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When Mother’s Day Is Challenging For You or Your Children

Mother’s Day is here! If you’ve turned on the TV, gone online, or been outside anytime in the past month, you’ve been anticipating its arrival. The reminders have been everywhere, in ads for thoughtful gifts, special meals, and dedicated experiences to honor Mom. It’s a day for togetherness and familial connection, an intentional time to celebrate how special Mom is. And rightly so! Commemorating Mother’s Day gives children the opportunity to think about how important Mom is to them and to practice expressing appreciation for all the love and care they receive all year round. They can utilize motor skills and apply artistic methods learned over the school year to make a card, create a gift, or help put together a meal just for Mom. Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, grandmothers, and mother figures! For some, Mother’s Day can be tender, wistful, or bittersweet, though. Grief due to loss or estrangement can feel amplified on a day meant to celebrate the bond between mother and child. It is natural to compare your reality to what might have been, even for those who are generally happy with their current family situation. As an adult and a parent, you have likely gathered a number of coping mechanisms and strategies to manage everyday stress triggers for both you and your children, but certain days may require extra consideration. If your child verbalizes sadness or exhibits distress, what do you do? How do you navigate a conversation? Think about how to minimize triggers. While some may find comfort in company, others need quiet time. Give yourself permission to opt out of gatherings that can create additional stress. Make an effort to only be around people who understand and support you and your child. Limit access to social media. Plan an activity that honors what you have been through. Creating a ritual can provide distraction – or an outlet – and reinforce your connection. Visit a favorite park, go out for a bike ride, or take a walk on the beach. Watch a sentimental movie, play a game, or read a book. Bake a special treat, or have an art day. Make the day about being together and supporting each other. In conversation, there is an opportunity to model strength in vulnerability. Sharing your discomfort can open a channel of communication and show your child that it is safe for them to talk to you about confusing feelings because you have them too. Give them your undivided attention, and let them guide the conversation. Encourage them to share thoughts and ask questions. They may not have the vocabulary to express what is happening for them, however. Offer an example of what happens to you, like “When I feel sad, my stomach hurts,” or “When I am upset, my face feels hot.” Ask if the same kind of thing happens for them, or if they feel an emotion differently. Shared history doesn’t necessarily mean similar reactions. Talking openly about your family’s past can build resilience and enforce a sense of belonging. Discussing memories, both good and bad, can help your child make sense of what they are feeling and how they react when met with a challenging event. This could lead to a long talk, but it could also result in just a few moments of significant connection. Manage your expectations. What happens in one day may result in a long-term shift, but it may not. If you feel like you’ve achieved a new level of understanding, set an intention to revisit the conversation in the coming days. As your children grow and the relationship between you changes, you are evolving and developing a toolbox of communication skills, one that can support how you face the next poignant moment. Let them know that it is okay to ask for help, from you or from others, but it is also okay for them to say “I don’t want to talk right now.” There will be other chances in the future. Remember this is AN opportunity, not THE opportunity, to broach a conversation that can be sensitive. There is no “right” way to process emotions, no magic words to serve as a shortcut to peaceful resolution. You are navigating a path together, figuring out how to build resources for resilience that support better health, more success, and greater happiness. It takes time to discover what moving forward looks like for your family. At the end of the day, what is important is that your child understands that you love and support them. Whether your Mother’s Day is spent in celebration with friends and family, a quiet day of rest and reflection, or something in between, we wish you joy, contentment, and precious time with your kids!


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