Hello all, and welcome to my blog.
I’d like to spend some time validating the extreme difficulties parents are facing right now. In our preschool community, I’m aware that many families are struggling with the stress of having to refrain from the social experiences that they, and their children enjoy. Children of all ages miss their schools, their friends, their relatives, their teachers. Parents likewise are missing their relatives, friends and often their co-workers.
Other parents are more stressed about having to work out in the world where we are in the midst of a pandemic, and want nothing more than to just shelter in place at home without worrying about bills so they can keep themselves and their children safer. It is a time when our inequities of financial resources and privilege may make this time much harder on some than others. There are also parents with more stress added because of illness in the family or in themselves.
We each want nothing more than to know it will all be okay and guidance on how to manage best.
What I can do as a Director of a young children's program and as a parenting consultant is offer some suggestions and helpful websites and resources.
If you click the links as you go through this blog of thoughts and resources, remember to return as there are lots of great resources to explore, throughout.
If you are a new parent or have a new baby, I highly recommend this bestselling author and her new book coming out titled The Bottom Line For Baby, by Dr. Tina Payne Bryson.
Resilience through tough times is partly built through finding the things that we do have the power to change or finding the things that we can enjoy or benefit from within our current circumstances. Sitting with uncertainty and temporary major life changes can be stressful and emotionally consuming, which may in turn limit the possibilities for joy or accomplishment that can exist.
Validation of this emotional roller coaster and our connections with others buffer us against these more difficult lasting feelings, and so it’s important to first really take in and sit with the acknowledgment that what we are experiencing is very difficult; and to be aware that right now so many families are faced with similar struggles.
If we don’t know of those who are facing similar struggles, it can feel like nobody understands, so finding those who are struggling with similar concerns can be hugely helpful. Even with common parenting experiences, it is helpful to know that your child isn’t the only child to experience overflows of emotion (or “tantrums”), and that you aren’t the only parent who has a hard time stopping from yelling when upset.
Acknowledging the lows, the fear, the times we find joy and connection is so important to our own emotional stability right now. If you tend to avoid validating the difficulties, it may help to take a moment to do that for yourself. We can often move toward gratitude and focus on the ways we can help ourselves, our children, and each other, once we have acknowledged these hard feelings.
For young children, authenticity is important. They look to us to help them understand how things are. They know when we are feeling unstable emotionally. Pretending everything is easy or great all the time, may not land as genuine to them, causing them some anxiety because they can sense things aren’t quite how we are representing them.
As parents, we want to provide confident certainty for the sake of our children’s sense of well-being, but it is also important to be genuine. This can feel contradictory and sometimes it is. Which is why self-care is so monumentally important, now more than ever. Finding our solid base within the parameters of what actually is happening right now, taking the time to take a breath, eat something, drink some tea, take a walk, do some yoga, take a bath, chat with a friend, all of these are ways in which we may find our own solid ground.
There are many things we can’t control. One thing we can control is making ourselves a little higher priority so we can be better regulated when talking with our children.
Additionally, it is very important that we listen to our children and validate the varied emotions they may be facing. As parents, we often want to fix things for the sake of our children’s emotional stability; but really what can be most helpful to them is allowing them to fully express their emotions to a compassionate parent who is there to help them. Sometimes this is by stating what we think our children are feeling with compassion, and sometimes it’s more about just being there for them.
Sitting with their upset can be hard for us, but it is truly what children often need most. Here is a lovely video showing one dad who lovingly stays present while his toddler overflows with rage and upset. If you watch to the end, you will see the beauty of how this ends up for her and helps her connect and regulate.
The two children’s books I recently wrote are empathy books, tools to connect and possibly help children open up about the feelings they are having right now. Here are the links to those: Not Forever But For Now and This Summer I Wonder
Here is something to look out for once it airs, an episode of Daniel Tiger related to the coronavirus.
Routines are important for us all, children and parents alike. Some kind of routine for meals and bedtime and possibly a weekly family “movie night” helps give us all some stability and predictability, which is sorely needed right now. For some parents, it feels hard to implement these routines, and to them I say keep trying, because you will likely be glad you did.
Flexibility is also key here, but a general structure for mealtimes, bedtime and some activities each day will help us find the things in life we can control more readily. Be kind to yourself as you navigate this process, and be flexible if there is a need emanating from others in your household. A general expectation that everyone is in bed before 9 pm, for example, is generally a really helpful thing for the sanity of all.
We are all helping our children grow their adult brains, we want them to be able to grow into capable, self-sufficient grown-ups. One grown-up brain skill that we all want our children to master is the executive function of planning and follow-through, so these are areas we can work on for ourselves while supporting our children.
Modeling for children is the most powerful teaching tool we possess. So, if you want your child to be good at self-care, then self-care needs to be a priority for you as well. As caregivers in our homes we have learned to prioritize other’s over ourselves. However, modeling self-care is just simply a powerful parenting tool.
Nobody has the perfect answers about easily navigating daily life and learning with young children during the safety closures of a pandemic. But there are many experts out there who are trying to fill this need and answer parent questions right now.
Families have varying access to outdoor and indoor space at home, so creative flexibility is key here. One key point that I hope parents take away from this is the importance of children playing and exploring, creating without media or without being entertained. Finding ways to increase time for children to get engaged with the activities around them and create new things on their own is good for everyone. Boredom is the gateway to innovation, if we can bear it long enough and not rescue them from it, children will find ways to engage and create.
If your child is returning to school soon in person, here is a great brain science based video by Dr. Tina Payne Bryson about helping children with anxieties that may be surfacing related to going back to school.
Articles to help with activities at home: Stuck inside with the kids during the coronavirus pandemic? Here are some ideas for creative play
Parenting classes and podcasts: Parenting Through Uncertainty with Dr. Lawrence J Cohen
Hand in Hand Parenting classes- Hand in Hand Parenting is a lovely organization that helps parents listen to children and emphasizes the importance of play and connection:
A series of webinar courses for $39 with a variety of experts. The zooms are taped and available for replay so even if you are late to register, you get all the content:
Parenting books that might be helpful right now:
The Opposite of COMBAT (for help learning how to mediate sibling rivalry-lots of great examples are here)
Children’s Books that might be helpful right now: Not Forever But For Now and This Summer I Wonder Additionally, here is my blog about children’s books with other kinds of children's books that might be useful.
Writing your own empathy books with your child or even just one picture page when there are emotions they are processing, is also a really great way to help them process, connect, and regulate (calm). The key is to follow their lead, don’t try to tack on a happy ending or lesson, just let them process and write down their words, they can make pictures for it or you can, or there can just be words. This is something we come back to again and again as a tried and true recommendation to help young children with a variety of emotional expereinces.
Let them witness you caring only about what they are saying for these brief periods of time and it will build a trust and connection like no other. If we take a moment to reflect about our own experiences and how much we just wish our loved ones would listen to us without trying to jump in and solve it or tell us why we should feel better, we immediately understand why this can be so helpful and powerful for young children. You can trust that children are processing and that their feelings aren’t the end of the world, but in fact, the beginning of their own solutions.
Here is an additional website that offers some great parenting links and resources by Dr. Tina Payne Bryson who is a bestselling parenting author as well as well-known speaker and pediatric and adolescent psychotherapist.
And remember, as Dr. Bryson so perfectly puts it here, what your kids need most is you, just some connection time. The learning will come, showing up for them in connected ways will be the foundation for everything else to grow and thrive.
Another great exercise to try is to imagine with them what they would like things to be like, it can open up communication and lead to some helpful problem-solving moments. Finally, we need to find ways to help children and ourselves focus on the things we can control. What do they love to do that they can do at home? How can we learn and engage in the things we love at home so that we have things to engage and look forward to? Are there ways we can safely help others right now? Being part of the solution can be hugely empowering and provide a lot of optimism and hope for all.
If you feel your difficulties are more severe and you need to access a therapist, then it might be helpful to know that if you have Medi-Cal, that county health departments offer therapy services. Other possible routes to check into if you have another health care provider is to see what they are offering right now, sometimes they waive or adjust fees. Also, here is a link to another center for therapy that is offering online sessions for clients. https://www.harmonyinparenting.com/
Hope this has been helpful or led you to some helpful resources in these hard times. There are other blog posts on this website you might find helpful. Let’s try to keep as many people healthy and safe as we can.