Observations on the Road of Life

April 1, 2020

This unfolding pandemic will forever alter our lives and divide time into a distinct Before and After. Our only choice is to confront the situation with intention. Life flows unrelentingly forward. Although we can remember and reflect on the past, we can never live the same moment twice. Similarly, we can ruminate and imagine the future yet our thoughts can only approximate our best guess of what will actually unfold. As we travel this journey of life, we bring several things to the experience: our thoughts, our relationships, and our actions. All of these are influenced by our values and beliefs. Tune into our core Values and allow that compass to guide our choices. I suspect that most parents have some Core Values in common, and therefore have some common priorities. For example, we want our children to feel deeply loved and we aspire for them to grow into healthy, productive and happy adults. Other Core Values shared by many families place  high value one

  • Education
  • Respect
  • Service
  • Kindness
  • Competency

This might be a good time to write our deeply held values down on a post-it note and stick it to our bathroom mirrors to serve as a tangible reminder when things get challenging. We cannot lose sight of these values. They will provide lampposts to illuminate our paths on this unplanned Covid-19 road trip. Our values will help us spot potholes and allow us to find a way around them. Our values provide "rest stops" which allow us to focus on what truly matters and refresh us so that we can continue moving ahead. They also impose guardrails that keep us on the "proper" path and delineate boundaries that we will not violate. During the weeks ahead, look for the "scenic overlooks"--  moments of emotional connection with our loved ones. Recall how we yearned for our children and use that reminder to help you through the rough patches.

Resist the temptation to complain about kids and spouse/partners being home, driving us nuts. Imagine what life would be without them. Concentrate on what is important: feeling connected, staying regulated, modeling compliance with public health guidelines. Allow schoolwork to take a backseat to nurturing our children's mental and emotional health. They can always catch up on academics. What they need from us right now is a secure sense of safety. This is our most significant task.

Until they feel this emotional safety they will be unable to effectively engage their higher thought processes. Their brains will default to self-protection mode--fight, flight, freeze-- and their behavior and life will be more challenging for the entire family. Some day in the future, we will recall this time. What do you hope your children will remember? Take the time to truly think about this. Then use those images to guide you in intentionally striving to create those moments. The memories that remain deeply implanted are those connected to strong emotion.

Fear will happen on its own. We must deliberately create silliness and joy. Here are some ideas that cost nothing and use items you probably already have on hand.

  • Dress up in "costumes"
  • Camp at home-- in the backyard with a tent or under a table draped with a sheet.
  • Fashion popcorn shooters out of empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls
  • Freeze dance (Google for fun songs that call out the commands)
  • Sit on an uncarpeted floor and wage a tug of war (remove shoes & leave on your socks)
  • Record slow-motion video of the kids dancing wildly, then watch it together
  • create sock puppets. (Use elastic bands if you don't sew)
  • Read a story aloud by flashlight
  • Play hide and Seek.
    • (Switch up the counting to do it by 2s, 3s etc. This makes it a great math exercise too.)

We parents also must cope with fear and worry. The danger is real as are the challenges that exist. Take the time to keep ourselves out of Survival Mode and remain in Coping Mode. We too, need to be able to access our higher-order thinking and coping skills. Identify strategies that can help you stay calm and enable you to facilitate co-regulation. Instead of imposing Time Outs on the kids, treat yourself to a few minutes of peace and solitude--even if it is only a shower or ten minutes in your bedroom alone. Other things to try: audiobooks, meditation music, yoga, exercise, visiting via online platforms.

We will want to frame our efforts into achievable chunks: one week, one day, one hour at a time and then acknowledge each tiny instance of success. We can do it because we must do it. Failure is not an option. Surrender is not an option. Covid-19 may cause us to lose some material things that we treasure. We will mourn those losses. We cannot let it destroy our family connections, our values, or our hope.

Let's intentionally create those good memories. Let's ask ourselves, "What am I willing to do to ensure that it will happen?" Then, as Nike says, "Just Do It!"
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