Things are different today. We have fallen into a time of radical change and it’s got us all having moments that feel like we are being tossed at sea – adrift without power or safety. Right now it takes a bit of effort to see where our joy and safety lie. Our daily freedoms and rhythms have been lost and children are confused by the sudden physical separation from friends and loved ones.
As parents we may need to acknowledge how we react when our children don’t feel happy or safe. One of my biggest personal struggles is allowing my loved ones to feel uncomfortable and process. I am a rescuer.
Active listening is really important – moving to your observer mode to compassion and empathy without being swallowed up – acknowledging to yourself that, “Of course, they are feeling this way and that is ok.” We are all grieving, because there is loss. It is highlighting something we value that has been taken from us. That also means gratitude. Grief and gratitude are two sides of a coin.
So, first thing I want to ask you is “Have you allowed yourself to feel?” So many of us are surprised by the intensity of our own reactions; at least a part of us is – or we are ashamed by it. It is perfectly normal and natural that we would feel EVERYTHING when the word pandemic is used and we are asked to take seemingly drastic measures. It’s ok to lean in and ok to let them see you process.
Our leaders are uncertain at this time and that doesn’t feel good. Then we are asked to lead – to parent in the same uncertainty. Woah, that’s a lot! Sometimes I think to myself what a beautiful intense opportunity to work with this struggle – to work with faith and resilience! Sometimes I just get scared and angry. I embrace both because I know it is necessary.
The job of a parent or what I call a Family Spirit Keeper is to reflect, learn, grow and guide alongside our families – not to feign perfection but to be in it from your own place of discovering your strength. To that end, I offer you this exercise in reflection.
First look inward and acknowledge.
Try creating something that illuminates how this current situation feels. For example the symbolism I used earlier is a boat adrift. Draw or write about this – notice who is in the boat with you. What does your boat look like? You can draw it first in the sense of how it feels and maybe later you might be able to draw it from a new perspective.
In the beginning it might look like a life raft but after further contemplation and as your mind begins to calm, you may realize it is more like a houseboat. Keep asking questions about what and who is in the boat. Sometimes we have to let it go when it is still a life boat – we all process differently and in our own time. Trust that everyone will continue to process. If possible, end the lesson with acknowledgment of the difficulty and your own gratitude. “I’m so glad you are in my boat with me!” Invite participation, don’t demand. If no one is willing to do it with you – don’t be discouraged. Do it for yourself, they may be inclined to join later.
If you or your children need to take a break and acclimate – let it go for a while. In Reggio teaching, this is what we call “wait time”. Place the pictures on a wall in your home and consider it a work in progress.
If you all feel ready to go further – try the next step.
Discovering your anchors.
Ask – “What makes me feel safe and comfortable right now? Is it my blanket or bed? A hug from my mom? My pet? That we are all together?” Happy songs or memories can be great anchors. Write about or draw these and place them on the wall next to your first picture. The goal is to create a wall that holds and reminds us of the bigger picture.
What powers and steers your boat?
Remind them of their boat. Ask them to describe what powers it – an engine – motor – steering wheel – oars – anything that represents their power to navigate this time.
Sit together and talk about what we can do – to help others, to be safe, to calm our bodies. This piece is about feeling empowered. Some examples might be as simple as washing hands or reaching out to loved ones virtually.
Life has changed, forever changed. We will never unknow what we know today about what could happen in circumstances like these, but that can be a beautiful thing! I hear whispers of wisdom underneath the waves of this trying time. Many of us have the space and less distraction, let’s take the time and discover where our power, choice and gifts are.
I invite you to share your discoveries with us – after all even with the distance – we are in this together!