Is your child asking a lot of questions about the teachers’ strike? Are you unsure of how to answer them?
The latest news about the teachers’ strike means that there is a lot of unknown about how this school year will end for our children. It’s a confusing and stressful time for ALL of the individuals affected: parents are stressed out over money and childcare, teachers are locked out, and unsure of their next pay-cheque, and our children are left wondering what these so called grown-ups are up to.
Here are a few of the questions our children are asking, and some ideas about how to answer them:
1. What is a strike?
Our kids are hearing the word ‘strike’ a lot and they are wondering what is this thing that the grown-ups are talking about. Depending on your child’s age, it’s important to explain it in a way that he/she can relate to.
Here is an example:
You know how sometimes you and your friend don’t agree on a rule in the game that you’re playing, and both of you feel really strongly that you are right? It’s kind of the same thing – the teachers and the government are having a hard time agreeing on some rules. It will take a bit of time but they will eventually find the rules they both agree on.
2. When will school end?
As parents, we get uncomfortable when asked a question we don’t have the answer to. Answering “I’m not sure” is a perfectly fine place to start the conversation (and it’s honest). But don’t just leave it there. Think about what your child is REALLY asking – what does he/she care about? Is he wondering whether he will see his friends and teachers again? Is he looking forward to summer break and the change in routine? Is he anxious about the teachers fighting with the government and wondering when it will end?
Stay attuned to where your child is at, and keep the conversation going.
Here is an example:
You know, I’m not sure when school will end this year. Either this week, next week or the week after that. It feels kind of funny to not know- doesn’t it? How are you feeling about not knowing when it will happen?
3. Will I see my friends, and teachers again? Will we have our end-of-the-year party? Will I get to give my teacher the gift I made for her?
Children often have a difficult time with transitions, and moving from the routine of school to the non-routine of summer is a BIG transition. They are saying goodbye to friends, teachers, their grade, the routine of school, and so many other things that keep them grounded. Normally, there would be many school events at this time of year, that help them (and us) prepare our emotions for closing this chapter and preparing for a new one.
When you answer these questions (and there may be a lot of them) keep in mind that your child may be feeling a little ungrounded, and what he is really asking is for you to ensure him that things will be ok.
Here is an example:
I know that you were looking forward to having the school party – its nice to celebrate such a great year with your friends, isn’t it? I don’t know if that will happen this year, but why don’t we make sure that we have our own celebration. Maybe we could invite some friends over and have a ‘Goodbye Grade 1- Hello Summer Party’? We could even put some of your school drawings on the wall. What else could be fun to do at this party?
4. Why are the teachers standing at the side of the road? Why are they wearing signs? Why do you honk and wave when you see them?
There are many things about this strike that feel weird and confusing to kids. You might feel invited to get into the nitty gritty of this labour dispute with your child, but before you do: Pause and think about where your child is developmentally – what is he really asking, and what is he able to understand?
Whichever side you happen to take in this fight, remember to speak respectfully about both sides. Here is what NOT to say:
These damn teachers always put the kids in the middle of their greedy fight (remember that your child LOVES his teachers)
The government is corrupt – all it cares about is money! (don’t forget – your child wants to know that things will be ok)
5. Why is mommy/daddy so upset?
This is a stressful time for everyone that is affected:
- A teacher who is worried about his/her paycheque
- A working parent trying to figure out childcare, and extra childcare expenses
- A stay-at-home parent trying to figure out how to entertain the kids for two extra weeks
I don’t know about you, but for me – the hardest part about being a parent is trying to keep my own triggers out of the equation. When we are worried about money or childcare, and we feel like we don’t have control over what will happen to our children, we tend to get stressed-out and short-tempered.
Pay attention to how this strike is making YOU feel – Do you feel:
- Not in control?
- Taken advantage of?
- Weak? / Powerless?
Find your own triggers and you will be much better equipped to help your children through theirs.
Things to remember:
- Listen to what your child is really asking – what is he concerned about?
- Validate his feelings “It doesn’t feel good – not knowing what will happen next, right?
- Help him know that his feelings are okay AND that its okay to have opposing feelings at the same time (excited about summer coming AND sad to say goodbye to friends sooner than expected).
- Help him problem solve when you recognize a problem. For example: if your child is concerned about not seeing their friend, work with him on figuring out what would make him feel better about that (i.e. “maybe mommy will ask his mommy for their phone number so you could have a playdate over the summer break)
- Always speak respectfully about other people in front of him. Especially people that he cares about!
- Imagine with your child the different scenarios: “What would it be like if school started again in a week? What would it be like if school did not start again until next year?”
- Keep the conversation going, and check in regularly with how your child is feeling.
- Figure out what is making YOU most upset about this. Be gentle with yourself, and breathe.