By Dr. Vanessa Lapointe
We are living in exceptional times. For parents of young children, this has created an especially unique set of circumstances where you are ON constantly. This requires a lot of energy which may be leaving you quicker to react and more easily overwhelmed, while having less support available on top of all of that.
In addition, your children are likely to be feeling the impact of all of the change and stress. With that, their behaviors may be more challenging, and routines like eating and sleeping might be feeling all topsy-turvy.
Here are a few things to keep in mind that might just have you thriving, rather than barely surviving, social distancing:
1. Be kind to yourself. You can take 5 deep breaths in the bathroom, make a favorite cup of tea just because, or wear a favorite sweater. Do things expressly for the sake of being kind to yourself.
2. Give yourself permission to fail. Perfection is not the standard – not ever, and especially not right now. Have huge amounts of grace and compassion for yourselves if you find that you handle something with your child (or otherwise) in a less than optimal way. Endeavour simply to “fail better next time.”
3. Don’t work so hard. It’s okay to take breaks. Plenty of them. It’s also okay to not be in “entertainer” mode all the time with your littles. Boredom is the birthplace of creativity. Just breathe and relax into that.
4. Really see and hear your children for the very ones that they are. Understand that their little systems are all undone and so the big feelings and challenging behaviors are nothing personal. It’s just the way they communicate. Be honoured in the knowledge that they share those things with you because you have been deemed safe enough to be their chosen comforter.
5. Get outside. Nature is a salve for stress. It grounds us and opens our minds to the expanse of what we are actually capable of.
6. Create some kind of a daily routine. It doesn’t need to be frenzied or rigid. Have it be kind of flowing but also with a rhythm that has everyone relaxing into the certainty of the routine. Include a big dose of connection with your kids at the start and end of the day as part of this and scatter other purposeful big doses of connection throughout the day.
7. Move your bodies. This is the easiest and most accessible way to change the neurochemical environment of your brain. That is, it gives your brain a big dose of happy chemicals when you elevate your heartrate for just 30 minutes a day.
8. Be big. You don’t need to know all of the answers in this for your kids. You just need to BE their answer. BE the kind of big person that is full of swagger and confidence that you WILL find a way through, even if the path remains a little elusive at the moment.
9. Play as much as you can. Play is how children process big emotions, and play is a beautiful connection creator when it comes to deepening your relationship with your children.
10. Choose to see the gold in this. The COVID-19 virus has called us home. To our children. To ourselves. And to our families. It was not working before. Life as we knew it was too chaotic and overwhelming, leading to unprecedented rates of anxiety and other mental health issues for grown-ups and children alike. Snuggle into this time of renewed connection and consider heartfully what parts of life you actually ought to rush back to when this is all over.
What I know for sure from my years of practice as a psychologist, and also as a mom, is that we were made to do hard things. We have huge amounts of resilience and grit as humans that we can rely on to rally and have us really focused on standing strong.
And finally, as in all things, we will be fuelled by connection in this. Connection to ourselves, our children, our communities and our world. Let’s land there. Land on love and have that be what virally infects us all.
You’ve got this, moms and dads and other big people. I promise.
Stay tuned for more articles from Dr. Vanessa Lapointe in our Parenting Corner.