[Stella, 19 months, bopping a balloon to get her feelings out!]
It’s been a long time since I’ve written, but the Great Quarantine has inspired me to write in hopes that these ideas may help anyone out there that is struggling on how to cope with their little’s emotions during this unprecedented time.
First, I would just like to say that I am blessed to be quarantined in the first place; I know many essential workers that still have to take their children to childcare and I send positive thoughts to them every morning when I wake up!
My husband and our practice are also deemed “essential”, but I feel so blessed to be able to be home with my children during this time.
JUST like all of us adults, my 5 year old has been struggling. She misses her routine, her teacher and her friends. As I watch her struggle, I turn inward and remember that I, too, have felt these deep feelings of uncertainty and sadness for missing my own flow and routine of “normalcy”.
I remember my favorite professor in grad school said that “parents are children’s emotional managers”. I remember knowing that this made sense intuitively at the time, and thinking “goodness!” If parents could just “get it together!!”😂🙀❤️ This was OBViOUSLY before I had children and had a real clue. I was so naive. I digress.
Here are a few suggestions on how to get through this time together, my hope for you is that you come out of it stronger together with your loved (little) ones❤️
1. FIND YOUR OWN SANITY SAVERS: the key here is to embrace the suck and put your own oxygen mask on FIRST. The airlines have had it right from the jump: before you can assist anyone else, you MUST put your mask on first. This helps me so much with my parenting.
wake up 5 minutes before work, the kids, chores ETC and do something just for you. For me, that’s meditating and washing my face. Both are my saving graces
2. HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY: Our children can feel us. It is innate in our human-ness. There have been studies conducted with infants in that their stress markers (cortisol levels) match that of their mothers/caregivers.
I have shared with my Hartley (age 5) that I too, have had feelings of sadness during this time and I have explained that I’m sad this is happening to us as a human species and also that I’m sad about what I miss doing daily. I always be sure to remind her that it’s okay to be sad, and also that it’s what we do with it that matters.❤️
I believe that if humans express their emotions effectively and healthfully, we would all be in a better place every.single.day. A favorite quote of mine that I relate to emotional expression is:
“if it’s mentionable, it’s manageable.” This way, if we can express how we feel, we can better cope and manage our feelings productively.
3. NAME THAT FEELING: create a space and help your little put a name to their feeling.
”You seem sad today, I see your tears. Is this true?”
This is a link to a chart that helps really well and your little can circle their feeling or point to it. The National Center for Effective Mental Health Consulting at Vanderbilt has amazing printables and graphics to show on your phone if you don’t have access to a printer. If you can print, having your kiddo circle their feeling for the day and throughout the day helps (bonus-if you have a laminator you can save money and trees by laminating and then having your little circle their emotion with a marker and then wiping it off each time!).
If they don’t want to talk about their feelings, give them time and space. Sometimes, just creating a sacred time to connect is the first step and by letting your kiddo see your vulnerable as you talk about feelings, they may begin to open up too.
It may and will most likely take time, especially if this is new. It typically takes humans 2 weeks of consistency for anything to have a real effect.
4. EXPRESSION: turn inward as a parent. How do you cope with your feelings? As you think this through, you may find a way to help your own child channel their feelings. For me, it’s movement and writing.
movement: I applied this to my girls, and put myself in their shoes. We exercise outdoors daily (riding bikes, scootering, playing tag) and that helps with BIG feelings, as the endorphins release. It also helps that sunlight activates serotonin levels to give a mood boost. If you can’t get out much, take pillows off the bed or cushions from the couch and make a frampoline (faux trampoline) and let them count as high as they can go while you all count out loud (math practice too!!).
self expression: For the creativity side that both of my girls have, I offered for my five year old to make a collage of things that made her happy. She was so excited to help me cut up an old cardboard box and then make drawings to paste on it. It’s been her happy place for a few days.For my one year old (who is also cutting 6 teeth!!!) she has been having “maaaaaaaa” (mad!) days; I have given her a balloon to bop when she’s feeling “maaaa”. I used to use this in private practice with school age children too. Grab a balloon, tie a string to it and see how many times you can punch the balloon “bop your mad out!!)
Hope this may help! Blessings and stay safe and healthy❤️🌈