracurriculars is largely inside them and, therefore, at least partially within their control. In the dark, anxious moments at bedtime, my wife tells our kids to “give their worries to God.” Slowing down, praying and putting change in perspective can be a big relief.

Talk … and Then Talk Some More

We have a third-grader, and it seems like every day little dramas play out on the playground as these girls shift alliances and friendships change. “Do you want to talk about it?” we ask our daughter a lot. And even on the days when she insists that talking won’t help, she ends up feeling better. Usually it’s because we end up exploring not just what happened, but what might be going on behind it; a little empathy goes a long way. It doesn’t hurt when her parents can add a little adult objectivity to the situation.

Embracing Helps … Both Kinds

When I was growing up, my mom had the Serenity Prayer on a latch hook rug in the TV room. (If you don’t know what a latch hook rug is, you probably ran in fancier circles in high school than I did.) There is a lot we can resist in our lives. Fighting for what we want is a time-honored value. So, acceptance and embracing change might seem like a cop-out, but how many times in our own lives do we simply have to swallow hard and accept our circumstances? Teaching our children that there are simply some cups that can’t be taken from us, and we have to do what’s difficul? Learning to embrace change is its own kind of grace. And nobody ever said that physical embraces weren’t part of the package.

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