Hiya, as they say in the United Kingdom for a friendly hello greeting! I’m thrilled to be back as a guest author this month for my beloved community newspaper that I wrote monthly articles in for several years! I just had my one-year anniversary since I relocated to the UK from Tualatin, Oregon, and what a year it’s been. We keep hearing the word “unprecedented,” and boy, isn’t that the truth? My timing with my move was less than ideal with the coronavirus pandemic, but I’m learning some lessons along the way as well. I’ve said many times in my parenting classes, shows and articles, “We are preparing for a marathon, not a sprint.” I have also said this referring to parenting, but it’s an ideal quote for this pandemic too. As we have learned, this is a marathon, not a sprint, like I was definitely hoping for. THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED TO ANY OF US IN OUR LIFETIME. Read this statement many times when things are difficult.
Parents have had to adapt to several new roles over the course of the year. Families all under one roof, trying to work, study, play, survive, and manage all the daily needs of home, work and family. At best, it can be challenging at times for everyone. But, you are not alone. To help you get to the finish line of the marathon, I offer you some tips.
Dealing with Anxiety and Other Hard Feelings
Your children may be fine one minute, anxious, moody, upset the next. Your job is to help them stay calm, and to listen. They probably have a fair amount of fear, grief and disappointment. Listen with kindness and empathy, not fixing. Children are sensitive to fear and it is our responsibility to communicate to them that we can and will keep them safe. Talk to them regularly about COVID-19 so that their anxieties don’t build. Find someone to listen to you, too, not your children.
Answer your children’s questions with honesty, but on an as needed basis, as some of us do with topics surrounding Santa Claus or intimacy. Always ask your children what they’ve heard or know and how they know. Then you can clarify and calm if needed. What are they hearing and seeing? Recommend trusted news sources. Watch for rumors or scare tactics. Be mindful of how much you are watching the news, being negative, allowing your feelings to take over, and showing fear. Be honest about how you feel, but take steps to stay calm yourself. Of course, you may be fearful, but panic doesn’t serve you or your children. Your children will take their cues from you, so be aware of what you are communicating. Keep your own fear in check and model courage for your children.
Extend Grace and Lower the Bar
Don’t worry TOO much about their education. Yes, I’m saying that even though I was an elementary school teacher for 12 years. Balancing the schoolwork with eating nutritiously, getting adequate sleep, and being outside and active is essential. We are in unprecedented times, so it may be wise to relax the rules on screen time and social networking. Again, I’m usually not a huge fan of too much screen time, but I also don’t think parents need to feel guilty right now for letting the screens help both the child and parent out in these stressful times. Keeping in touch is vital, for all of us, with friends and family. There are some creative ways to use screens beyond gaming. There are loads of educational apps, math games, art lessons, and tours of museums. They could learn something new online. They could read a book or chapter to Grandma or Grandpa. The house might be more of a mess than you would like. Make sure everyone is on board with family contributions. More than anything though, your children need your love and support, not bootcamp! This is where grace comes into play. This is not the normal. Help one another through it.
Being on lockdown can feel very monotonous because you are always with everyone. But, don’t lose sight of the important idea of family meetings. This can be an amazing time to learn a lot about how your children are feeling, to problem solve, and to end on a positive note. Start by asking how everyone is doing first. How do they feel about things? Just listen. I got a wealth of information from asking my children for their highs and lows of their days. Talk about what’s going well in the family, as well as what can be done to make life better. This is an open brainstorming time, where all ideas are welcomed and then some ideas implemented. End your family meeting with something fun such as a family movie, game, ice cream sundaes, pizza making, or puzzle building.
Believe me when I tell you this year hasn’t been easy for me either. For an extrovert to leave her family, friends, work, and community to move to a foreign country during a pandemic – I’ve had my moments! I’ve had to work on my patience, attitude and courage, too. The silver lining in all this for all of us could be that in some small way, we can see this time of being with our family on lockdown as a gift, when under normal circumstances, we’re so often complaining we never have enough time. Years from now, when we look back, I don’t think we’ll regret this time. And when your children look back, they’ll hopefully be thinking about the close supportive moments you had together, even in these unusual challenging times. Be kind and gentle to yourself. We are inching toward the finish line.