As we all emerge from shelter-in-place, I’ve been Noticing Others again for the first time in a long while. For me, this is a process of remembering how to Notice Others and engage with them. I get to have small talk with strangers in line, see other families and revel in the freedom to spend time with others that we used to have. For those of us who have spent most of our lives “mask-free,” we get to use skills we once depended on every day. For my three children, it seems to be a slightly different process.
For example, my six-year-old has lived a large percentage of her life with “Where’s your mask?”, or “Make sure to give them space.” As we enter into a new phase, I realized that I’ve coached them to be out of relationship and connection. Outside of our family, they have not had the opportunities to build skills of Relational Resilience. What’s more, during the pandemic our Cultural Pattern has been to honor everyone’s safety– to the detriment of our Connecting Skills.
Now, as our family begins to interact in a more ‘normal’ way out in society, It’s clear to me that we need to review our basic Connecting Skills, and it starts with Noticing Others. The skill of reading a room, the art of understanding other people’s body language, and the focus on listening to other people outside our ‘bubble’ need to be supported. I find myself inviting my children to Notice Others, pointing out other children and what they are doing. I have had to remind them how introductions go. My 11-year-old son used to have it down, but recently he needed reminding of the phrase, “Nice to meet you”.
As we all get to come back together, I am aware that those of us who are older get to dust off skills we once used, while many children need to use skills they might not have developed in the first place. Noticing Others is an essential Connecting Skill, and be compassionate towards yourself as you start using it again. Give the children in your life even more compassion (and some gentle coaching) as they try it, maybe for the first time. We all need to make our way back together, honoring our own needs and how unique the journey has been for all of us.
Yours in service,