Parenting Post #3: Presenting Our Best Selves

JFS Seattle presented a webinar in recent weeks titled “Navigating Without a Map” a presentation about parenting in uncertain and challenging times. One of the questions they posed, and the one I found most interesting, was – “How can we maintain and present our best selves during this time of crisis?”

Parents often find ourselves helping our child through a difficult time, but are only affected by empathizing and feeling their pain in that moment. However, the current pandemic affects us directly and deeply in unexpected ways. Anxiety can often be triggered by uncertainty and much of this current situation is uncertain: Will we be infected? Will we know it? Will we receive treatment? And, when will this end?

We can control only so much and we all should know by now what to do: wash our hands, social distance, and, one that I have instated, no visits to the emergency room allowed, so be careful when you play! Admittedly, this is not the time for your child to pick up carpentry.

What is really challenging is explaining to your children, that it is unlikely they will attend school again this year, or see their friends in person for weeks or months to come, or play on a jungle gym in a park. And for parents and guardians, when will the online homeschooling end? When can we reclaim moments of freedom and peace? When can we go out with our partner or friends for dinner? Will I ever get to eat sushi again?!

Knowing all of these questions, we ask again, what can we do to maintain ourselves and best help our children? Some of these suggestions will seem obvious and others may be outside your scope, but tailor each to your personal situation:

  • Begin each day with a grounding exercise. An easy option is the 4-7-8 breathing for 1-2 cycles. This can be a quick and easy, yet effective, method. One set is only 4 total breaths and takes under one minute. Using the same counting speed, inhale for 4-count, hold for 7-count, exhale 8-count, repeat 4 times for one cycle. This is a refreshing way to start the day. If this formal technique is not for you, simply doing 10 total breaths of the slow inhale-exhale kind is good enough. Advanced version: run through any meditation you have already memorized.
  • Download Headspace App for free and use their Weathering the Storm series which is currently free. The guided meditations can range from 3 – 20 minutes.
  • Stay informed but DO NOT read online news or social media obsessively. Overconsumption or obsession with news is not beneficial for you or your family. Institute limits for yourself with news; consider allowing yourself 15-20 minutes in the morning to catch up with latest developments and then again in the evening. Aim to stop news consumption at least 2 hours before you go to bed. Find your news from reputable sources; absorbing unfounded claims on social media will only add to anxiety.
  • If you are able to go out of the house legally and/or safely, take a 15 minute walk. Focus on clearing your head of anxieties and try to find peace in signs of spring. By shifting your focus to nature and the environment, your mind will not dwell on stressors. This is also an easy way to practice mindfulness (a bonus! Aren’t you the multitasker now?!). If you can leave the house and enjoy exercising outside, this is definitely NOT the time to stop. An exercise routine will enhance your wellbeing, both physically and mentally. Take advantage of the season and spend time outside, nature is a reminder that there is still beauty in the world.
  • Gather for family meals, if you are able to do so, meals shared with the entire family are a way to maintain normalcy and foster togetherness for your children. There are new challenges in planning a simple family meal, food and other resources are limited, but cooking will provide a sense of control and fulfillment that you are providing a “normal” experience for your children. If it works for your family, consider each sharing one thing for which you are grateful before your meal.

These handful of suggestions are just a starting point; the main goal is to provide your children (and yourself) a sense of stability in an unstable time. If you can utilize any one of these options to find a calmer version of you, then that is a win.

If you find yourself needing more support, JFCS now provides “Drop-In” Counseling hours: Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10 AM – 12 PM and Tuesday/Thursday 5 – 7 PM. Call us at 609-987-8100, Dial 0 and you will be connected to a counselor.

Many of us find ourselves in entirely new situations during this crisis. If speaking to a therapist feels outside your comfort zone, remember that there is no judgment, only insights and advice from our counseling team. Find comfort in the ability to air your concerns, your fears, your stressors to someone outside your home or family circle.

Parenting Posts presented by Claire Brown, LSW

What are the Parenting Posts?

In these uncertain times, when everyone was quickly forced to juggle work from home roles, remote learning responsibilities, heightened anxiety about keeping your family nourished and healthy, on top of personal fear of the unknown landscape of life during coronavirus, parenting challenges have been augmented. We are introducing weekly Parenting Posts which will provide helpful information, skills and support for those in parenting roles – during the global health crisis and beyond. The obstacles faced by someone in the parental role did not begin during coronavirus and will not end with the outbreak, and this weekly blog will provide long lasting skills.