I’ve just finished reading a most powerful true story on resilience and fortitude, called The Salt Path by Raynor Winn which I would highly recommend. It’s a story of a middle aged couple, who as a result of becoming homeless overnight, and a terminal diagnosis, embark on a mammoth coastal walk , wild camping along the way from Minehead to Lands End .
You can read more here
My thoughts have long stayed with this book and how it’s sharpened my view on what the essence of Resilience is. It’s much more than an ability to cope, it’s about letting go of expectations, and what is “supposed to be” , having patience and humour, taking advantage of spontaneous opportunities, using humour in the face of adversity and being in attunement with those around you, to respond to their connection needs as well as your own.
Many of us have never witnessed the effects of an unknown virus and all the ramifications that it presents, we feel overwhelmed and anxious because we are unable to control it’s path and consequences. My daughter and her boyfriend have lost their jobs overnight, alongside many of their friends working in the hospitality industry, which impacts their ability to pay their rent. Every single family is impacted by this virus, and what will overcome fear and anxiety is our “humanness”, and how we role model resilience and kindness to others, and to our children.
Children up to age 19 are thought to be in the low risk category of physically contracting the virus but will be impacted emotionally through the possible devastating loss of loved ones, putting their education goals on hold, and coping with their own worries about the future. So I’ve put together a simple guide of what I believe will sustain and nourish families during this period of flux and worry.
I’m not writing anything new but offering support in what I think is most needed to keep your family fully functional and thriving.
Don’t let fear rob you of your greatest asset, your MINDSET
The first priority is to nurture your own mindset and keep it emotionally healthy so that you can remain able to calmly reassure your children. Ways to do this are:
- Dedicate a worry time once a day. Write down your worries in the form of WHAT IF……THEN.
- Accept and acknowledge your worries, don’t try and fight or banish them. Accept that you have more resilience and strong resources than you probably know. We all have the resources we need.
- Make a step by step plan. This enables our brain to accept the worry, but helps it feel in control by making a plan and curbs catastrophizing thought patterns.
- Turn off your News notifications which fuel fearful, anxious and panicky thoughts.
- Whilst facebook and what’s app groups can be supportive and a lifeline to loneliness, if they are feeding your anxiety, remove yourself from them.
As parents we often embody contrasting and opposing emotions and behaviours simultaneously, so by using a simple but effective NLP tool, to change our state works brilliantly. For example we can transition the first state into the second state by by asking yourself what you can do tostep into a more resourceful and positive state.
Emotional – Practical
Worried – Hopeful
Impatient – Patient
Chaotic – Fun
Overwhelmed – Persevering
Don’t be afraid to discuss Coronavirus as not talking about it, may make children worry more. Give them fact based information and answer their questions as they arise. If you can’t answer the question, let them know that you will find out. This will discourage children’s minds running amok. Reassure your child that they are not in the high risk category and that you are doing everything you can to keep your home virus free and specify what actions you are taking.
Be aware of the language you use to explain your actions. I find the words “social isolation” can be triggering and frightening, “physical distancing” is a much gentler way of explaining why we can’t mix with friends and family and more accessible for children to understand.
Acknowledge your child’s worry, rather than dismissing it or telling them not to worry. The aim is not to eliminate worry, but to help children manage the worry. Using language such as what are you worrying about is not as empowering as asking them “what is worry telling you”, as this externalises it, rather than internalising it. If your child is displaying signs of extreme anxiety….help them to set aside a time to talk to worry and again use the technique….what if…..then.
Expect children to be more clingy than usual and needing more re-assurance. Re-assure them by consciously using their love language.
To find out more about love languages see here:
Empower your children with what they can do themselves …. For example, washing their hands regularly. For smaller children who don’t have a concept of what washing your hands for 20 seconds is, encourage them to sing Happy Birthday twice or a nursery rhyme while they are washing their hands….it’s a good amount of time.
ROUTINE OR FLOW?
Whilst I whole heartedly agree that children feel safest where there is routine, I would focus the routine to maintaining getting dressed, mealtimes, an hour or 2 for school work and bedtimes. Help and encourage your child to find their own flow and give them choice, unless you are used to following a stricter routine for a child who is neuro diverse, than this doesn’t apply.
You do not have to be an entertainer or school teacher and please don’t try and turn your home into school or make school work into a battle. Rest assured that children are still learning through play, help them to find their own resources to entertain themselves. Be a facilitator not an organiser.
For teenagers, seize the opportunity to teach life skills and encouraging community contribution within the household. If you are working from home especially, it’s important that the laundry, cleaning and cooking is shared. This enforced break from school is a great time to get some preparation in for leaving home for college or Uni and can initiate some useful conversations about coping with adversity, being flexible and adaptable alongside looking for new opportunities.
I suspect that many teenagers will be both frustrated, sad and worried about not being able to take their exams, which they have spent the last 2 years preparing for. We can help them process this by talking to them about how, that knowledge will always stay with them, that knowledge and their hard work cannot be taken away and the education system will adjust accordingly so that their future plans won’t be jeopardised. Help them to avoid catastrophizing about their future.
Self- isolation places more emphasis on the need to maintain boundaries…..of behaviour and respect towards each other, but also around when and where you work, and screen time for all. When it all gets a bit much, nature and the TV are the best distractions.
FIND UNEXPECTED SILVER LININGS:
What do you rarely have time for? What can you gain from less weekly schedule? Embrace the opportunity to have more time and choice, to go at a slower pace.
Boost connection by playing board games, cards, puzzling, watching a box set. All these activities are just as important as school lessons, teaching social skills, patience and resilience.
Eat together more around the table, especially if extra- curricular life or work commitments usually interrupts this ritual.
You may have the time and space to create memory books, scrapbooks or digital photobooks.
What’s on the eternal to do list?…..is this an opportunity to tick something off?
MAKE A FAMILY CALM BOX
Include some soothing essential oils, such as lavender, bergamot , rose and geranium or Vetiver (very grounding), which can be inhaled on a tissue, some affirmation cards, a notebook and pen, shells, crystals and anything you have to hand that is comforting and age appropriate to use when someone is feeling overwhelmed or scared.
And finally……because I’m getting more time to study for my Herbal Medicine diploma…..
HERBS & SPICES ARE YOUR BEST FRIEND to boost immunity and encourage healing.
Thyme supports the respiratory system for anyone who has the virus. Infuse in hot water and drink as a tea 4 times a day. Add to cooked dishes. Thyme syrup is available in most health food shops.
Peppermint tea helps reduce a fever
Elderberry syrup is a good way to boost your child’s immune system and most children like the sweet taste.
Add slivers of raw garlic to salads. Instead of cooking garlic, add raw to cooked dishes at the end.
Warming spices such as cloves, ginger and turmeric all have powerful immune boosting properties. Either add to dishes or drink in an infusion.
Lemon Balm tea is a chill pill for the Vagus nerve and is a wonderful anxiety antedote.
It’s our role as parents to guide, support and impart our wisdom to support our children’s emotional wellbeing and let other people to do the same for us. While this might feel overwhelming at the moment, it’s time to go back to basics, trust your instincts and let your heart take the lead.