The pandemic has now been with us quite a while and does not look like it will be going any time soon. Life is more demanding and challenging than ever before. Holding on to a sense of hope that this will pass takes wisdom, fortitude, strength, belief, will, and courage. What can we do when life is so out of our control and with no end in sight?. I don’t have any answers but here are some of my thoughts.
Challenges Of Managing “Big Feelings”.
All of us are going to have many feelings right now ranging from weariness to positivity, However, for the majority of us, the uncertainty of our current circumstances is certainly going to put us on guard and feel under threat!.
As a consequence, it is likely we will respond with the fight, flight, or shutdown ( stress response) We may fight, or alternatively, retreat or run away, ( flight) or when the threat seems particularly grave, we may “shut down” or freeze. Children and teens of all ages will be picking up on the fear and panic being experienced by adults around them. When uncertainty or danger strikes, children are “wired” to look to their caregivers to interpret how safe they should feel. If their primary adult is calm, a child feels reassured. But if their adult is upset, the child feels unsafe, and their body and brain go into threat mode. And when the threat system is on too long without relief, physical and mental health problems can result.
Not only is it our job to model and coregulate emotions but help them to link their behaviour with their feelings. Here are several examples:
What Type of Behaviours Would I Notice In My Child?.
Children can be really traumatised by fear and more often than not struggle to communicate it verbally.
Examples of Fight ( Anger related behaviours).
- Escalating Tantrums or Meltdowns.
- Argumentative, oppositional, and more physical than usual.
Examples of Flight ( Anxiety and fear based behaviours)
- Being clingy, wanting to be with you more than usual.
- Talking about lots of sore tummies/headaches.
- Sleep Difficulties.
- Eating more or less food.
- Enuresis and Encopresis.
Examples of Freeze ” Shut down” Behaviours.
- Isolate themselves
- Escape into fantasy, screens, and video games.
- Your child may zone out, not be quite here, and seem to be daydreaming a lot.
What Can You Do?.
This a really difficult and challenging question for me to respond to, however, I truly believe we may not be able to change the situation we are in but we can change our attitude to it. Or alternatively, we can begin to understand the situation intellectually and develop supportive habits for your home life. Here are some ideas:
Be Deliberate and Intentional!.
Schools have closed again and you’ve had to make an urgent plan to manage work, home, and homeschooling. You’ve been here before, reflect on:
What worked and what is working?
What is working well for you right now in your parenting and your family life?. Let go of what isn’t fast, otherwise, it just drains your energy.
Sometimes, bringing your focus and attention to the positive will help it grow! Write it down, then plan and discuss it with your family. Family meetings are a helpful intervention at all times but especially now.
What have you learned?
Reflect on what you have learned last year about yourself as a parent, your children, and life in general. (HINT: Throughout my life, my mistakes and suffering that arose have been my biggest instigators for positive change). Each day set aside time to celebrate small wins.
Ensure You Have a Good Night’s Sleep!.
Sleep is equally as important as diet and exercise. During the first Lockdown, the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry published a paper that suggests the potential for sleep problems to emerge or worsen during and following the pandemic is high. The increasing use of screens and it Winter. Nature and technology will increasingly impact our Cicardium Rhythms. Developing healthy sleep hygiene is more important than ever to fight viruses. For more on sleep help, click here.
Implement Child Led, Play and Conversation.
When parents attend therapy, they often report challenging behaviours. Hence, the first intervention is focused on rebuilding a good relationship with their child. Sometimes the problem behaviour falls away when we offer child-led play or conversation for older children. Child-led play is specific, we need to allow them to choose what they want to do, follow their lead. Allow them control.
For older children, it’s less about the play but listening to them. Therefore, if your teenager wants to talk about football or a video game, listen. Whatever you do, the time spent together makes them feel very special, seen, and attended to. I often recommend 10 minutes twice a week ( minimum) or longer time conversation time for teenagers.
Develop Radical Self Care Routines.
The presence of a calm adult can even reduce the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in a child’s body. In fact, supported exposure to manageable stress can be “inoculating,” helping children to be more resilient, whereas complete avoidance of stress undermines the development of resilience.Will the Pandemic Have a Lasting Impact on My Kids?
Research on wars, natural disasters, and other crises reveals how to protect our children’s mental health.
BY DIANA DIVECHA | MAY 18, 2020
Nurturing, calming, grounding and restful energy is what we need to cultivate for ourselves first and foremost at this time. For the majority of us who are self quarantined in our homes, our challenge will be getting a hold of our thoughts and anxiety and balancing, work, and home life. These are trying times, so being mindful and incorporating mindful practices will enhance wellbeing, build resilience, and help sustain you through this year. Don’t worry, it is not about being perfect or all the time. Being mindful does not have to be complicated, you can:
- Go out into Nature ( We still can once a day).
- Breathe throughout the day.
- Be Creative.
- Create a self soothe Box ( great for teenagers).
- For more on this click here.
Whilst we can develop intellectual and emotional strategies for getting through the despair and lack of hope, there is something other that always holds my attention which is “Will to Meaning” from Victor Frankl (Holocaust Survivor, Psychotherapist who developed Logotherapy).
Life is never made unbearable by circumstance, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.
Victor Frankl, Mans Search for Meaning
As you go forward my wish for you is to remain present, steady, and strong for yourself and all those you care for.
You are all parenting in challenging and uncertain times. Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your commitment to the wellbeing of your child and your family. In addition, your willingness to keep growing and holding hope. Remember: parenting is hard work and you all deserve support. And when it all starts to feel impossible, ask for help. If you need help and support contact me for a consultation or do join my newsletter community. With Gratitude Catherine