Your emotional well-being is what makes theirs possible.
I know that I can have all the strategies for supporting my kids in my head, but when I neglect my own well-being, my capacity to be rational and kind goes down the drain. Supporting your child’s emotional well-being on a good day takes lots of emotional energy, and quickly becomes impossible if we are exhausted and stressed. How are you doing at this moment? Self-care is a necessary part of supporting our children’s well-being. It fills the bucket of goodwill that we have had to draw so heavily from during this time, and thus fuels our ability to care for others. Here are some ways to find greater peace and ease as we navigate our way through these uncertain times.
You do you, let them do them. Watching human behaviour during this pandemic has been illuminating of how diverse and dynamic we are as a species. People are well dispersed on a long line, stretching from strict full isolation on one end to joining lockdown protests on the other. Where we stand is influenced by our diverse immediate life circumstances, as well as the stuff we cannot see- values, beliefs, temperament, the patterns we have developed around how we think and feel about the world and people around us. We can all find more peace if we focus on our own decisions rather than other people’s actions. Trust that you know better than anyone else what to do given your personal circumstances and the unique needs of your children. Then, try not to hold it to heart if others do not agree with your decisions. It may also help to assume that others too have made intentional and informed decisions like you have.
Give yourself space and time to decompress and recover. If you have decided to send your child back to school, it may look like you finally have some time to catch up on work, start those projects, finish writing that chapter. Try to resist putting more on yourself right away. It is a big transition for you too. Chances are, you were holding up yourself, your kids, and perhaps your partner through the stress of living in a pandemic. It is objectively hard to be isolated at home with your child and juggling the full-time roles of parent, teacher and worker in the time allotted for one job. Even if you have managed to find ease with that, it can be scary to look to the future when you’ve been so focused on keeping the boat afloat in the present. If all you do on that first day back is cry in the car, daydream in the strange quiet of your house or take a walk by yourself, you have been productive. When time opens up for you, making space to reflect on how you are feeling and doing something for yourself that feels good and relaxing is important, legitimate work.
Cultivate self-compassion. What expectations are you placing on yourself, and are they realistic? When things are tough, it is not uncommon to be hard on ourselves and think we should be doing better. Try to offer yourself the kindness that you would show a good friend, and recognize that your struggles do not reflect a flaw within you but are part of a common human experience where everybody struggles and fails. This is the practice of self-compassion, which has been shown to boost resilience and physical and mental health.
This blog post is part of my article, How parents can support their child’s emotional well-being when schools re-open, on medium.com, click here for full article.