I am going to assume that you, like me, love your children and are happy to have them home with you safe and hopefully healthy. I love having our family together but I miss my quiet house and my routine.
I have always been the “nurturer” in the family – as a Jewish mother, it is part of my DNA to make sure everyone is happy. It is my “job” to worry about everything full time. While everyone is under one roof I have been striving to make sure everyone is taken care of. I want to make sure there is plenty of food on the table, everyone has clean clothes, clean sheets and they are never bored. Oy vey- that will not work for much longer because I am tired and there is just too much to worry about.
When I am out of sorts, I like to hibernate in my room with Netflix and a bowl of cereal. After I get tired of that, I may try my “healthier” coping skills like my yoga, meditation and mindful breathing. Oh, I should add that I am a mental health professional and my kids are adults. So you would think I would be handling this quarantine with grace and ease. Nope – I desperately needed a time out yesterday and my deep seated caregiving impulses are hard to break. But, we are all being asked to change our patterns!
In my better moments I remember there are a few things I know to be true for parents – no matter the age of your children.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
This is not the time to be striving for an A+ on parenting. This is the time to practice grace and forgiveness for your humanness. There are no rules for this quarantine other than to stay put. Schedules will be fluid. Your rules on screen time, chores and practicing instruments may need to get tossed or reprioritized. Somedays you may have more patience and are open for spontaneity, (this is kind of funny given our circumstances) and other days you will be sticking to as much of a schedule as you can create.
PRACTICE YOUR COPING SKILLS
Everyone is under unusual stress right now and you need to take care of yourself. This means if you need something, don’t be afraid or ashamed to act on it. With the house full of family, remember that they all have their unique temperament and ways of coping. Tempers might be short – our loved ones may be driving us crazy – so if possible, practice “I statements.” “I need” or “I wish” is better than telling someone else what they should be doing. Healthy coping skills include doing things we enjoy, spending time with positive people, relaxation techniques like deep breathing, taking a hot shower, staying organized, reminding ourselves of what we are grateful for, journaling, volunteering and talking about the things that are bothering us to someone we trust. I try to balance my healthy coping skills with my marginally less healthy daily wine and chocolate consumption!
FOCUS ON SLEEP, EXERCISE AND NUTRITION FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Sleep is the brain and body’s way of rebuilding and restoring itself – giving us the ability to function throughout the day, think clearly and maintain emotional balance. Consider using the time before bed for personal relaxation and not capping the night off with a scary movie. In fact, turn off all screens at least 1 hour before bed and try to keep your phones, laptops and computers out of the bedroom. Any kind of exercise is a great mood booster. Endorphins are a natural chemical that makes us feel good – try a daily walk out in nature. Eating balanced meals full of vitamins and minerals are important because it promotes healthy brain and body functioning, putting us in a good position to manage stress. It is also important to drink enough water each day. Again, a reminder to self – do not eat all the baked goods while standing in the kitchen or in one sitting.
STAY IN CONTACT WITH YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK
I miss seeing my friends, my coworkers and my support people that keep me laughing and sane. But the phone, texting and facetime works for daily check-ins with friends and family. I have been invited to a virtual cocktail party! I have learned how to use Zoom and Google Hangouts for work and enjoyed my yoga class online with my fellow yogis. Make time for yourself because we all need our support people!
REMEMBER YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity and be stronger on the other end. The more resilient we are, the better we will be able to handle the ups and downs that come our way. So, here we are. Some ways to improve and strengthen resilience are to embrace change, try not to dwell on the negative and be optimistic, have a sense of humor and mostly keep up with strong personal connections. In this time where our normal connections to school, work and community are being restricted, be proactive and explore creative ways to reach out to others.
We’re In This Together – things may seem challenging now, but they will get back to normal.
Peggy Kubert, L.C.S.W. Senior Director of Education
The team at Erika’s Lighthouse knows how challenging and difficult this transition is on our teens, educators, parents and others. We are here to help and support our young people. We have launched an exciting new campaign that will provide meaningful, practical resources for teens, educators and parents.