In the midst of COVID-19, lots of big milestone events are getting cancelled. Did you know many of these events could meet the research definition of a ritual? Listen to our Science of Parenting hosts discuss the impact of missing out on the big moments and how to talk to your kids about it.
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Hey guys, it's Mackenzie Johnson and Lori Hayungs from the Science of Parenting team where we work to give you research-based information that fits your family.Lori:
So today we're talking about how to navigate those feelings of missing out on big moments. The COVID-19 pandemic has a lot of impact on events, and it's causing a lot of cancellations, postponements, and just frankly, adjustments on how things are normally done.Mackenzie J.:
So there's been a lot of stuff that different kids, particularly like our seniors in high school, even college kids, those big moments that they're kind of feel like they're missing out on. In the research, these kind of big moments, or milestones, or rites of passage, (whatever term you might use), but in the research they're called rituals. So that's kind of like where our research tidbits are headed today, talking about rituals.Lori:
Rituals, exactly. So I'm going to share some research tidbits, and then you're going to give us some reality, right?Mackenzie J.:
Excellent. All right. So this first research tidbit, it's really beginning with that understanding of "what is a ritual?". So according to a literature review by Fiese and colleagues, rituals are defined across three important characteristics. So they are symbolic - meaning that rituals are a representation of who we are. Rituals are enduring and affective - basically it's us saying that "this is the right thing to do" and that it has lasting impact and it's a memory that we reflect on. So it's something that's enduring and affective, or it has feeling. The third one is that rituals have meanings that extend across generations - this is kind of what we look forward to and who we will continue to be as we go through generations. So share some examples of those.Mackenzie J.:
So those three things, symbolic - or rituals have, you know, they might be more about what they represent than what they actually are. So they're symbolic. They're having during impact, right? So it's a memory we can look back on. And then something across generations, maybe my parents and grandparents did this before me, or even my friends before me or my siblings, whoever that might be. Some examples that kind of come to mind that we've been hearing about include things, of course, like commencement, or even like weddings and funerals, family reunions, state track, a big theater event that had to get postponed. So anything that kind of meets this definition of representing something, whether it's a celebration or what kids could have been looking forward to and adults, right? We've had things we maybe had to change, but so these rituals, something that we could look forward to and that we could look back on.Lori:
That's exactly what they are. And as a mom of a teenager here, I've been hearing about a lot of rituals. They're worried about missing and worried about not happening... So the next research tidbit is about coming to this understanding of "why do rituals matter?" And "what is it about them that is important?" So Moore and Meyerhoff tell us that rituals foster a sense of belonging and that they promote feelings of group membership. Additionally, a 2002 study tells us that a ritual can provide togetherness, strengthen relationships, create emotional exchange, stability, and maintaining family contact. And then specifically to adolescents Fiese and colleagues found that meaningful aspects of rituals are actually related to some adolescent identity. So that these rituals become part of who we are, and that's why they mean so much.Mackenzie J.:
And I think that part about like the group membership and belonging is so important. When I think about the people I graduated from high school with, right? Like even no matter where you are in life, you always have that connection that this is something you did together. Or like a family reunion, it keeps you all tied together because the people who were there have this memory to look back on. All of these rituals do provide that belonging and those connections to other people. They rituals have a big impact when we participate in them, and a big impact when we're missing them too, right?Lori:
They do, especially when we have the whole period of unknown. Is it going to happen or is it not going to happen? Yeah, definitely. Okay. So we know rituals have an impact on us. Let's look at this piece about what happens when we feel like we're missing out. So a 2013 study looking at fear of missing out or in my child's words, FOMO, fear of missing out. It's defined as this "pervasive apprehension that others might have this rewarding experience that I'm absent from". So others are having this experience, they're enjoying it and my fear and apprehension is that I'm missing out. And what the study found is that when people are experiencing high levels of this feeling of missing out, this is actually correlated with a lower psychological needs satisfaction, or a lower general mood, or a lower general life satisfaction, and - get this - an increased social media usage. So they feel like they're missing out, they feel less happy and they are jumping on social media more to feel better.Mackenzie J.:
Yeah . Well, when we think about that last bullet of that connection and that membership, right? That social media is a way of connecting with other people. And yeah, if I'm feeling kind of like grumpy, or bummed out, or grouchy, or depressed, or lacking motivation, or whatever that might be related to that I don't get to do this stuff I was looking forward to. Right? Maybe my prom is cancelled, or that sporting event I've been working towards for four years is cancelled. Like yeah, I might not be in the best mood and I might be feeling a little hopeless or something like, that's fair. Those are big feelings!Lori:
Big feelings! For both the students, children, teens and the adults. Think about what were the parents' ideas of what was going to happen at the rituals that their child is not going to experience... So, all right, we're going to mix it up for a little bit for this last one. Just to provide some reality based advice for what to do if your child, or you, is really struggling with missing out on this big moment. So the first two are this, find out what rituals or big moments your child is actually reflecting on. You might have an idea, but have a conversation about what is it they're really feeling these big feelings about. What does it really feel like they're going to miss out on?Mackenzie J.:
And it could be something different, right? So I might think like, "Oh, they're so devastated about prom or X", you know, whatever it might be. It could be something totally different, right? It could be checking in on what it is they feel like they might be missing out.Lori:
Right. And really, really important is this second piece that says, accept and acknowledge feelings. You know, as an adult nothing drives me to the verge of more anger than when someone says, "I don't understand why you're so mad about this" or "you know, it's not that big of deal". Well , well these are my feelings, and to me it actually is that big of a deal. So it's really important when I think about rituals and the things that my children or family members are missing, to accept and acknowledge their big feelings about this. They have big feelings about not going to preschool, if they're a preschooler. They have big feelings about not having that birthday party. They have big feelings about not getting to see their favorite teacher because it was almost time for their show-and-tell. And so accepting and acknowledging those feelings is really, really important.Mackenzie J.:
And validating - maybe your child's feeling relief about not having to do whatever that thing is, or maybe they're angry, or maybe they're disappointed, but whatever their experience is to let it be. And I think as adults, it can be easy for us to say, "okay, well in the big scheme of things, that really is like, we know that's not that big of a deal. Right? What I remember from my senior prom is this, or I remember it was hot at commencement. That's all I remember". But for your teen, they're not getting to make that memory themselves. And so validating however they're feeling about that experience.Lori:
Right? And so do we have a couple more tidbits about that so we could provide some extra attention and talk about the concerns and the factual reason why the big moment was canceled or postponed. It's not their fault. It's not your fault. It's not the school's fault. And you know, just give them the facts instead of just brushing things off and saying it's not that big a deal. Let's really talk about why, you know, what are these facts around why it's being postponed and acknowledging their feelings. And then thinking creatively about how could we still create some of those feelings associated with that ritual. What are some things that we could do to maybe make that ritual happen a different way? ... You know, my prom looked like this. I don't need to recreate my prom for my child. No, I don't need to recreate what my vision is of that ritual. What can we do to create it differently? What do you think?Mackenzie J.:
And I think we can use actually the definition we kicked off with, right? So understanding that these big moments (or even if by our definition, they might feel like small moments), but to our kids, they feel like big moments, right? So they have extra meaning. They represent something they have long enduring impact and they have meaning across generations. The people before or after me have gotten to or will get to participate... And so how can we use that understanding, right? Maybe it's creating a new tradition or a new ritual. Maybe it's reenacting it for your family what would've been the walk across the stage? Or maybe it's going out with their track mates, after we're kinda done social distancing, and letting them try for that record they've been working for. Can they beat their own time? Uh, can you do something virtually? Can you commit to doing it at a later date? Can , like you said, can it look different than the way it maybe was supposed to go, but still capture some of those fun elements? So thinking creatively, especially using that understanding that we have o f rituals, but creating that big moment, helping your child define it in their own way. And your investment - this is what I think is k ind o f my biggest takeaway from this whole thing we're talking about - is the investment that we've taken the time to listen to our kids, validate their feelings, and then come up with a creative solution that really shows them that we care. If nothing else, they can look back on the memory (even if they don't appreciate it in the moment), but down the road that they can appreciate that "My parents were there and they cared that this was hard for me and they helped me make a memory of it". Like I think that's important.Lori:
I think that's really important. That's really important. So that's all I have for research tidbits and you know, this was just supposed to be a quick little check-in, not an official podcast. We just wanted to let you know that we know that children, and adults, and young adults are having some big feelings about things that they're missing out on. And how can we as parents help them come to some place to kind of accept where they're at and maybe create some new memories.Mackenzie J.:
So then the only thing I think we have left to say is to remind everybody about our Live coming up this Thursday on Facebook. So that's at 12:15 on Thursday , so join us for that. We're going to be talking about stop, breathe , talk. But as always, we're going to be looking at kind of the ins and outs, ups and downs, and the research and reality around the science of parenting.Speaker 2:
The Science of Parenting is a research-based education program hosted by Lori Hayungs and Mackenzie Johnson, produced by Mackenzie DeJong, with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson. Send in questions and comments. to [email protected] and connect with this on Facebook and Twitter. This program is brought to you by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries. Go to www.extension.iaastate.edu/diversity/ ext.