My heart goes out to those whose lives have been negatively impacted by the new coronavirus that has recently been spreading through our community. It is likely that before this is all over many of us will have lost at least one friend or relative, and of course the economic impact of the social distancing required to dampen it will be severe, and for some, disastrous.
But in the midst of the gloom, I would like to focus your attention to a silver lining, a hidden opportunity that those of us who are healthy should all be taking advantage of as best we can: spending quality time with our children.
School has been cancelled. Work has been curtailed. You have to work at home.
There is a bright side! It is as if Spring Break has come early, and instead of having to keep working and send your child to a camp or daycare, you are on leave, able to have a vacation together, and enjoy each other’s company. Perhaps not as fun as a vacation, but it can still be a wonderful experience!
For many of us, children and adults, our lives are just too full of the wrong things: Filled with anxieties about money, success, grades. Filled with worries about pleasing our boss, our teacher, our parents, our neighbors. Filled with activities we have to do to please others. Many of my patients’ anxieties are a direct result of their lives being too full of things they don’t enjoy, with no room left for doing things they do enjoy.
As parents, part of our job is to provide security for our children. So a certain amount of concern and appropriate action is warranted when faced with a threat like Covid-19. But if you have done all you can to secure your family, yet still find yourself obsessed with worrisome thoughts, I encourage you to let them go for awhile, and enjoy the pleasure of being with your children.
There is a mental skill called compartmentalization, which is very useful for doctors and nurses. It allows them to be highly present and focused when dealing with a stressful situation, but then let go when the situation has passed, so they can be highly present and focused on the next patient or their next task. This is a skill that can be developed. The ability to let things go and move on is very useful in many contexts, not the least of which is parenting.
Turn off the TV or the radio. Silence your phone. Log off your computer, and turn your attention to your child. How are they doing?
If they are happily engaged in something perhaps you could join them in whatever they are doing if it is not too disruptive.
If they are stressed, perhaps it is time for a talk. Find out what is stressing them and see if you can’t reassure them. Do not poo-poo their concerns, or pretend they are not valid if they are – just knowing your parent understands you and accepts you is reassuring for a child in itself.
See if there is an activity your child enjoys that you can partake in. Time to learn Roblox? Minecraft? Paint a picture? Go for a walk or bike ride? Toss a ball? Try not to push your own agenda. Let your child take the lead for a change. Let them teach you! You will be surprised how much fun you can have (and how much you can learn) sharing your child’s perspective instead of trying to force them to share yours. It will also take you outside yourself; your world filled with stress and concerns, and allow you to feel happy.
This is the essence of Transformative Parenting®. Use the present moment as an opportunity to deepen your relationship with your child by taking their perspective. There will never be a better time for you to put this teaching into practice!
If you can, share below some of the blessings you find.
Best wishes to you and your loved ones!