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How parents can empathize with missed milestones

A high school student scrolls through social media at her home outside Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., April 23. The 66th Medical Squadron Family Advocacy Program is counseling families of high school-aged children who are struggling with missing milestones due to COVID-19 restrictions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

A high school student scrolls through social media at her home outside Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., April 23. The 66th Medical Squadron Family Advocacy Program is counseling families of high school-aged children who are struggling with missing milestones due to COVID-19 restrictions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – As the community continues to combat COVID-19, day-to-day lives have taken on a new look.

Teleworking, distance learning and interactions over social media have become the norm and, although the new routine is solid, there can be trepidations as physical distancing stretches into the coming weeks.

“We as adults may have our coping skills figured out, but we should really keep an eye on how this all affects our children,” said Capt. Chul├ęte Wallace-Keane, 66th Medical Squadron Family Advocacy officer.

Wallace-Keane explained that isolation can affect children differently depending on their age and the impact of the events they’ve had to put on pause. While younger children may be missing their teachers and friends, older children may feel they’re missing out on more.

“Proms, graduations; those are big life moments that we as adults may be better equipped to handle and overcome,” she said. “However, these children are struggling with missing these milestones.”

Tech. Sgt. Evelyn Young, 66 MDS Mental Health Flight chief, said that ensuring children stay connected with their friends and support networks is key in helping them navigate these difficult times.

“It’s so important to keep our children connected, because they’re all going through it together,” said Young. “It can really help to know you’re not the only one feeling upset, and it’s not so difficult to go through when you know you’re not alone.”

While social media makes it easier than ever to connect with friends, both Wallace-Keane and Young remind parents that it can’t replace children’s experiences.

“There are so many things different from when we were growing up, and it’s easy for us as parents to say ‘suck it up,’” said Young. “We have to be sensitive to what our children have going on. We can use our experiences to help build resiliency, but we can’t shut down their feelings.”

Wallace-Keane said that, from her experience working in therapy, she’s learned that grief is not only reserved for the loss of a loved one, but applies to the loss of something important.

“We as parents need to be empathetic to what our children are going through,” she said. “They’ve waited years for some of these events, and we should consider it like a loss for them.”

To connect with a Family Advocacy Program counselor, call 781-225-6385. The Military Family Life Counselor is available at 781-315-7992.