photo credit: Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash
Have the last few months left you feeling like a GPS constantly recalculating? Uncertainty breeds anxiety and there has been a lot of uncertainty around the return to school this fall. It has taken a toll on our mental health at home and at work. Even so, there is hope for your mental health and that of your family.
Families have been waiting for a decision about what school will look like this year. Whether we are happy with the decision or not, it’s been made. Which would normally foster relief and certainty. However, a parent recently shared with me she is glad a decision has been made but it’s one she believes she can only count on for a short time. Despite the constant need to be flexible and recalculate, healthy parenting IS possible.
Simple steps to healthy parenting during a pandemic.
1. Revise the meaning of self-care. As a psychotherapist, practicing proper self-care is often the strategy I share with my clients to help manage life stressors and mental health symptoms during their day-to-day lives. Quarantining measures from the COVID-19 pandemic and the close of schools have required a shift in self-care routines. However, with the unpredictability of the last few months, self-care has never been more important.
Even with this shift, the pandemic has presented new opportunities for self-care for many people. Extra time at home creates the space for projects like that 1,000 piece puzzle that’s been in the closet since Christmas or that painting project you have been wanting to tackle. Families have found the time to cook together and create new hobbies like bird watching and gardening. If you happen to find your children back at home after a month into school, use it as an opportunity to once again create new routines. The transition to fall is great for exploring nature. Make a game out of your family nature hike by making a bingo sheet. Include things like orange leaves and squirrels. Whoever gets bingo first wins!
2. Being a calm and grounded parent is as good for your mental health as it is for your family. Life can be fast, frantic, and overwhelming. Throughout the day it’s important to pause and check-in. Stop. Breathe. Feel. Grounding practices help us connect our breath, our body, and the moment.
Take the opportunity to, stop, and notice your feet. We spend a lot of time in our heads thinking about the past and even more about the future. Simply taking a moment to notice your feet and the ground beneath them is a peaceful way to connect to the Earth and the present moment.
Take a sensory journey. Notice what you are seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, and smelling. Take the time to engage with your surroundings, it will help you find calm in the moment and an overall sense of peace.
Create family grounding practices. Use a family meeting to create a list of practices the entire family would enjoy doing together. Practice them, often. The more familiar you and your family become with these practices, the more likely you are to access them proactively or in times of self-care.
3. Know being ‘good enough’ right now is okay. Parents always do what they can with what they have. Now is no different. Our brains are in a constant state of fight-flight-freeze trying to process the changes brought about by the pandemic. You are going to be more exhausted by the end of the day and especially the end of the week. You are going to be less tolerant and more impatient. Do what you can, be calm, and apologize when you can’t. You are modeling resilience and acceptance for your child.
4. Seek opportunities for movement that integrate the mind and the body. If you are like me, you are trying to process the events of the last six months in your head. Our bodies need a chance to do the same. Practicing mind-body interventions helps heal the whole body. Yoga not only helps with flexibility and strength, but you may also feel less stressed and more calm.
Yoga has many benefits for your child as well. It is calming and relaxing, a great family exercise, and helps children be less reactive. It can be especially helpful when preparing for a transition. It prepares the nervous system for change and can make a difficult transition easier to manage. An easy routine may involve deep breathing, mountain pose, forward fold, and downward dog before a brief guided relaxation. Make it fun and try to do it together at the same time each day.
Make this month about you and healthy parenting. Parenting is hard work but you don’t have to do it alone. We can support you through this back to school transition. You can set up a parent coaching consultation here.
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