Don’t dismiss them. It is a great opportunity for talking about complex mixed feelings. Whilst it is natural that they are looking forward to spending time with friends, having more freedom, or just being out of the house it is also likely that, having been away from them, that they are more aware of the challenges - whether with friends or so-called-friends, bullies or toxic culture, school work or sports… the feelings they have about these need space to be seen, felt and processed.
So do what you can to protect your kids. Powerful mixed complex feelings can instead get dismissed, and potentially trapped inside them / turned against them. This is more likely when parents are stressed and under strain, exhausted and focused on the practicalities of more change a coming.
Actual problems outside them - like western culture’s insane focus on the superficial - can be turned into: “there must be something wrong with me,” at the drop of a hat for teens and tweens. It is a time of life when we need to belong and our personal identity can get lost along the way. It is a time for those who feel ‘different’ to potentially attribute their feelings to being ‘depressed’ or ‘anxious’. As if the problem is in them.
The amount of shame experienced by teens is dangerous and a sign of external problems being internalised. The amount our children turn on each other instead of turning outwards in anger is both understandable (because they have little power in society) and needs to be challenged.
Racism, sexism, disability discrimination, homophobia, bullying… are not problems inside our children. They are problems outside them that are often being attributed to the self.
Our children were struggling before the pandemic, and now they need our help more than ever.
Their activated emotional systems are a signal that there are challenges to be resolved. A reason that members of the LGBQT and BAME communities have more ‘mental health problems’? With institutionalised prejudice and racism they have more emotional challenges to solve and all of these are impossible to solve alone.
Healthy emotional responses and solutions get blocked and labelled as disorder, causing more emotional challenges. Coping strategies are labelled as more significant disorder and dual diagnosis. ‘Mental health’ and ‘substance abuse’ - all get located as problems within the individual, protecting our damaging society being exposed for what it is, and preventing community solutions.
So I say to children everywhere, - "It is not your shame. Don’t carry it. Let it go. Stand tall, stand proud, be your phenomenal self and accept the phenomenal children around you for who they are. Have courage, be together, be connected. You are loved.
And the shame you feel - it is not your shame."