Navigating the new normal has been fraught with challenges, especially for moms with young children. It’s gotten even harder to be a parent today as health guidance for families sometimes changes daily and you are now expected to become the go-to Child Rockstar (think Raffi), adult playmate, homeschool teacher, sibling rivalry ref, ER nurse (beyond bandages and TLC!), mental health counselor, household COVID-19 health and safety inspector, food-safety engineer, not to mention the demands of managing your career.
Is it any wonder at the end of the day that you have nothing left to give?
Now that you’ve finally got a handle on your work and family schedule and routine, things are about to change once again as you transition from working from home to again working in the office. As states slide into the yellow zone, not knowing whether to homeschool or send your child on alternate days could leave you in decision paralysis.
As the mother of two grown children, I can’t imagine what it must be like, so I’ve reached out to clinicians and educators to ease your burden.
Child Development Therapist Karen DeHaven, MA, BC-DMT, LPC founder and director of AHA! Studio for Integrated Therapies, shares her top tips to make life easier and less stressful for families, so you can parent with more confidence and ease, regardless of what ends up on your already full, overflowing plate.
I’m sharing what I’ve learned over the past couple of months from teaming up with clinicians, mindful practitioners, and educators to empower moms with young children to plant the seeds of resilience and to grow a stronger family.
So, how can moms be more resilient?
Don’t get the wrong impression says Jodi Silverman, certified life coach and founder of the Moms Who Dare community, “resilience doesn’t mean being bulletproof and always being positive or happy. It’s about recovering sooner from crisis or difficult challenges, getting up sooner than you did last time.”
Having resilience is recognizing that “you are a work in progress,” says Silverman: “you’re never going to be perfect, but you will get better over time and feel more confidence.”
DeHaven explains resilience by comparing a big, clunky bowling ball and a light, bouncy ball. Bowling balls are not very resilient. They can crash into things and could break the floor, or your foot. So, you can think of the human psyche as more like a rubber ball. It’s soft, it’s pliable, it’s got give, right?
In times of uncertainty we’re more prone to anxiety, so she asks: “How can we become a little bit more like a rubber ball than a bowling ball?”
“Bowling balls are rigid, so as soon as you get into a this- is- how- I -do- it mindset, she says that you are going to struggle and set yourself up for a higher stress level.
Opportunities to become more flexible
What if you’re placing a take-out order and because of COVID-19 they have a limited menu, do you make another choice or do you dig in your heels?
Here’s another example, last night when I was heating up my family’s dinner, I didn’t realize that the oven wasn’t working, until I reached into the oven ready to serve and the food was cold.
Instead of panicking and deferring to someone else, I calmed myself down and then immediately moved into problem solving mode and considered my options.
Long story short, my family raved about dinner last night because I was able to transform my lackluster, hum-drum chicken fingers into ooh-la-la grilled chicken sandwiches from cooking them on the stove in a new way.
The point is that my mindset had to shift for me to move from frazzled to Cooking Goddess.
DeHaven uses these four coping strategies to help you get out of the doldrums to embrace knowledge and not brace against challenging transitions.
1. Get grounded for extra support
DeHaven says when you reach out to family and check-in with them, instead of focusing on your own trauma story and saying, “Oh my gosh, I’m panicking,” reframe the question to stop feeling like a victim. Ask: “Hey, how are you guys doing?”
When you focus on others, DeHaven explains that you shift your focus away from yourself, which can stop that runaway negativity worry train in its tracks before it gains any momentum and boost your resilience.
How does this boost your morale?
They usually lean in and reciprocate and ask you how you are, so you get extra support, feel and increased sense of belonging, and regain some control in your life at a time when anxiety runs so high.
“On the front lines, it’s okay to take time to figure out where your feet are and how to ground yourself before you ground your child,” advises DeHaven.
2. Dance with your worry, then release it
Determine what emotion you are feeling. Here’s what DeHaven does: “When I feel worry, I will dance with that worry in its biggest expression for about five minutes, and I will literally look at clock and say, okay you’ve got five minutes to sort of occupy my brain and body. And I’m a hand wringer, and I pace, and because I’m a very creative person I can come up with wild scenarios very quickly, but at the end of 5 minutes it’s time to get back in the saddle.”
3. Claim your emotional state
If you want to begin cultivating resilience, you need to start talking about your feelings and identifying them. Say, “Gosh, I’m feeling “x” right now.” Not, that makes me feel “x, because that actually gives all of the power to factors beyond your control.
“The path to happiness is to claim: ‘I’m feeling anxious, I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’m feeling worried.’ Once you can name it, then you can start making a plan to address that emotional state. Then, it naturally begins to decrease.”
4. Develop a plan to address concerns
If you’re feeling worried, “stop and ask, ‘what do I feel worried about? You might say, ‘I feel worried that I don’t have enough time.’ Okay, so let’s break it down. And then by making a plan, considering what needs to be done in the allocated time, you can start prioritizing and take low- priority tasks off the table, so that you can make it happen.
And by having that level of self-efficacy that gives you a sense of pleasure, which releases hormones in the brain that are related to pleasure states, which leads to happiness.”
That’s when you “stop taking flight and start to be able to ground.”
My hope is armed with these strategies that you will cope better, rediscover the joy and passion of raising your family, and thrive.
What coping strategies do you have?
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