You Are Doing Everything Right!
Dear Parents and Primary Caregivers,
Ask yourself these three questions right now:
- Did I tell and show my children that I love them today?
- Did I help them name their own emotions or at least ask them how they are feeling?
- Did I acknowledge where my own emotions came from at least once today?
If you can answer a full-hearted YES to these…
YOU ARE DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT!
Over the past week, here’s what I have heard from parents:
- One woman broke down crying as she talked about her son who has Tourettes, OCD, and anxiety. She said the lack of structure is making it hard for him to cope. And she talked about how frustrated and tired and angry she is that she has to deal with this and how guilty she feels for having those emotions. And then the desire for someone to take care of her. And then the exhaustion. And then finally the release that she finally got to admit what she was feeling.
- Another person wrote “My peeve at the moment is all the mums who are posting art projects they’re all doing together as a family etc. At first the positivity was encouraging but now it’s just making me feel inadequate!!!”
- A mother of a two and five-year old, whose husband is an essential worker, asked apologetically if we could do meetings in the morning because “even screens don’t entertain my kids by afternoon.”
- One dad talked about his kids wandering in and looking for hugs and snacks whenever he was on Zoom calls.
- A nurse and single mom talked about the anxiety and impossible choice of having to go to work and also having that mean she had to leave her children at her parents’ house exposing them, exposing her children, in order to help others.
- One woman talked about how she had to file for unemployment for the first time, lay off her entire staff, and was worried her business wouldn’t survive these closings. Then she noted that she felt guilty that she hadn’t gotten her parents Easter flowers, saying “I haven’t done one nice thing for anyone in the past month.”
The overwhelming emotion and common theme I hear in all of these experiences and in numerous other conversations with parents and caregivers over the past few weeks is guilt. Am I doing the right thing? Are my kids doing enough schoolwork? Are they on screens too much? What is realistic right now? Am I functioning in my job? Am I productive enough? How can I meet my kids needs when I am such a mess? Why do I have to deal with this? It isn’t fair. I am not prepared. I don’t want to be doing this. I want someone to take care of me. Does that make me a bad person or a terrible parent?
The message I want to give to all parents and caregivers is that the only thing you really need to do right now is tell your children you love them. Hold them if they will let you. Rub their back. Tuck them in. Ask them what they need. Let them take their anger at the situation out on you without reacting too much. And if you do any of this, you are doing everything right. Sure, there is lots of good advice out there right now about what kids need – structure and routine, play based learning – and a million and one online resources to take advantage of – STEM activities and on-line art classes, virtual read alouds and free audio books, yoga and mindfulness exercises to keep even the most dedicated yogi busy. A lot of this is really good stuff and if you have energy and ability to make use of the advice and the resources that’s great too. But I guess what I am saying is for those who can’t right now (maybe you are an essential worker and you aren’t physically in the home as much as you want to be. Maybe you are coping with anxiety or depression or job loss or conflict with a partner. Maybe you are a single parent doing this all by yourself. Or maybe you simply don’t have it in you to organize that family Olympics game as recommended by your kids PE teacher), at a time like this what your kids need most is your love and connection and your help to identify their own feelings. In fact, helping your children develop emotional literacy – the ability to identify, name, and interpret their emotions – is arguably the most important skill they need to get them through this crisis. In other words, if you start with heart and connection, you’ve got this. Sending you a virtual hug.
Director, Whole Child Connection