In this roundtable with Andi, Leanne and Darrin, we talk about how we can support our kids during difficult times.
Darrin lives with his three children in Gran Junction, Colorado and he starts by telling a story about his daugther who was born two months early. One night, when she was lying in bed, she stopped breathing and was dying. Darrin luckily found out in time and was able to save her life. He feels like he was given a second chance wih his daughter. His kids are everything to him and the reason why he‘s alive.
Leanne lives in British Columbia, Canada. She‘s a trauma counselor and has a five year old son. Her son was born nine weeks early. «Children to me are teachers», Leanne says.
Andi lives with her family in California, but she originally is from Switzerland and that‘s also where her two sons were born. She worked as an elementary school teacher in Switzerland and is now a german teacher for adults and children. She has always worked with kids and thought that it would be somewhat easy when having her own family, which turned out to be a totally different story though. : )
I have a nine year old daughter and live together with her and my Japanese husband in Zurich. Although I love my daughter to bits, we both need space for ourselves, so not having that was a big challenge for us during the lockdown (spring 2020).
We talk about our daily life and how it changed during the lockdown. Darrin says that he is having a truly happy time with his family. Because of the reduced work load at his car company, he only works in the mornings and spends the afternoons with his kids.
«I really enjoy being a dad, what fun!», Darrin
Leanne‘s life didn‘t change that much, because she and her husband decided one and a half years ago to radically change their life. Her husband spent hours in traffic and they felt like they lost a lot of quality time that they could spend with their son. They sold their city house and moved for five months into a camper van until they found something new, outside of town. Now they both work from home and spend a lot of time together as a family. «It‘s magical, when you can settle into it», but Leanne says that this is also the hard part, to settle into that kind of lifestyle.
Andi in turn says that – because they didn‘t have enough money to send her boys to summer camp during the long summer vacations – she has a lot of experience with having her boys around and work from home. They play by themselves during the hours that she works and then they do something together, like riding the bike or meeting the neighbors. Andi enjoys that the daily stress with appointments and sports was reduced during the lockdown and opened up space for new acitivities together.
«It‘s beautiful, how simple life is really enjoyable right now», Andi
My daughter was really happy to be out of school, because she doesn‘t really like going to school. Japanese schools are really strict, so my husband shares a different opinion on her doing lots of school work at home than me, but we‘re figuring out what‘s best for Mika. She can be really concentrated for hours, when she‘s doing something that is of interest for her and that‘s precisely what I don‘t like about our school system. That the children are forced to learn so many things that they don‘t like and that aren‘t even useful for life. But that‘s another discussion. : )
So what do we do with our kids, when we have to stay at home?
Leanne says, that they use the recycling bin as a toy shop. They create awesome toys out of old pipes or cans or whatever they can find. «The fact, that we have time to use our imagination, it‘s almost like we‘re getting back to the adults being ok with being a kid again».
Darrin makes monthly reviews with his kids, where they talk about twelve topics like adventure or future life. It‘s all about figuring out what the kids want to know, what they want to learn.
«We unlearn to know what we want, because we‘re told what to do from sunrise to sunset», Ronja
Andi talks about the importance of being aware of your own feelings, words, reactions, actions… «The kids usually feel you, the way you feel, they‘re going to feel». Leanne talks about that one time, when her son saw something on the news and he was really terrified, because the woman was talking with such a scared voice. So she says: «Don‘t watch the news, read it, so that you can control the energy that comes from the words».
For me, it‘s really important to focus on my every day where I can choose how and when I act and react.
«Be flexible, it‘s a great opportunity to learn something», Darrin adds. We have to be flexible and in tune with our kids. «It‘s why we‘re on this earth, to connect with others». We can also easily spice up daily things, that are always the same, like dinner for example. Why not have dinner with a theme or have a picnic on the floor?
«It‘s the basic little things, which are beautiful to our kids», Ronja
Andi adds an important aspect about the balance of being there for your kids, as good as possible, but also taking time to recharge, tune it with yourself and listening to your own feelings.
«If we‘re not healthy ourselves, how can we pass on health to our kids», Darrin
And then there‘s the worry (or not worry!) about money. Andi stresses out, how important it is to keep the kids from worrying about stuff like that themselves. Money is the responsibility of the parents and we have to be cautious about how we talk, because we do pass on our money stories to our kids, Andi says. Darrin adds, that hiding things doesn‘t help either – the kids feel that something isn‘t right – but that it‘s super important to be open and honest, and to talk about it, so that they can understand what‘s going on or why their parents have been argueing. Assure your children, that the basics are taken care of.
«If you have a problem, let‘s acknowlege the feeling and then let‘s figure it out», Ronja
We end our talk with giving our own personal advice on what you can do, if you want to start changing something today.
Darrin says that he definitely encourages families to do those monthly reviews with the kids. They always do it on the first day of the month, it takes twenty minutes per kid and it not only gives them something that they can hold you accountable for, but it also gives them the chance to think about things and to speak their mind. You‘ll learn so much about your kids and they‘ll learn to open up their minds. Darrin also likes to read books with his kids and he also takes time to regularly have one on one time with his kids where they just talk with each other.
«I really feel that we‘re going to be held accountable for how we raise our kids», Darrin
«Wherever you feel your headspace is right now, be gentle to yourself», Leanne says. She adds, that if you‘re inspired by someone or something, follow that feeling and also be aware of the fact, that small things make a big change.
Andi‘s advice is to try really hard to be a safety haven for your kids. And even when it‘s hard, let them know, that you try. It‘s about finding the balance between letting the kids feel absolutly safe within the family and being totally honest and open at the same time.
For me, the most important thing is to have a gentle start and end of the day. Intentionally taking time with my daugther in the morning and in the evening was a huge game changer for us.
You can watch our conversation here:
This is where you can find Andi:
This is where you can find Leanne:
Books we talked about: