(Beginning in mid-March 2020, when the world shut down, I began a bi-weekly conversation with the parents who had been in my RIE classes. Since not every family could make it to these conversations, but each conversation touched on important elements, I would often write up a summary of the conversation. What follows is one of those summaries.)
Thank you for those who were able to join the call last night, I hope you found it valuable…and for those who couldn’t make it, or who couldn’t stay for all, I’m happy to share a summary of what we covered:
Many are feeling stressed, quite naturally, by this ‘new normal’ that we are all still trying to adjust to…suddenly bedrooms are becoming home offices, living rooms becoming multi-age childcare spaces, patios and backyards becoming sometimes much too small havens of fresh air…and everyone’s roles are shifting and changing….we have so much more time…and yet, for many there is so much more to DO within that time.
A strong theme for many last night was about redefining roles and responsibilities….how to get it all done and the importance of creating space for adults to step out of their roles of parent… employee/boss… friend… adult child… nurse…and just be themselves.
I want to give you some strategies and some suggestions that you can use as conversation starters with your spouses, but I first want to acknowledge that this is a challenging time…not at all unlike your postpartum period at home with your new babies…that was a welcome and expected shift in your daily lives and routines, and even in your roles…but it was hard, right? Did you know that study after study shows that marital satisfaction is at its lowest in the weeks and months after a baby is born? And that is certainly due, in great part, to a lack of sleep and uncertainty about what you are doing…but also because of the shift in routine and expectations we have for ourselves and for our spouses. So, if there is tension at home, accept and acknowledge it for what it is: stress! The best way to alleviate that stress is through honest and open communication.
That said, just as the postpartum period was gentler for some than others, I’m hearing…not just last night, but in most conversations I’m having…that there are some downright delicious and wonderful aspects of this experience. For some it is the ‘pause button’ they had been looking for…an opportunity to slow down, to nest, to simplify, to bring awareness and focus back to the family. Parents are seeing the deep love between siblings, finding deeper connections with their partners, and establishing new appreciation for self-care and self-expression.
To each of you, I want to ask…when this ends, and it will end…no doubt, it will be a different world we re-emerge into, but physical distancing will end. What will you take with you? What are habits, routines, mindsets that you don’t want to lose? Identify them, and hold onto them.
Below, you will find a short checklist, adapted from an article at BeginningWell.org, that can help guide your thoughts as you find your balance…not your sea legs, but your home-legs, as it were. I can’t tell you the perfect schedule for your home, and I can’t tell you the best way to divvy up responsibilities. Those are things that can only be worked out in your home, but they must be worked out…clear communication and an understanding that you are all working toward the same goal is the only way forward.
Lastly, someone asked about how to talk to older children about what is happening with Covid-19 and I recently read about a lovely technique in this article from Janet Lansbury. In amongst the other really great advice, her guest (Dr. Susan Stiffleman, MFT) described a very concrete game to help older children start to understand the way germs spread. (Ball up a tissue, telling your child you are going to pretend it is ‘germs’. Hand it to your child, and have them hand it back…step back and toss it…then step further back…you can explain that the farther apart we are from others, the harder it is to get sick.) I invite you to read it and let me know what you think.
I have another call scheduled for tonight and I look forward to seeing as many of you there as can make it.
Consider your schedule for the day and week, including:
- Wake up time – for each child, and for each adult
- Meal times – when will you have meals together, and when separate? (Reminder to keep meals restful and nourishing. Try not to rush, and no tv, radio, or social media during them!)
- Learning and playing time for children (remember, different ages have different rhythms and agendas)
- Work AND FREE time for parents
- Bedtime – for children and adults. It may be tempting to let them stay up, but consider that keeping them on schedule is better for them AND gives parents time to be have time together or time apart
- Think about the upcoming day
- Grocery shopping
- Meal preparation and clean up
- House cleaning and laundry
- Child care
- Pet care
- What else
Take time to digest…don’t be surprised if you are more tired than usual…this situation is both internally and externally draining. I love the analogy on balance…we’ve practiced standing, sitting, walking…so many times that we take it as a matter of course and forget that it is there…but we are constantly readjusting, subconsciously. Now, all of a sudden…our axis has shifted and we are re-learning our ‘balance’ with the new tilt of our worlds.
Take this as an opportunity to raise self-awareness and develop inner clarity. There are some really wonderful things
These challenging times give us the opportunity to unfold our creative potential, self-awareness, inner-clarity and reliability.
At the end of each day
Take some time to reflect on fulfilling or difficult moments…
- What nourished you?
- What were you missing?
- Did you feel appreciated and seen?
- If you had difficult moments with your child or partner, what made it so challenging or maybe exhausting?
- In moment when you felt fear or anger, how did you express it? Look more deeply at what was behind your actions/reactions?
Thoughts on media
What am I reaching out to at first in the morning? My phone, my partner, or my child?
How often am I looking at my phone/smartwatch during the day?
How often am I quickly texting someone and asking my child for patience rather than putting the phone away and looking at it only at certain times?