Hey everyone, here’s the final piece of advice about how to get through COVID with a healthy attitude. So let’s get right to it! Trying to figure out what you can do?
Nurture the relationships that you have.
Working at home with my husband and our 4 kids has provided an interesting environment. Knowing Because I want to keep my relationship connecting to my husband, I have to make a conscious choice to do that. When we walk by one another or are close enough to hear one another, I make my best effort to either put my hand on him, give him a quick shoulder rub (or pat depending on how much time we have), or giving a giant hug like I haven’t seen him in days. It’s certainly not necessary but not only does it make me feel better, I think it has kept us having fun and connected.
If you are living alone, reach out to friends and family. Try to have virtual dinner with them. Don’t emotionally isolate even if you physically are. If you have kids, take a moment to reflect on what you want the relationship with your kids to be like when they are adults. Having that relationship starts today. If you focus on their ability to perform at school, what message do you tell them? If you want them to learn how to balance having emotions and getting their responsibilities done, that starts now.
I’ll be honest, I am putting more effort into concentrating on helping my kids learn, how to care for the house, garden, take care of the pets, and work together as a team rather than against one another. Why? I certainly care about academics. They care about their academics. But as difficult as it is to remember, the relationship I have with my children when they are adults starts now with how I interact with them, speak to them, how I respond when they walk into the room, how I talk about others and treat myself. Oh, and the screen time limits as far as I am concerned do NOT apply right now.
Finally, remember that a dysregulated parent will have a dysregulated child. You know, this is the whole “put your oxygen mask on first” advice. You need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your children. That is so important. Our kids feed off our emotions and actions. Sure, they may not listen to everything we say, but they do pick up on what is happening with us. This isn’t a time to pretend you are “totally fine, I’m fine”. It is important for your kids to understand that you too have feelings about what is happening. You sharing feelings gives them permission to share. What I think is really important is also sharing how you will or did cope with those feelings.
A few weekends ago, I couldn’t find toilet paper. I checked delivery and pickup for all the local grocers and then the big box companies. Nothing. I panicked. I stayed in my bedroom and panicked. I didn’t want to snap at my kids or to overreact (because really, we have showers in the worst-case scenario). It took some time for me to really process why the lack of toilet paper was so anxiety provoking. As I finally realized that my anxiety had to do with the role I took of taking care of the shopping. the mom role I placed myself in, I take care of the groceries, clothing, anything in the shopping realm that involves grocery stores, Target, and apparel. Typically, I LOVE doing that. But not finding toilet paper got me in the gut. It made me question the effectiveness of me as a mom in preparing for the pandemic (shame on me, right, given the time I had to prepare?!), the desire to keep things normal for my family (despite absolutely nothing is normal), and the fleeting questions of if we can’t find toilet paper now, what is next (cue spiral of thoughts)?
Once I gathered my thoughts, I went to my family and shared my brief moment of panic and how I managed to problem solve. To me, this was an important moment. I shared with them how I have been grocery shopping for food, so we don’t have to go into the stores and rewound to the pivotal grocery shopping trip that left me with high anxiety from the lack of others social distancing near me (like others coughing 1 inch away from me). I realized I had been keeping everything so normal for my 4 kids that they didn’t
even comprehend what the pandemic was doing at to the grocery stores, economy, mental health, schools, etc. As much as I wanted my kids to have a positive experience during the shelter in place, that meant I was working extra hard to keep things normal for myself. that I almost missed the value in showing them how the pandemic is impacting our community, state, country and world. I almost missed and the opportunity to practice resilience and gratitude. This revelation was over toilet paper.
It’s ok to be human. It’s not ok to pretend everything is normal when it
isn’t. This lack of accepting where we are at in the world right now can actually
make our kids confused, irritable, misbehave, etc.
I wish I had all the answers. We are trying to get through each day too. My husband and I are grateful to both be able to run our own companies and that we can do so from home. The unfortunate slowness of both our jobs has allowed us to fill in as teachers. We are now somehow homeschooling our four children. There is a reason I went into higher ed and not K-12. I am a terrible teacher! As I am typing this, the power went out in our house. It is also hailing. What I wouldn’t give to get Starbucks and walk around Target just to get my steps in. But I can’t do that right now. However, I do have the ability to find ways to honor my values today: be nice and do my best. Ugh, though, shopping at Target feels a lot easier.
Even in the dark.
Jen Yensel, Ph.D
Part 1 – Coping with ….Today
Part 2 – Still Coping … with Today