Ok, so I know by now you’ve received an email from every organisation you’ve ever come into contact with. Everywhere you go you there is no escaping this weird, scary situation we are in.
Maybe a friend-of- friend’s-friend-who-is-a-Dr has had you either terrified with predictions and statistics or you’ve felt naively mollified by finding out that a cup of tea or coffee might be a cure for this thing.
Sure, you maybe have made a feeble attempt to override the scary news with the 7th, 21st or 42nd photo on all your friend’s phones. But it’s hard to avoid this situation. Even if you think you’re managing, the reality is it’s in the air. We are all in a state of panic and trauma.
And those amazing little emotional sponges are feeling it too.
The way they are talking may be nonchalant, it may be dismissive, it may be humorous, it may be full-scale denial. And that’s ok.
Humans react to situations using “fight”, “flight” or “freeze” and we are seeing the many and varied manifestations of those.
But if we don’t honour and acknowledge our emotions then they store themselves in our bodies and often they fester coming up in unusual and often disruptive ways. For children, this is often in the form of “off-track” behaviour.
I ask parents to support themselves so that they can be ready for this. Your children may be more whiny than usual, more aggressive, more beligerent or disruptive. Those are all signs of what we call a full emotional backpack and what they need is for us to come in close with warmth, empathy and understanding, allowing for their tears to fall or their anger to come out whilst we empathise (mostly without words). This process is called Staylistening.
Laughter is also another great release if you don’t have the time or energy to Staylisten in that moment so if it’s easier for you to switch to play or giggles, that’s another great option. It’s still important to clear out those emotions and welcome tears and tantrums as part of that natural “emotional release” process when you are able to, however.
It’s also helpful to connect and help fill their cup and allow for them to use play creatively to work through their fears with daily Special Time. Special Time is one-on-one connected play time where your child takes the lead and you drop all distractions and just delight in them and it’s very natural for them to creatively work through fears during this process. It doesn’t have to be more than ten minutes a day to have a huge effect.
Obviously this whole situation is alien to all of us, this way of parenting may be as well and a lot of people have been thrown into a situation where they have to work or school from home and their tensions are running high. Or perhaps you are now unable to work and fearing for your finances.
This is where Listening Time will be highly beneficial. I have outlined what that is here and I recommend this video from the founder of Hand In Hand Parenting (who have popularised and streamlined the concept of Listening Time) with FREE Listening and support to parents over the next few weeks as well as just some great advice on helping children through this period.
I highly suggest you do this work in arming yourself for the conversations and feelings yet to come. You may even want to take a proactive approach to conversations such as is outlined here.
When talking about this with kids we need to be feeling emotionally strong enough to do so. We need to be welcoming of the big feelings that will come up. We need to keep it appropriate and necessary and we need to honour feelings of fear. We can tell our children that this is an adult problem and the best brains are working on solving it but it’s totally normal to feel scared. We also need to be prepared for these feelings to come up at bedtime and maybe even push things forward to allow for that.
For me, I am on a complete emotional rollercoaster. I feel like I’m more focused on the impact on the economy (and I’ve already felt that impact to my own income) but I also live in close contact with my parents, who I don’t like to think of as elderly but of course the reality is they are higher risk.
Today is the first day of schooling at home and that’s certainly put us all to the test!
I feel a trust overall (which may be naive but it’s certainly helping me through) and I’m finding comfort in the sense of community this thing has created and in the of harnessing of technology for connection and access.
I believe we will get through this and we will rise stronger and wiser.
Wishing you health, strength and happiness and reminding you to go easy on yourself. This is a uniquely difficult situation and nothing has to be done by the book. Give yourself and your children plenty of slack and room for error!
If you need a Listening ear, tools or support,
Aunty Ask xx
Please find further recommended resources below:
Podcast by Helena Johnson Mooney at Parenting With Play
Dr Laura Markham, Dr Shivali Tsabary and Natasha Daniels (OCD and anxiety expert) videos
Hand In Hand Parenting Support Calls schedule
Dr Kirstin’s (child psychologist) Barchia’s Parent Thinking Space