Parenting Through Distress (COVID-19)

In times of distress, it’s our job as parents to support ourselves because our children take their cues from us. Fear is deeply contagious. Our feelings are messengers and we can listen to them and change the narrative. Fear and stress are telling us we need to do something in this moment to recenter or rebalance. It’s also really important to be authentic if we say we’re fine when we’re not – our kids will see that and feel confused and learn not to trust their feelings. Your needs and feelings are your responsibility, and they are important. Take care of yourself during hard times, and be so compassionate with yourself!

There are lots of things we can do to support ourselves this is not an exhaustive list by any means. These are all just suggestions and things to try when the time is right for you, when we’re in the midst of trauma we are all about survival and that looks different for everyone. I understand that there are so many of us that may have lost income through this, so meeting basic needs may be a huge challenge right now and you are in survival mode.  Throughout this, please be aware of judgment and guilt that come up and it’s my hope that we move more into a place of compassion. Those of us who are surviving right now are going to have fewer resources to put towards self-care and emotional connection with our kids. And that is ok, this is what your brain is supposed to do, survive.  We need to take care of ourselves, sometimes we can’t do it in the moment sometimes it’s weeks and months later, timing is different for everybody so if you’re feeling overwhelmed be so kind and gentle with yourself.

This time is incredibly stressful and many of us are experiencing fear. During fear, our bodies create all of these amazing stress hormones in order to keep us safe.  We release adrenaline in our system and blood flow goes to our arms and legs so we can run if we need to or fight or stay really still. one of the main techniques things we always hear is breathing. Breathing is a wonderful way to stop the adrenaline that is being released into our bodies. Take a deep breath in through your nose out through your nose, it slows your heart rate reduces your blood pressure and this can be really hard to do when we feel scared or panic, that is why it helps to practice. It’s also amazing to teach children!

After deep breaths we still have all of this extra energy flowing through our body and one of the most helpful things to do with is to use it. If we don’t use it, it just sits in our body and we feel yucky. Do a quick body scan, where do you feel tension? Shake it out!

  • Take your shoes off and put your feet on the ground -feel the earth
  • Positive Affirmations to change your mindset – we’re inherently negative thinkers, so have a positive phrase you can say to yourself in times of stress.
  • Stay connected with friends and family/ talk to someone about your feelings, your struggles, and your joys.
  • Self – Compassion Exercise
    •  Place your hand over your heart
    • Name your feeling
    • Remind yourself that you’re not alone
    • Give yourself support, “I can care for myself in this moment.” “I’ve done my best, let go of the rest.” 
  • Legs up the wall pose
    • Lie with your back on the floor and prop your legs up against the wall (or chair) focus on deep breaths 2-5 minutes

Essentially do things that bring you joy and release your feelings, write and journal, move your body, speak with someone, go outside or open a window.   Again, These are all just suggestions and things to try when the time is right for you, and there are so many more if these don’t resonate or work for you that is ok, you get to choose your joy. 

What’s Going on for Kids

Whether we talk to them about coronavirus or not they are feeling things and picking up the collective fear, there also may be obvious changes at home and routines. when children have accumulated painful feelings like fear and stress Some things you may notice are they may want to sleep next to you they may not want to be in their room alone or alone in general. they do more of the behaviors that we as parents don’t really enjoy.  you may see they’re taking longer to go to sleep or they’re waking up more at night or they are not cooperating as much, and hitting, biting more. Lots of tears and tantrums may be happening more frequently. Or it might take a little bit of time for our kids to process and they may not be experiencing lots of feelings and may seem quieter or seem to be doing fine. All of that is normal as they’re making sense of what is happening. Our children will bring their feelings when they’re ready and this can be months later with big fears and lots of tears. Just watch and be aware that when they’re ready to process they will. our job is to try to stay as connected as we can to them so they know it is safe to bring their feelings.

Also, play is such a wonderful way to express their feelings.  it would be normal to play doctor, cleaning or working from home, with masks, anything that is going on right now. We may see an increase in play behaviors such as dumping, messy play, sorting and fixing, controlling and ordering around people or toys. The biggest thing is to let them process it’s a great way for them to get our their feelings. Whatever ways you can remind yourself that these are just indications of what is going on in their bodies and we can have empathy and compassion for them. they same applies to us, we need the same compassion and space to let go of our feelings.  There’s nothing wrong with your child, there’s nothing wrong with your parenting, we’re all just navigating a challenging situation.

As far as routines go In this time we have to be so gentle, do as much as you can to provide lots of Connecting. Your children feel better when they feel a sense of connection with you.  your child is a mirror – they need you to be the best version of you, and if they need to push you to the edge for you to listen and to take care of you they will do it. we cannot set compassionate limits or listen to strong feelings and be empathetic when we’re exhausted. work to keep their bedtime and feeding schedules and routines the same, keep healthy limits and be consistent,  many of our schedules and kids schedules look different right now, try to keep some daily routines the same, avoid starting new things or making big changes right now, this is already new and big.  And it is so ok if your kids are using more technology right now, what a gift we have those things, children need those numbing out for a little bit if we need space for a bit do it. when this is over then you can set limits again.

Reduce the demands and expectations for yourself and your child and increase connection and inner resources. Your best is good enough; even if your best right now doesn’t look like your best before the pandemic, you are enough.

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