parenting

Parenting during Coronavirus

Parenting during coronavirus (stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, quarantine, lockdown…whatever you are calling it) is going to be challenging if it hasn’t been already.

These times will absolutely accentuate the positive and the negative of your existing family system and structure, no matter what age are your children.

Some of you are home with wee ones. Some have school-agers. Maybe you have a wrangle of multiple ages with bigger children capable of giving a hand. Still others of you are home with moody teens or young adults wrestling their own disappointments: social opportunities shut down, dating relationships challenged, questions about their future looming.

No matter what, it’s a challenge.

On top of it, you know parenting is one of the BIG THREE that affects marriages, right? Mishandling differences in parenting style, money management, and the sexual relationship can ring the death knoll for any marriage. Notice I said mishandling differences. Having differences is not the problem. Many of us need help figuring out how to handle the differences.

No matter what your parenting styles, even when they differ greatly, here are guiding principles you can each use and adapt for good (not perfect) parenting right now.

Parenting during Quarantine

It’s Parenting 101 all over again.

Some of you have heard me use the model that good parenting consists of nurture, guidance, and limits… in physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and sexual realms. All that nurture, guidance, and limiting is age-appropriate, of course. Not very many of us GOT that growing up but we CAN intentionally offer it to our children…at any and every age.

How are you doing with that matrix?

And if it’s just complete pandamonium and you’re thinking, “Yeah, right, Beth. Nurture, guidance, and limits!? I’m just trying to survive over here” skip down to the numbered points below. πŸ˜‰ Those should help.

No worries. You’re human. And you already have a family system in place and working or not working so well, in which case, use this time to revisit your family norms, structure, operation, and health level.

I’m not saying start from scratch and drum up All the Good Stuff right this minute under pressure. I’m saying you can use the matrix to continue to shore up your parenting even now. Use it to spend some brain space envisioning what you can do to be a better parent.

And pay attention to and emphasize all the great things that actually work. Then remind children of their positive family identity. “We prize family and togetherness. We’ll get through this together. ” Or maybe you can say “We always get through hard things. This is no different.” It is true that “this will definitely be a time to remember.” You ARE creating family memories…even now.

Above all, and in all, be kind and gentle with yourself and others. Just as much as you are able. And get some help if you’re having a hard time with that.

Parenting in Quarantine can be pure chaos

…if you let it. You are in charge of the kids, not the other way around. Even though you’re exhausted, stressed, and sleep deprived while relationships may be strained, you really are in charge. I know your brain might be in fight, flight, or freeze mode and if you identify with that, let me know. I’ve got specific tools to help get you to a more regulated state. And don’t worry, I’ve been helping people with that and more…not just the last three weeks, but for years.

Here are parenting principles to help:

1. Know that your kids are individuals who will have varied and unique responses to stress. Respect that. Honor it. In fact, acknowledge it out loud in a sentence or two even if your audience is likely to respond with an eye roll. Even teens need to feel seen and respected by their parents.

2. Everyone wants to hear things are going to be okay. (They ARE going to be okay. If you don’t know that, let’s chat.) There’s no need to overemphasize this or to fake it. Be genuine. Your kids always want to know that you have got this. You are the adult in their world. They do take their cues from you. It’s okay not to know everything and have all the answers. You can admit you feel scared sometimes too. But it’s not okay to make your kids take care of you right now.

3. Don’t neglect yourself. If you’re freaked out about something, tend to your own freak out. Call your therapist. Lots of us are doing video telehealth now and it is super helpful and safe. There are concrete skills a good therapist knows and can teach you to help address your issues and get you solidly feeling so much better. Then you’ll be ready to jump back in and be a great parent. (Of course, call me. I’m here for you.)

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Plus these important parenting tips:

4. Do provide structure. The creation of predictability and certainty in uncertain times is soothing to EVERYONE, including you, whether you realize this or not. Create structure. Order play times, designate time for work (homework, chores,) time for taking care of business, (when Mommy or Daddy need to be alone for a limited amount of time) and times AWAY from the parenting task…even if it is just for a long, luxurious shower. Or, if they are the correct ages, do get some away time when they are in bed for the night.

5. Rest. Literally, like all of us were told when our babies were born, rest when they rest. Do that now if you can. Don’t expect yourself to go, go, go…even though most of us are doing this within our own homes now. These ARE stressful times. Give yourself and your kids a break. (And remember, a break implies that they were previously on-task or hard at work. πŸ˜‰ But I mean this figuratively as well. Leave room for human responses. Keep your discipline and consequences within reason. If you’re having trouble staying reasonable because you’re just overwhelmed, call a friend, take a break, and of course, get some professional help if you need it.

A few final tips for parenting now

6. Play. No matter what age your children -and I mean grown ones too- play together. On purpose or spontaneously, do something FUN. Board Games, competitive ones, made-up ones, goofy ones, whatever. But PLAY together. It’s a great way to experience JOY.

7. Be grateful out loud. Make lists of good things. Count blessings. Say a prayer before meals. Whatever fits you. But do it and let your kids see and hear you as well as contribute their own ideas. You might not force surly teens to add to the list, but let them hear you doing this.

8. Enjoy this time. It IS unprecedented and that means there will never be another time like it. It’s new and different, which means your brain is on high-alert recording memories and experiences. Make some good ones for your kids.

In addition, Psychology Today has published the first of a series dealing with parenting during crisis. Read it right here. You’ve got resources to make the most of your quarantine.

If you’re having a hard time with any of this, related to parenting or just related to you, reach out. I am here for you.

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love during Corona

Love during Corona

Love during corona is your relationship under pressure. Lots of it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but wait two weeks.

Hopefully by then, you’ll have seen your therapist (virtually) a time or two AND you will read and DO the stuff that’s actually helpful in order to maintain a healthy, loving connection… or adjust a strained, tense one. (More on that below.)

Maybe you already saw the video on Facebook (follow me there if you don’t already) from last Friday talking about how this time has people responding differently because of the way they’re made and the way they process and move through the world, AND because of their unique core issues.

Stressful times can trigger those core issues very differently for members of a couple. Those responses can highlight differences in a way that doesn’t always feel so great when there’s a very real looming threat like coronavirus. Just when you need one another, tension in relationship can increase. Nothing like a pandemic to tax the strength of any relationship! And if you’ve already got issues, well then, here’s help:

How to Tend to Love during Corona.

1. Make an appointment with a skilled professional.

A skilled relationship expert can help you clarify, communicate, and manage whatever is going on for you…and between the two of you. She knows how each of you is made, how you process, and what tools will work best for you individually and as a couple for facing your exact challenges, especially under pressure.

We got you. We are trained for this. It’s what we do all the time. Call your therapist.

AND if I’m your therapist or you want to see if I will be yours, call ME.

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Secondly, your relationship, even now, needs some space. You’re gonna need some clear communication, some real intimacy, some teamwork, and some space.

2. Plan some alone time.

Don’t wait until one of you is brimming over with irritation or feeling stuffy, smothered, and claustrophobic trapped in your house. We don’t want there to be any “finally erupting in anger.” Don’t wait. Know that you are going to naturally need a break from interaction and intensity and that it’s a good thing.

Also, don’t let those daily irritations pile up. Those sighing expressions, eye rolls, facial masks, and body language all communicate something even if you’re “holding your tongue” so to speak. Be sure ALL your communication is something helpful, kind, and true. (Not just one of those things, either: all three.)

That can be hard when things are getting TRIGGERED for you individually. That brings me to…

3. Tend to your personal issues.

They’re yours. Some of you know really well how to take responsibility for them, to address them, and take care of yourself in a way that helps (and does not hurt) yourself or the relationship.

Some of you need a counselor to help with that. Or you’re currently working with one. Get in for an individual session. In the meantime, do everything you already know to manage your own issues, your own stress, and your own triggers

Is it take a walk? Take three deep breaths? Do some tapping and releasing? Do you need to journal it out? Meditate? Call a friend? Send a letter or email? Work out? Stay in touch with a support group?

Do it.

And if COVID-19 circumstances are challenging, get creative. Of course, reach out virtually. Host an online party. There are lots of online platforms available for that as well.

Don’t have the right workout equipment at home? Lots of workouts available online will have you using alternate equipment for weights, blocks, straps, and other stuff. Improvise. You have amazing flexibility, adaptability, and creativity. Now’s the time to use it.

Got an old addiction, habit, or tendency? I’m not saying this is the time to quit smoking or stop drinking entirely…but it might be. For anyone else tempted to mitigate your stress with alcohol, food, or some other unhealthy obsession, do everything you need to do to stay focused on your overall health. It’s that Gentle, Benevolent Observer part of you getting some exercise and growing bigger even now, in fact, especially now.

4. Make a Schedule

Some routine and structure is good for all of us. If you’re home with kids, they need this. If you’re suddenly working from home, you gotta set some limits on how much you work. More details on upcoming blogs discussing Parenting in the time of Corona and Suddenly Working from Home in the next days.

Especially with your relationship during quarantine, maintain some structure.

Is Wednesday night date night? Keep it. Dream up ways to make it special. Even if you have kids at home, structure this around their sleep, or if they are old enough (and game) let them be your servers at the home restaurant, or let them enjoy their own treat-time downstairs while Mom and Dad are alone together in the dining room, dancing in the living room, or settling in with a movie. (By that time, maybe the young ones can join for the movie…or maybe it’s bedtime for them!)

Is Saturday hiking time? Do it, even if you have to walk closer to home. The two of you can hold hands, you just have to stay 6 feet away from everyone else you meet (or not in your household.)

Let your days be structured. And stick to it.

Don’t let Quarantine disrupt your relationship

You don’t have to let love go sour during Corona. No matter how you do it, don’t waste your quarantine. The two of you are made, move through the world, and process differently. You are each going to face this challenge a little differently.

It really can be a time of greater intimacy, connection, and learning in your relationship. Or it can add to the aggravation, irritation, and ultimately cement a super-unhappy memory.

You got this.

And when you don’t, call. I’m here for you. I’m meeting online with couples and individuals virtually everywhere.

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peace comes from faith not fear. learn to handle fear

Handle Fear Itself

The way you handle fear just might be your biggest challenge in life. Not just right now, but in absolutely everything at all times. In fact, it might be the only challenge that really matters. (Well, that and managing shame, the other troubling emotion but even shame does not paralyze in quite the same way as fear. It’s not as contagious, for starters. More on that in a later blog post.)

When Franklin D. Roosevelt said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” he knew what he was talking about. It applies today. And yes, it does apply to fear around our money as FDR meant when he said it in his first inaugural address.

Now is a great time for people NOT to panic about the economy and about their money. History bears this out time and again: those who resist the panic and keep their wits about them are the ones who get the real pay off in the end. Especially when it comes to economic things.

No matter what you apply it to: health, relationship, wealth…everything we do is either in faith or in fear.

I mean it. Every single step, every move you make, every vow you take (sorry, I distract myself with song lyrics.) But it’s still true; it’s ALL fear or faith.

Every single thing you confront today is either done in faith or fear. You are moving through life in faith or in fear. Going to work, driving your car, flying on a plane, submitting that work proposal, trying to improve your health, talking about that thing with your boss, your mate, your sister, or your dad.

I guess you can be doing something in a trance as well, unconsciously. Yet underneath it, even your subconscious is in faith or fear.

It matters.

Facing Fear

When handling fear, you don’t need to shout it down or summon angels for help or start a war. That really just makes it worse. It’s like struggling in quick sand. Exactly the opposite of what helps.

Fear is just fear. It’s an emotion. It’s just like every other emotion. And that means you can notice it, say to yourself, “hmmm, that’s interesting” and allow it. Breathe. Let it go.

Just like every other emotion, fear gets more powerful and bigger the more space you give it. What you focus on amplifies. Every troubling nuance, when given attention, becomes something bigger and more troubling.

Good news: when you focus on all the good stuff, that grows too. Including faith. And faith is NOT just an emotion. πŸ˜‰

Faith is actually a bit meatier. Now, I’m not meaning this in any kind of religious or spiritual sense. I don’t have to be talking from that perspective for this to be real because this is a truth that exists in the secular, human psychology perspective as well. It’s just true. (But if you have a religious or spiritual relationship with faith and perspective, you might already know what I’m talking about. And go ahead, draw on that as you reflect on this if it helps.)

Faith is more powerful than fear. You just need a tiny little bit of the stuff for it to grow. More than an emotion, faith is the expectation of things hoped for. In fact, one text calls it “the evidence of things not seen.” Did you hear that? Faith itself is the evidence of things not seen. Because the faith exists, (the positive belief, shall we say) the unseen thing actually IS. More than an emotion, faith is a state of being.

You’re either stuck in the emotion of fear or you’re in a state of faith.

Managing Fear with Faith

Making this distinction takes power from fear and gives it to faith. Think of fear simply as an emotion and faith as your chosen state of being and you are well on your way to complete freedom from the paralyzing effects of fear, my friend.

It’s that simple.

You know how to manage your emotions.

They’re just feelings you HAVE, and just like any other feeling you have, they will change. So you can tolerate the not-so-fun ones in the moment. They will change. Even the really hard ones based on real crappy things…like learning a mate cheated, or getting dumped, or losing a job, or having a loved one die… I mean those things truly hurt, AND those painful emotions do not stay as intense forever without your help.

Some of you know how to tolerate your pain, not just manage your emotions and that is a very necessary skill. Especially when the thing you feel is pretty unpleasant. And let’s face it, sometimes fear can be pretty intense and grab hold of you. It can seem once you’re in its grip, you’re trapped. But that’s not true.

Handle Fear Intentionally

Concentrate on the good. Count blessings. Garner joy. Repeat the positive. Avoid negatives and catastrophizing. In like fashion, avoid mockery and derision, conspiracy, and complaint. These are all quite a waste of your time and bring fighting energy to a thing that really doesn’t need to be a struggle.

Choose faith. On purpose. Adopt a few soothing mantras if you need them. “Everything’s gonna be all right.” I believe in goodness. “Good things will come of this.” All shall be well.

No matter what phrase or phrases you choose, keep them around and bring them out as a habit, not just when things look dark or threatening. Notice the difference they make.

One woman I see often in the shared lavatory of my office building obviously experiences a lot of fear. She’s always worried about something: the weather, the roads, the soap dispenser, the flu. Her constant mantras are definitely affecting her overall mood, health, movement, and experience in life.

Adopt some positive ones and make them a habit. You’ll reap the benefit of those as well.

Handle Fear with Your Brain

It’s amazing how research and clear thought can keep gnarly emotions at bay. Some of you #brainfirst people already know that. (The downside we talk about sometimes in therapy is too much intellectualizing, too much “thinking your feelings” when those puppies were meant to be felt, enjoyed, and even shared, producing connection, intimacy, and interdependence.)

But at times when the fear factor threatens to overwhelm, there’s nothing like good rationale and clear thinking for truly clearing the clutter and helping one breathe and get back to balance. Take, for example, this Washington Post article explaining why it’s so crucial to slow our movement at times when a virus is on the loose. Good research, informed thought, and measured response help all of us make good decisions and formulate a plan.

And when you’re feeling fearful, having a plan is comforting.

Handle Fear with Movement

That’s right. Move your body. (And if you’re slowing your movement to help slow the spread of coronavirus, move your body within those parameters. I’m heading to pick-up that Kroger order later, for example. I’m not going into the store…because I don’t need to. )

So, if you are slowing your movement, working from home, suddenly with kids home from school, think about your movement and making it intentional. Plan to exercise in the house. Or go out for a walk or run and don’t stop for a chat with the neighbor. Wave. Smile. These are good.

Clean, de-clutter, and organize some more. Knock yourself out and disinfect. Again. Physical movement like this can increases hopefulness, add to lightness of being, keep you from getting cabin fever, and underscore a sense of control.

Just check with yourself to be sure the ways you are moving within your own parameters really ARE serving you, helping keep you measured and well, and feeding your faith, not the fear. There’s no need to be frantic in these movements either.

There you have it. Go with faith, my friend. As much as you are able. And then the rest of the way, when you’re having a hard time with faith, be comforted. You’re not alone. We are in this together. (And that goes for ALL of life, not just virus-time.)

As always, let me know if I can help. I’m here for you. And because I truly believe it is the most responsible and community-minded action, I’ll be seeing you in my virtual office for now. Don’t worry; you’re going to like it too. Plus, I’m here at the blog, on Facebook, and on Instagram…and just a phone call or email away.

Keep the faith. Chin up. Rely on your brain. Move intentionally. You got this.