Children, Families, Pandemics and The "New Normal"
Wow what a crazy surreal time the world is in now! As you are reading this no doubt you are joining with the rest of us in an uncharted adventure of the lockdown with no real idea of when we get to break out again! If you are a caregiver with children who now can no longer attend school or day care, no doubt the idea of supporting and entertaining then for an undetermined length of time is daunting. Being a counsellor who works mainly with children, I carry so much empathy for both you as the caregiver and for your children at this time. Yes, we are doing this out of a definite need to protect our country from the devastating effects that this brutal virus brings. We cannot deny that in order to prevent that devastation and save lives we have had to adapt and change our ways of life (not forever, but for the foreseeable future). This massive life change has and will affect all of us, adults and children alike, and in such in unique ways. This lockdown has (for the moment) removed so much of what we relied on to survive and thrive, even the things we had in place as coping strategies or self-care can no longer be called upon. The stress levels go up and add to already frayed and fragile nerves. For Cantabrians we and our children are the people of the earthquakes, fires, wind storms, mass shootings and now a worldwide pandemic lockdown. For you adults this is not the first time your work has been affected, for your children this is not the first time school has been closed. So how do you and your kids navigate this familiar but uncharted territory? How do you come out of this new, scary adventure with maintained and maybe even deepened relationships with your kids? I have a few thoughts to share for those of you who's bubble includes incredible kids, who at times can push you to incredible lengths....and sometimes off the deep end.
So first off I would like to say, PARENTS! BE KIND TO YOURSELF! Have grace and compassion for yourself in this. You will be trying to make sense of things that don't really make sense, all whilst trying to carry a household, care for your children, stay sane, maintain personal and romantic relationships and whatever else is on your plate. All while you try to clear your head enough to work from home or juggle the finances and make big life decisions on currently unstable, unpredictable ground. Don't expect too much from yourself right now, it is ok to feel out of place and foggy. It is ok to feel unsure and feel like you don't have it all together. At this point none of us have got much together other than maybe the success of combining and eating all of our lockdowns snacks by day 3. Do not expect that you will be that super parent that has their children up and homeschooled all before 9am. Don't dare believe the parent who says they have!!! That is pure lies wrapped up in pyjama pants and a six shot latte, we all know that parent hasn't showered in three days. NO ONE HAS IT ALL TOGETHER AND NO ONE IS A PRO AT THIS. Give yourself permission to have some headspace to just breathe, that is a win, it is ok not to be ok, it is ok to be good enough and to do a good enough job right now. Take it one day at a time.
CONNECTION IS KEY. Whether it is connection with loved ones overseas or the neighbour next door, the internet can make it happen. Ensure that you have a network to connect with (virtually). Start a small group message with other trusted and close parent friends and share your experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly. Make time to laugh too. If they are trusted people, then be real with them. We all need people to be real with, especially right now. You as a parent are no exception. Get your support networks up and running soon. Trust me by day 5 you are going to need it. (and maybe need some more snacks by then too, but maybe thats just me though haha). That may also mean getting in contact with a counsellor or mentor over video chat to help you process this big life shift. It is important for you and your children that you feel supported and connected.
THAT CONNECTION IS VITAL FOR OUR KIDS TOO! Remember that their entire lives have been changed too. They will be stressed, worried, frustrated and overwhelmed, probably just as much as you, if not more. They might just show it in different ways. I will write another blog about the affects of this change, how kids might be responding and how we as adults can respond. But for now just remember. They may be just as annoyed that school is closed because that was their break from you too!
Although this all feels really up in the air, never underestimate the power of the quality parent-child connection. You know how I mentioned that it was ok for you to not be ok? It goes the same for kids. Have grace and understanding for them too. Their emotions will be spilling out all over the place too. They are not deliberately being defiant just to make your life miserable. There is always a reason for a child's response, whether that is affectionate or challenging or anything in between. It's up to us to create an environment and connection that allows a safe space to explore what those reasons are. You would be surprised how deeply our children think and feel when we don't just assume for them. It is part of the great adventure of family to discover their own unique and healthy ways of expressing them. True connection means listening, not to respond but to understand. When a child feels heard they come alive. What is it like for you when someone around you just assumes things about you and misunderstands you? What is it like when you really feel heard, uninterrupted and understood? This is a great time for us as families, who sometimes feel like everything gets lost in translation when communicating with each other, to discover a new shared language. Prioritise quality connection time with your children, it doesn't have to be long or have much deep conversation in it to start with, just connect. Take the business person hat off, take the adulty 'no time for fun' hat off and be silly, have fun, connect; over a game ( it doesn't matter if you are good or not, and it doesn't matter what game), through cooking, through craft or a walk. Though the options are at the moment not endless, there are still many things you can do to spend time with your kids. Have you asked what they might like to do?
So to sum up:
BE KIND, UNDERSTANDING AND GRACIOUS
to yourself no matter how you are feeling
its ok to be good enough and just get through the day
offer the same grace to your kids.
with others in your support network, cry, laugh, be real, open and honest
with your kids
Listen to understand
I will be attempting to update this blog throughout the lockdown with thoughts and ideas on how we get through this together and will throw in any helpful links etc I can find.
Check out this link for a podcast from Dr Caroline Leaf around parenting through the Pandemic
Check out Sparklers for great practical tips and ideas for the Whanau and the lockdown.
I will also be attempting to update my resources page on my website with useful links, books and ideas to support mental and emotional wellbeing for all ages.
Thank you so much for reading and if you have any questions around how else you can support yourself, others and kids throughout this time please email me. firstname.lastname@example.org