Mom, when can we go to the park?
Mom, where are we going?
Mom, can I stay up later?
Mom, why can’t I go to the party?
Mom, why wasn’t I invited?
Mom, will our sick puppy be okay?

Whether it is mom, dad, grandma, papa, auntie or caregiver… I think you can hear your child’s voice in these phrases. You can often hear their questions even when words are not spoken but certainly felt.

From the time our kids can talk they seem to be filled with questions and they come to us for answers. As parents and caregivers, we are the keepers of the information, the plans and the knowledge that our children don’t have yet. They may not always like our answers but the reality is, even after bargaining and negotiating through countless battles, our kids still look to us for guidance when they are unsure.

But what do we do when we don’t have the answers for them? I believe this is one of the hardest things to learn as a parent and one of the most important things we will model to our children. What do you do when you don’t know, or you can’t find the answers?

I have been guilty of avoiding the question entirely, staying silent or giving the evasive “we will talk about that later” hoping their minds would forget (which they never do in these situations!) Or maybe I told a little white lie to help preserve their confidence or sense of security. Sometimes I would pass it off and tell my kids to go ask someone else.

How do you face uncertainty? Do these responses ring true for you too? As I got older and had so many fewer answers I had to change. I had to embrace the discomfort and uncertainty of not knowing.

I had to be okay with being uncomfortable. I could show my children how it was okay to not know. I could say things like, “it makes me feel sad when I think about that.” And then, I learned to be quiet and give some space for them to share how they felt. In my work, kids and teens often tell me that they don’t want adults to solve their problems or tell them what to do, they just want to be heard.

I had to learn how to say out loud that I didn’t know. Sometimes they would ask again and I would say yet again, “I still don’t know.”
My daughter would ask,
“when do I get my braces off?” – I don’t know.
“Am I going to need surgery?” – I don’t know. She would come to me rather than asking the dentists and doctors who may have been a little more intimidating or often they too couldn’t give her a straight answer. I would let her be frustrated, and hopeful and UNCERTAIN.

And lastly, always go back to safety, bring them back to what you do know. I don’t know if you will be invited to the party – but I do know that we can still go swimming and you can invite a friend. I don’t know if you will need surgery, but I do know that I will be there to love you through it if you do. I don’t know if our puppy will be ok but I do know that we sure love him and it is hard when he is sick.

I have deliberately started doing more things that make me feel uncertain and that I can’t control. I think these things can teach us how to let go in small ways, to notice when we are trying to control it all and embracing that there is much joy in the journey.

One of my faves is gardening. It has taught me all kinds of things about living in uncertainty. It has helped me to embrace the concept that there are many things outside of my control – sunshine, rain, weeds and even critters that help themselves to the harvest. It reminds me to show up, to do what I can by clearing the weeds and watering what I want to really nourish and then I have to let go and just enjoy the process.

Author: Kari Lotzien
Offering workshops and personal coaching in Central Alberta.

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