Parenting: feeling control in out of control times

Like many parents, one of my most important roles as a mother has always been to help my children feel safe and secure in the world. I took those first few months especially seriously as I tried to be in tune with my babies’ needs. Whether that meant nursing, soothing, swaddling in cozy blankets, or lots of hugs and kisses, I tried to build within them a sense of trust.

I have always believed that routine was essential and made sure our children knew very early on that they could expect every night, well almost every night, to have bath time, book time, song time, hugs and kisses before I said goodnight and left their rooms.

It was my job to help them feel secure when I dropped them off at school. Even though for some of my kids there were many tears during those first few weeks of school or camp, at some point they learned to trust that when I said goodbye in the morning, they knew I would be there a few hours later to pick them up and bring them home.

But somehow all that planning, scheduling, and secure parenting didn’t prepare our family for the most recent change in our lives: our decision to leave our warm, safe, familiar home and city we love, New Orleans, to the Maryland area where my husband grew up.

My husband and I knew in our hearts of course that the decision was the right one for our family, but quickly learned how difficult it was to try and make our kids feel secure when we felt anything but….

We left on July 29th to live with my in-laws temporarily until we found a house in a nearby neighborhood, where my husband’s job was and where our children would go to school. We actually tried to find a home for the three months leading up to the move, but were not successful. We put all our ‘stuff’ in a storage unit that we packed so tightly we knew we wouldn’t have access to it until we moved into a new home.

We were most blessed to be staying with family in a place where our kids could feel some semblance of order, but it has still been hard… our usual routines were hard to keep with the kids now sleeping in the same room and living out if bins and boxes. Still difficult to hear Liat (age 2) tell us daily that ‘I ready to go home’, clearly confused and clueless that the place she called home was no longer ours. Hard for Adi (age 4) to miss her dolls every day and for Elyon (9) and Itai (7) who ask every day if our new house is ready since they want to be able to invite their new friends over to our home. And not to mention hard for my husband and I to not have any relaxed “couple” time.

And there was the new school experience… the kids loved their new school from the beginning, but often felt overwhelmed by the change coming from a small school in New Orleans to a big school in Maryland.

Over these last few months, I’ve struggled with how to respond to my family.  Telling the kids not to worry or that it would things were going to be ok felt forced. During my weak moments, those words didn’t even feel real.

During this move, I’ve had days where I’ve felt overwhelmed just figuring out how to get to the nearest gas station and missing my old community in New Orleans. And there are other moments that I’ve felt completely in control navigating new streets and figuring out which pediatrician practice will actually take new patients.

It’s been three months since our move and we are definitely not settled. It finally makes sense to me why moving is among the top three hardest transitions up there with marriage and death. When you move and leave all that is familiar, it’s quite scary to settle in a new place, make new relationships, and feel grounded.

And it’s not like anything is so terrible. In fact, everything has been a blessing. We have only met warm, inviting, and welcoming people and have found a great house we will hopefully move into soon. Not to mention the fantastic school our kids attend daily. What a blessing.

It’s just hard because adults, like kids, want to feel safe, settled, and in control. I guess I could choose to smile and tell my kids it will all be great just to put them at ease. But I think what’s been helping them the most and is the more honest response is teaching them how to express their anxieties and validate how hard big changes are, even for adults.

I want my children to know that we will continue to adjust together, as a family, even if it takes a while.

Written by Dr. Dahlia Topolosky

Dr. Dahlia Topolosky

Dr. Dahlia Topolosky is a licensed psychologist and parent coach. Her practice focuses on individual and group therapy, as well as psycho-educational evaluations for behavior and learning disorders. Dahlia is founder of the New Orleans Parents Club (NOPC), a group for parents to socialize and learn positive and effective parenting skills. She also provides private, parent coaching to parents struggling with the normal ups and downs of parenting. Dahlia loves singing, playing guitar and hand drums, and spending time with her husband Rabbi Uri of Beth Israel, and their 4 children.

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