My three-year-old daughter was explaining to me what the “virus says” about going out on walks, to the playground and to visit friends. She was very serious and using her hands to emphasize each word of what the “virus was saying”. “The virus says we can’t go to the playground but we can go on a bike ride.” she explained to me. “But I can’t go see my friends right now but I can call them.” she continued. 

As she was walking me through what she thinks we can and can’t do because of the virus, I began to understand how she’s processing everything that’s happening right now. She’s listening to everything my husband and I say and she’s noticing things that are different about people walking by and how she isn’t going to school. I could see her concern, anxiety and sadness as she tried to make sense of it all. In that moment it became very clear to me how she’s being affected by the current circumstances and how she’s doing her best to understand and accept them.

The past couple weeks have been a challenge for so many parents. Parents are struggling to figure out how to shift work around or reduce hours in order to accommodate meetings, child care and homeschooling schedules. For some families, one parent has to stop work completely in order to care for children creating financial stress.  In addition to the work challenge, most parents including myself, weren’t prepared for homeschooling. Navigating new systems from school, preparing school projects and keeping children occupied with something other than TV is work. This is a lot of change for parents to adjust to. 

That day, as my daughter was explaining to me her perception of “the virus”, I realized how much I’d been focusing on my own work and domestic housekeeping challenges. I hadn’t put myself in her shoes. 

Since that conversation I’ve been experiencing much more compassion for what she’s going through. I’m listening more intently to her thoughts and feelings then I had been the previous weeks. I’ve been careful with how I explain the current state of the world but now I’m working harder to convey this in a way that she seems to understand. I keep emphasizing, as well, that this is temporary and that her friends are experiencing the same thing that she is. 

This seems like such a subtle shift in perception but the result for me has been having more patience. I feel calmer and more accepting of what we’re going through as a family and I know it makes her feel more comfortable as well. We’ve been having regular conversations about what she sees and she asks questions that I’m happy to answer. 

Yes, this is a challenging time and everyone, kids included, are doing their best to figure it out. Having compassion and understanding for the littlest people in our lives is an opportunity for personal growth. My daughter is one of my greatest teachers.