Ask your child to draw a picture and tell the story of what they were planning to do this spring or summer. Their picture might include scoring the winning run, performing in a concert, being with friends or trying new activities at camp. They will probably describe with excitement those moments of connection, success, fun, and possibility.
Now ask them to draw a picture and tell a story about what they imagine this summer will be like. You may likely hear stories of sadness, boredom, or fear. This is the struggle we’re all facing as we navigate our new reality – social isolation, and cancelation of sports, events, and summer camps.
We’re all creating pictures in our minds, every day, about how we want the world to be and how we want to be in it. These pictures aren’t random, they’re tied to our basic human instructions to be Loving (connected, kind, generous), Powerful (worthy, capable, strong), Playful (humorous, lighthearted, adventurous), and Free (autonomous, active, making choices). When our reality matches these pictures, we feel great, however pain and confusion emerge when they are significantly different.
Most of us are struggling now because we are lacking good pictures and stories of us as loving, powerful, playful, and free in this scenario. We must now create new pictures and tell ourselves different stories, that allow us to follow our own instructions in our current reality.
You might start by asking your child to draw some happy, positive pictures of what this summer might look like. They may need help creating these new pictures (and you might too!). Looking for examples of people who are coping and thriving can be a good start. Finding ways to help others is a great way of connecting and being generous. Explore big and small ways to contribute to your neighbors, community, or local charities.
Learning a new skill or adopting a hobby provides opportunities to be capable and strong. Creating new traditions or weekly events can encourage a sense of fun and inject excitement into your routine.
Honor the instruction to be autonomous and make our own choices by preserving alone time and special activities for each household member.
These new pictures need stories to put them into context. Will your story be about loss, disappointment, and hopelessness or about gifts, opportunity, and your ability to weather change and handle difficult circumstances? Examine your old pictures for what was most important to you, what kind of a person you got to be in each of them – independent, part of something important, able to make an impact and do hard things, silly and the center of fun – then ask, “What would that person be doing, thinking, saying to themselves right now?”
Envisioning our best selves in this situation does not mean ignoring the very real struggles of this time. By creating new pictures and stories, we can begin to accept the challenges and find the positive in our new reality.