Real life advice for moms of young kids.
As a mom, this is a world I never imagined for my children, or even myself. I am an avid reader, so stories of dangerous plagues and hardship are familiar to me on a very fictional level. To be living it today, in 2020, is both unexpected and frightening. The experience bringing forth anxiety, depression and despair; shaking my faith to the very core.
I am a nurse, so my call to action is very clear. Upon returning to work in a few days I will stand with my colleagues on the front lines, with or without an N95 respirator. This fills me with both pride and fear; not for my own health, but for those who surround me. While I have taken all precautions for the last 8 days to socially distance myself, I will soon be immediately among those closest to the virus.
Possibly even bringing it home to those I love.
As I contemplate my personal situation, I feel compelled to write to my fellow mothers with words of comfort and understanding. I am sharing some practical advice for what is our new reality as parents. I hope some of you may find connection and peace during these difficult days, knowing you are not alone.
Keep your kids active and educated
Last week was spring break, so I allowed the kids to stay up late, sleep-in and play Minecraft and Roblox with their friends online. But they knew today was coming. Monday morning…and with it a new reality.
I was fortunate enough to get an email from my son’s third grade teacher outlining suggestions for an at-home school schedule for all grade levels. She suggested using this online tool while waiting for further instruction from the school district for remote learning. I am grateful to Khan Academy for putting such a comprehensive schedule and resources together for parents who are now supposed to be the “teacher”, with absolutely no idea where to start. All completely free.
I am also fortunate to live in Colorado, a state where the weather is usually conducive to playing outdoors. My kids are playing in the sunshine, throwing the basketball around as I am writing this today. (On their recess break from school of course).
But aside from that, we also stocked up on puzzles and board games, flew kites at the park (avoiding the playground and picnic tables), and have been honing in on our bicycle skills. We created a movie theatre in our living room, complete with a ticket booth and concession stand. We now have an art corner, where the kids can paint, draw, color or use our homemade moon sand any time they wish. The older boys have also learned to play Sudoku for the very first time.
There are ways to stay entertained without coming into physical contact with other people or objects, while incorporating exercise and fun into everyone’s (new) daily routine. And, as is always a goal of mine, while limiting screen time play. As I think about it, this has really forced me to tap into my own creativity to interact and connect with my kids in new and memorable ways.
A colleague of mine, Jenny Wise, has created this helpful tool to help you entertain your child when stuck indoors. Check it out! Helping Your Child Beat the Rainy Day Blues
Do not waste your energy on anger
I know what you are thinking, because I think it too. How could there STILL be people planning playdates and allowing children on the playground knowing what is happening around the entire planet? It is a thought that has more than once created such anger inside I thought I might bust.
But then I recall where I was sitting just 8 days ago. I had reached out to some school friends, asking for a playdate. I had promised my niece and nephew I would pick them up to play at our house in the coming week. I was determined to make spring break fun for the kids, even if we couldn’t go anywhere.
I wasn’t completely unaware, but UNEDUCATED about what it meant to socially distance. As I read more, I realized it was up to every one of us to follow the guidelines, not coming in contact with anyone or anything that could possibly spread the virus. Not only for our own personal sake (which to that point sounded pretty minimal to be honest), but more importantly for the sake of those in our community. The elderly, the already immunocompromised and vulnerable. We each had to pull together to beat this thing, even if it meant spending the foreseeable weeks at home, alone.
I think about my own father, who had battled non-hodgkin’s lymphoma in his forties. I remember a co-worker who had gone through chemotherapy for breast cancer, and a friend who had a liver transplant only a few years ago. I think about my grandmother, in great health, who just turned 94.
If not for our own sakes, we absolutely have to do it for them. But the answer is not to be angry with those who seemingly dismiss the call to action. The answer is to educate those who don’t understand. Reach out on social media or invite school friends for a “virtual play date”. And for those who know but refuse to listen, do not allow the energy of anger to exist within you. Let it go, and do your part. That is all any one of us can do.
Accept your fear, but embrace your power
We are all afraid. There are millions of things to be afraid of right now. I wonder if I will bring COVID-19 home to my family, infecting my children and putting them at risk for illness or worse. Will there ever be a time when I cannot feed my family for lack of resources at the grocery store? Will my husband lose his job, leaving me to financially support my family alone?
We are all facing our own new realities right now, and with the unknown comes fear. It is a natural human reaction to be afraid of what we aren’t familiar with. To date, this is the most challenging and life-altering circumstance we have had to face together as a globe for generations. So it is normal to be afraid.
My advice to you is face your fears. Look at it with an analytical mind and stay as emotionally unattached as you can, while contemplating your situation.
And then move forward anyway. We have no choice for survival but to accept what our reality is right now and do the best we can with the tools we have right now. It does no good at all to worry about two months from now, two years from now, or even two hours from now. Face now. And then face your next now. Pretty soon you will be getting through it one moment to the next.
Don’t forget to talk to your kids
Now that you’ve faced your fears, don’t forget to address those of your kids. They are highly resilient and are accustomed to change. But that doesn’t mean they don’t pick up on your own anxiety and don’t hear what’s happening in the news. Be sure to encourage your kids to talk about what they are thinking and feeling, allowing time for questions and space to absorb new information.
Some will allow time for prayer, some will have a family meeting, and some will walk together to talk about important things. Be sure you allow for uninterrupted time with your kids each day (put the phone away) to reassure them you are there for them always. Stop and listen to them. Even if you don’t have the answer, it is vitally important right now that you can focus on their needs.
A helpful tool I have used to help my boys combat their fear, anxiety or anger is through simple imagery. You may follow the steps below or change them as you wish. This can be a spiritual exercise or simply a tool you can use to help your kids let go of their negative emotions. You will be surprised at the peace this can bring to your little one struggling to know what to do with their emotions.
- Sit down face to face with your child and have them close their eyes.
- Have them imagine whatever emotion is bothering them, filling a balloon with that emotion.
- Have them imagine the color of the balloon and feel the string in their hand as they watch it float.
- Have them release the string, as they watch the balloon drift into the sky.
- They should describe all they see; clouds or birds, the sun in the sky; as they watch the balloon fade away.
- Have them do this until it is no longer in sight and then open their eyes.
- You tell him that (God/the universe/a higher power or whatever you want to use here) has their balloon, and will take care of the emotion for them. This allows them to truly release what they are feeling and stop struggling to control it on their own.
Take care of yourself
Above ALL else (yes your kids too), you have to take care of yourself. Give yourself some quiet time to do what you love. That can be baking cookies, reading a book, a walk, exercising, a nap, getting an hour of Outlander in…whatever. But you cannot effectively care for your family if you aren’t taking a time out for you. Especially right now when your family needs you so much.
I am both proud and scared to be a mother at this time, as much as any of you. But we can do this together, and just maybe come out the other side better for it.
Forge ahead my fellow moms. You can do this.