This was originally posted by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

Confusion. Anxiety. Frustration. Fear. Did any of these words trigger something in you about the current state of the world and our communities right now? I’m sure they did and definitely triggered some responses in me as well. I’ve felt all of these feelings many times over the last few months…and then some. It’s incredibly difficult to manage as a functioning adult in addition to all of our normal responsibilities. Now let’s think about our little ones…how are they feeling and handling all this?

It can often seem like nothing fazes our kids…like the play and pretend of their own little worlds is all that they need. But, I’ve noticed especially with my kids that they feel and notice way more than I assume. They understand much more than we give them credit for. And for the most part…they don’t have the coping mechanisms and mental development to know how to handle and manage all of these feelings yet.

As we get ready for what promises to be a unique and challenging school year I would like to encourage you to focus on something that we are going to be emphasizing a lot with our children: feeling your feelings. It is ok to feel sad. It is ok to feel frustrated and angry. It is the most human of experiences to feel worried or be afraid. I’m quite sure that feeling confused is nearly unanimous right now. The more that we can acknowledge and encourage our children to feel their feelings, to not be ashamed of them and to learn how they react to those feelings, the more understood and empowered they will feel.

We can do this by sharing our own feelings with our children. We don’t need to put unnecessary burden on them, but letting kids know (in an age-appropriate manner) that we have feelings and that we don’t have all the answers helps them feel better about not knowing what to do with their own. Talk with them about what you do when you feel big feelings and help them understand that there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to express these feelings. Help them find safe ways to still connect with friends and family members that they aren’t able to see and play with at the moment.

During this time of extreme stress and uncertainty, worry over academics and lost time…I encourage and implore you to really focus on your child’s social and emotional well-being. When a child feels safe, heard and loved…it makes it a whole lot easier to focus, pay attention, and learn as well.

This is fatherhood…