By Dr. Debra Jedeikin
At the very best of times, you have the blessed extraordinarily intense, demanding work of Motherhood. Right now SuperMoms 2020 need to do battle with COVID-19 – the scariest of bad guys..the unknown! The first surreal week has passed. So has the euphoria that comes with novelty, the fun at-home activities, and efficient organizing. Right about now is the realization that this is here to stay awhile. Now what?!
First things first- Modify your Mindset. Attitude is everything. Carpe Diem! Enjoy this serendipitous gift to get to know your children beyond the daily to-do list. In our fast-paced society, we are always on the move-school, soccer, ballet, tutoring, violin -rushing ourselves and our children. They and we are chronically over-scheduled, overtired, and over-anxious. We maximize our children’s schedules to do, compete, excel, and grow up much too quickly while dismissing the profound value of simply being, of downtime, resting, and re-energizing. And we all know this- it’s an ongoing discussion that anxiety and depression in children and teens have increased markedly in the past five years. But we’ve been too busy to stop and think about how to become less busy. And now we have time! Let us breathe and stretch and breathe and take stock, really take a long hard look at the lives we have created.
Emotional health prevents the spread of the fear virus. Your children take their emotional cues from your non-verbal expressions more than from what you say. Our anxiety is every bit as contagious as the dreaded Corona. Remember that when you’re anxiety spikes, you can no longer think. Your executive function – the brain’s thinking planning, organizing ability- shuts off in the face of an immediate threat. So…Breathe, Stretch, Breathe, Repeat throughout the day when stress builds. If you have not done so, create the space for your children to talk with you about this New Normal. Tell them what they need to know- that the Coronavirus is super catchy like a bad cold, so right now, you all have to stay home so that it doesn’t spread. Keep it age-appropriate- just enough information. Ask them what questions they have, what they are thinking about it, what they are feeling about it, and offer them various mediums to express these emotions because play is the child’s primary language. Provide creative options to draw or paint or sculpt or build, write in a journal, perform a puppet show, choreograph a dance routine, make a video, or photo story. Ask them what animal they would be and why then have them draw it and watch a movie about it. Ask them about their wishes and dreams.
Playing with your children is therapeutic and healing. Play reduces anxiety, enhances their communication, fosters emotional wellness, increases self-esteem, and boosts confidence. Schedule one-on-one time with each child and take their lead. Following and flowing with your child in play can positively influence her neurobiology, help her self-regulate and enhance the attachment between yoWe need Structure and routine to feel safe and grounded. Create a daily schedule, starting with getting up, showering, dressing for the day. Looking good helps us feel good! Include school time, snack time, exercise and outdoor time, and an hour of quiet time for all after lunch. Self care at this time is essential for your inner peace and wellness. Schedule some daily alone time for yourself – to rest, or read, exercise or do whatever you need to. Mamas- Pace Yourselves. We are in this for the long haul. Take one step, one hour, one day at a time. Be mindful and stay present, moment-by-moment and enjoy the richness this practice reveals. And at the end of the day, when everyone’s asleep, read Kitty OMeara’s beautiful soulful piece.
Imagine Mother Earth exhaling and resting a minute, taking a break from the noise, the carbon emissions, the frantic, frenetic movement of human beings, giving herself some quiet healing time. Maybe this time is a call to action to reflect upon our priorities and to create a gentler life for our children. I just spoke to my mother in Zimbabwe, Africa. She said all experience is good experience because it teaches us how to be better humans.
Dr. Debra Jedeikin at Del Mar Family Therapy is a Family and Child Therapist, Parenting Consultant.
She is available for online consulting services.