The sun is shining, but our hearts are so heavy. We are grateful if we made it through so far and terrified if we didn’t. We are in every state of emotion from shock to gratitude. We are still trying to comprehend, to survive, and to recover. We cry, we help, we hope, we pray, and we give. Our worlds have been rocked and, for many, destroyed. We struggle to find our way in a world that now feels very different from the one we knew.
Yet, there are still those little hands that reach for us, those little eyes that look to us, and the little hearts that lean on us for guidance, for understanding, for security, and for peace. For many, there is trauma: a rescue, high water, fear in the eyes of the ones they love most. For others there is uncertainty: parents who have been glued to the TV or to their phones tracking alert after alert assessing whether or not to take shelter, to evacuate, or to stay. They are confused, they are hurting, they are bewildered. They need us now more than ever. What do we do? What can we say? How do we explain? Should we explain? Where do we begin?
First of all, we hold them, and we love them. We wrap our arms around them more than we ever have before. We remind them with our with our physical presence that they are safe and loved.
We listen. We let them process what they have seen and heard. We answer questions. We validate fears. We give them the space to work through the experiences, the images, the sound bites, and the conversations that they have lived through during this unprecedented time. We give them time and space. We let them know that we hear them. We reassure them that their voices matter.
We keep their lives as normal as possible. If we can, we continue with the same routines for this is what brings tremendous comfort and security. We read the same stories and sing the same songs. We protect the familiar as impossible as that might be. It’s all they know, even if it’s the same bedtime lullaby. Familiarity is how they find their way out.
We talk. We talk about what’s happening in a developmentally appropriate way knowing each child and how much he or she can handle. For some, the sheer fact that there is water filling the roads will be enough to incite questions for days. Others will have a need to know much more in order for them to fulfill their healing processes. We fill in the “whys” as much as we can all the while evaluating how we communicate the information.
We increase our compassion and lower our expectations. We expect the meltdowns and we love them through it. We understand that this is all part of the process. We realize this is their way of telling us they are scared, that life feels different, that they don’t understand, and that they need us.
We open our hearts, and if we are in a position to do so, we give. We help a neighbor clean up. We buy toiletries and deliver them. We take dinner to a friend. We collect toys and blankets to donate. We thank police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. We say prayers. We offer hope.
Hug them, hold them, love them. Day by day and step by step, we will move our children through this, and we will do it together.