What to do with feelings that you feel?
Part 1 of a 3 Part Series About our Kids and Families Fighting an Epidemic.
Sitting and considering what I have wanted to say for some time now has become a new hobby. I have stayed quiet but why? I am not so sure. My best guess is everything changed in what seems like a split second and there are forces at work that may or may not have been building to this point for hundreds of years. And today life as we knew it became different and to most of us brand new! What will be no one really knows just yet. But my new exercise is looking for comparisons.
I find myself comparing it to the popular children’s song used to help children acknowledge and navigate their emotions in a constructive way. What to do with the Mad that you feel? From Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Or the children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day. Only in the 2020 version, that day lasts for what seems like an eternity! Much of what we do know about this pandemic is that many of us are having tremendous trouble dealing with the new realities. While some of us have sprung into action and do what we can to help us gain some sense of control or normalcy in the face of chaos. Others are frozen in place. Looking for simple and creature comforts that give us solace. Some find their comfort denying the realities of what this global pandemic is doing to our loved ones, our finances, our self-identity, our role within our family, and well-being! But one thing is certain that these are not normal times for us or our families. So, what do we do to keep ourselves and our families intact with so many unknowns?
Give yourself permission to feel exactly as you do at this moment. Free yourself of unrealistic expectations and undue pressures. Recognize that we are all in it together now whether we want to be or not. And what we do today will have a direct effect on what our tomorrow looks like. The good news? The Universe is giving us a pause, a reset from the over-scheduled, highly pressurized existences we have all become so accustomed to. But it doesn’t have to be all bad!
While most of us have traded commutes for working at home. We have been reacquainted with the way families once were! The resistant child that drags on and then frantically runs to the bus stop has been replaced with late breakfasts of whatever makes them feel just a bit better within all the new scenarios. Work/Family balance has become an art that some of the most accomplished among us are having trouble navigating. But it also creates a unique chance to do today for ourselves and our families things that will help our kids get through this and thrive! These are hard times indeed. But some answers can be remarkably simple!
The way I see it, there are a few main themes that help me to organize my thoughts. Thoughts become Actions. Actions have consequences for the good and for bad. But we should intend to choose carefully and move purposefully. While allowing ourselves the space to be imperfect! For me, the themes are Resilience, Flexibility, Real Support with Concrete Solutions, Connection, and Competence. And being totally honest those priorities change in the order of importance depending on the day and sometimes even the hour! Depending on what is coming at me! Dianne’s life today is really not much different than dealing with an unpredictable toddler! Behaviors that we sometimes use to cope with change, loss, fear, instability, and sometimes downright panic are pretty similar! Do you know how some days you just never quite know which little person you will be dealing with? The unpredictable behavior and intense emotions? All of the drama, the tantrums, all of it! Wrapped up in the most adorable intense little humans we know. When faced with some of the feelings described people often seek what’s familiar to face the unknown. Comfort! And that is exactly what your children look to you for!
Be it through destructive or constructive routines. That Toddler experiences some of those very emotions on a much more simplistic level and they are looking to you to be their Co Regulator in new situations. Their guide if you will. Their go-to person to help them organize and soothe their emotions. A primary focus of toddlerhood is self-identity. We as adults are being somewhat forced to look at our own self-identity too. Who are we in the face of crisis and what will our family work balance look like when this is all over? Will our children come out of this pandemic as competent, capable human beings with a true understanding of what empathy and compassion look like in the real world? Will they be prepared for the lessons of tomorrow some parents are literally teaching them? And are they armed with the tools they need to adapt, apply new knowledge, and make it meaningful? And how do we help?
The first step could be making experiences memorable. If it means something to me? My actions support that emotion! In other words, we may not remember what you said but we will definitely remember how you made me feel. Especially in times of stress and grief. For some, it could be trying not to appear as stressed to our children as we actually are. Lest they pick up on our emotions. And for some? It may be just being yourself. This can be looked at as both a test and a new opportunity to connect with those closest to us in a way our parents may or may not have been able to connect with us. But even in quarantine remember your importance and value has never been higher as a parent.
Dianne Galante former Infant/ToddlerEarly Childhood Program Development Specialist. NYS Health and Safety Curriculum Approved Trainer. PITC and Touchpoints Community Trainer. Former Contributor to LI Parent Magazine. Nanny and a Mama!