Dr. Serena Wieder, Profectum Foundation
First and foremost, we hope you and your families are healthy and staying safe.
We are all experiencing great stress given the uncertainty that surrounds us. So many suggestions are coming our way, that even good ideas can at times feel demanding and just too much! And we all wonder how long this pandemic will last? We now know it will be a prolonged period and will reach far and wide. I would like to think about some ideas that might be helpful to all caregivers, and to you to reduce stress!
Anxiety and stress impact all of us in situations we cannot control, especially during this transition to the “new normal” for ourselves and our children.
My question is what will help you alleviate some of the stress, to stay calm, contain anxieties and be present for your family? It is easy to say care for yourself and give yourself some space and some time to think about what would be helpful to you. We are facing so many demands caring for our children all day, meals, setting them up for school, keeping everyone occupied, thinking of all the activities we should try as you are now teacher, therapist, floor time player, and also doing your own work at home while you worry about your partner who may be working out of the home. And what about finances, your parents, your siblings and friends, and and and …
Coping with all this may depend, in part, on knowing yourself.
Is it time to take a deep breath and think about what might work for you, the break you need, or what has worked when you were under stress in the past, and what are you missing now. Take a few minutes to reflect on how you have dealt with stress and what you learned about yourself that might remind you of your inner strengths or recognize pitfalls. As a parent, you probably mobilized in the interest of your child or, like many of us, at times found yourself yelling in distress. What did you wish you would have done instead? Perhaps you need to get up a half-hour earlier to face the day before the kids jump on you? Do you need to talk to a friend or relative about your feelings, or do you really want to talk about something else? Perhaps you too miss social time and want to have a cup of tea with a friend and find a good book or movie you could both watch and discuss after the kids are in bed. Or, try a mindfulness or Yoga activity together? Or, just connect and empathize, to feel you are not alone and pick up some words of wisdom. Perhaps, just do nothing for a while. Do these ideas seem unrealistic to you? Are you thinking, doesn’t she know how much I have to do, how overwhelmed I feel and now she asks me to reflect!
Yes, reflection and knowing yourself is a way to cope with stress and keep perspective.
Now is the time to give yourself credit, to cope with your response to the challenge through reflection about how you feel, who you are and remember you know yourself and your family better than anyone. Reflect on what is or is not working and describe what is happening without judgment and with forgiveness in order to clear a path for what does work. “Talk” about it with yourself or with someone you trust, and acknowledge when you were upset or got overwhelmed. Being mindful will help you consider other options; perhaps you will take another approach, or determine to try harder to control what you can, or be more organized tomorrow, “I will give myself more time for…” Keep in mind no judgement, understanding and self-acceptance. Sometimes self-reflection does not feel like its enough to reduce your stress, and it may be time to seek a therapist for support.
Being reflective can become a practice and will help you also be reflective with your children, to pause and think about what they are experiencing and express your empathy and understanding of the stress they experience.
Be reassuring of the efforts to help us all that are underway, e.g. doctors are working night and day to help us. Reflection also helps you differentiate your feelings from theirs, to listen and be forgiving, accepting them, and expressing your love and help to problem solve together. The outcome may be to enjoy something together, lots of hugs, and restore the security and importance of your relationship. Build a platform for reflection within you and you will find your strength, stability and build on the relationships that anchor your family and you in these trying times.
Profectum would like to share guidelines to support children with developmental challenges as well as a list of resources from our colleagues and others addressing special needs and parents. At this time we all have special needs.
Link to Profectum Foundation’s COVID-19 Resource Page
Contributions to this blog are made by Celebrate the Children's highly talented, interdisciplinary team and wonderful families.