Everything looks different right now. The normal anxiety of our world has been tossed in a blender with the worries of racial injustice, increased unemployment, businesses failing, a presidential election and, oh yeah, a pandemic. Regardless of what aspects of your world have changed, life is significantly different than it was a year ago. You may be struggling to make ends meet, struggling to remember to grab your mask before you leave your house, struggling to know how to help others. You’re a grownup, and this is hard.
Now, imagine that you’re a child. Imagine that you can no longer play in close proximity to your friends, celebrate your birthday with a big party, have sleepovers, play the sports you normally would, go to the movies … the list goes on. Imagine that school looks incredibly different. Imagine how difficult it is to navigate this change in our world. Consider the anxiety you feel and now imagine the anxiety the children in your life feel.
As a mom and as a teacher I am very concerned about children’s ability to cope with anxiety. No time is better to teach our children to accept their emotions, to understand what anxiety feels like, and to learn alongside them how to manage those feelings. Now is a great time to slow down and encourage children to play away from screens. As more learning is happening with screens this year, children need play time to use and develop their imaginations.
As the holiday season approaches, and we begin considering the gifts that mean the most for the children in our lives, I very strongly encourage gift-givers to think small and think local, and consider board or card games, books, art supplies and STEM-inspired toys and activities purchased locally or from small companies.
Call your local bookstores, gift shops, boutiques and other businesses to ask if they have gift suggestions. Consider giving gift certificates from local businesses to your friends and loved ones. Also consider children’s camps and seasonal activities — see if you can offer to pay for classes or memberships that the family can take advantage of next year at places like Camp Woodbrooke in Richland Center, Cave of the Mounds in Blue Mounds, Folklore Village in Dodgeville, the Mining & Rollo Jamison Museums in Platteville, River Arts on Water in Prairie du Sac, Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts in Mineral Point and Taliesin Preservation in Spring Green.
There are also opportunities to purchase subscriptions for children’s arts-and-crafts activity boxes, book subscriptions, STEM activity subscriptions and cooking activity boxes. Plus, monthly subscriptions are a recurring reminder of the love of the gift-giver.
I always look forward to the holidays. While we will be celebrating them away from our extended family, we will create new memories with our children — maybe we’ll even start some new traditions. And there’s a silver lining: While things are definitely different this year, we can focus on gratitude, health and safety. We will be OK. We will get through this with love, empathy and patience.
Have a small, safe and happy holiday season.
Ainsley Rowe Anderson is a mom of three whose roots run deep in the Driftless Area mineral districts of Wisconsin and Illinois. She is a teacher who enjoys sharing her thoughts on raising children in the Driftless in this space on a rotating basis.