There’s a lot going on in my life. I know I need to take care of myself, but how exactly do I get there?
As the pandemic continues and social unrest compounds our stress and uncertainty, we are all facing multiple layers of tension. Between families and communities, we are all attempting to safeguard our physical and psychological health — monitoring business closures and partial re-openings and contemplating our futures.
Our health, economic and cultural shifts are monumental, and they’re happening all at once. Still, as parents, we can find ways to manage stress, keep communicating and create a healthier home environment for our kids.
Parents Aren’t Perfect, Nor Must We Be
Lately, we parents have assumed the roles of cooks, caregivers, teachers and entertainers — not to mention breadwinners — week after week. How many times have you found yourself thinking, “I have to be the strong one. I need to know all the answers. I have to keep my emotions in check,” to set the perfect example for your kids? As a parent of a 10-year-old daughter, I’m on this journey with you, but just keep reminding yourself that it’s impossible to do everything correctly all the time. We’re doing the best we can. Also keep in mind: The whole family is adjusting to life that often changes by the hour. Give yourself a little grace to make mistakes and to be human. Here are few ways we can all work to manage stress and family relationships amid chaos:
Show Vulnerability — It’s often difficult to venture into vulnerability, largely because it is seen as weakness. Just the opposite, being vulnerable takes great courage and confidence; and it creates opportunities for emotional sharing and growth. Allowing your children to see your mistakes and how you learn from them is a great way to show strength, resilience and humility.
Take Self-Imposed Time-Outs — Stretch breaks, lunch breaks (away from your home desk), walk breaks. A few minutes of daily self-care will add perspective and patience when looking after yourself and your family. It’s also helpful to designate places for each family member to take a break. For example, try setting up a quiet space or a “cool-down zone” for yourself or the kids to decompress by reading, checking your social media, playing games or listening to music.
Positively Manage Negative Emotions — When you feel anxiety, tension, anger, uncertainty and sadness, reach out to talk to a friend, sibling, co-worker or partner. Or head to your quiet space to meditate or journal. Be sure to help kids recognize these emotions and teach them healthy ways to manage them: Go play catch, sketch, craft or build something; play a game or an instrument.
Make Sure Everyone Weighs In — It’s really about letting our children contribute to what’s happening, allowing them to be heard and giving them a little control— especially when there are a lot of unknowns in the world. It will go a long way in building their confidence and family engagement.
At Human Options, we work with children impacted by trauma. We have found that because kids are learning faster yet socially developing more slowly, there are imbalances in chronological, academic and emotional age. To help children regulate their emotions, we let them know it’s OK to feel sad or angry, but not OK to hurt themselves or others when they’re upset. We acknowledge, validate and work through those feelings in healthy ways — a sound technique that may help us all to be gentler with ourselves and others in these challenging times.
Maricela Rios-Faust is CEO of Human Options, a nonprofit that ignites social change by educating Orange County to recognize relationship violence as an issue that threatens everyone. To learn more, visit humanoptions.org.
(Opening Photo Courtesy of Toa Heftiba/Unsplash)