ASK EMORY: First aid for a family’s hard times

DEAR EMORY,

Our family is going through a rough time right now.  We will soon be moving out of state, and my kids are distraught about leaving their friends and the home they have lived in their whole lives.

I’m not happy about leaving either.   I’m not looking forward to starting over in a new place.  Without going into details, suffice it to say this was not my choice.

I’m sad and irritable; and my kids are acting out and being terrible to me and to each other.  What can we do?  Do you have any ideas for us?

—Grouchy on Grant

DEAR GROUCHY,

Hard times are hard on everyone.  Something like a big move is even harder when it’s not what you wanted, not what you planned, and not something you look forward to.

Your sadness and disappointment may be greater because you also feel responsible for your children.  Perhaps this is what is making it so hard for you to be kind and patient with your children right now.  Your children are likely worried about you, as well; and their distress makes it harder for them to be cooperative and responsible.

I’m guessing that you and your children need most right now is a solid dose of “this isn’t what we want, but we’ll get through this.”  We don’t want to leave our friends and start all over making new friends—but we’ll get through it.  We like where we live now and we don’t know if we’ll like our new house—but we’ll get through it.

Perhaps this is also a good time to build a first aid kit for family feelings, a resource for everyone to dip into when they are feeling so sad.

What goes into a first aid kit like this?  It depends upon what is most helpful to each of you.  Maybe it is a CD of bouncy, cheerful music, and perhaps there are some balloons to blow up and bop around.  How about a cozy shawl or blanket, a favorite book or photo album, or even some encouraging poems or books to read?  A blank “Book of Complaints” can be good, where anyone can write down the things they are unhappy about.  And another blank book for “Gratitude” will provide a nice balance, reminding everyone that there are good things to appreciate, even during hard times.

Your family’s first aid kit can be a tangible reminder that you are all, individually and together, capable of weathering difficult experiences.  Together, you all have what it takes to get through this and be okay.

About the Author

Emory Luce Baldwin
Emory Luce Baldwin is the co-author of "Parenting With Courage and Uncommon Sense." In addition to being a Takoma Park mom for more than 25 years, Emory is also a family therapist in private practice and a parent educator with the Parent Encouragement Program (PEP). Well over a thousand parents have learned from her how to have healthier, happier, and better functioning families — while enjoying her good humored yet practical approach to the ups and downs of family life. Emory’s family therapy offices are located in Takoma Park and at the Parent Encouragement Program in Kensington. You can read more about her at her website: www.emorylucebaldwin.com