By Debra Orbuch Grayson, M.S., LMFT
This year has been about navigating uncertain times and adjusting to change. Parents have had to practice balancing their own reactions to change with the needs of their children. Human beings strive for certainty — especially children. Certainty and predictability provide structure, comfort and safety. Routines have changed and these changes have provided challenges, as well as opportunities for growth.
This time period has challenged parents and children to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Managing the unknown requires patience and flexibility.
Managing school changes, work changes and changing guidelines has required a great deal of energy. Scheduling regular time for self care during this time has become even more important – movement and time spent doing something fun – cooking, listening to music, coloring, talking to friends or family, playing with a pet or watching a funny show all can help to replenish much needed energy.
For health reasons, COVID has created greater distancing, fewer in-person supports and more isolation. Connections at school, work and with friends help people to feel less alone and provide connections to other perspectives. During stressful and uncertain times, fewer supports can contribute to low energy, fluctuation in mood, irritability as well as hopelessness “COVID fatigue” and “Zoom fatigue” are normal.
Debra outlines the “ABCs” of managing change to help families build strength during these bumpy times:
A. Allow and acknowledge disappointments, grief, loss, fear, isolation and loneliness – they are all normal feelings stemming from prolonged uncertainty. Plan to take ACTION to address feelings- reach out, text, volunteer and spend the time you do have doing something you enjoy.
B. Breathe– remember to breathe. Each day will feel different, and each day breathing can help slow down your thinking and help you to feel less anxious. Be patient and choose what you need in the moment.
Choosing – making choices about that which you can control (how you speak about change to your children, finding something positive despite the frustrations) and letting go of those things you can’t control and encouraging your kids to do the same (the virus, openings/closings, actions of others.)
C. Choose to be flexible, choose to stay in the present, choose to have realistic expectations like “some days will be easier than others” and choose to make today the best it can be.
C- (One more ‘C”) Connection– stay connected to others so that you don’t feel alone. Connecting to others by phone, text, email or in person can give you energy on days that are difficult, when you feel isolated or discouraged.
Debra Orbuch Grayson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Trainer. She is the author of Healthy Family Relationships: A Workbook for Parents and Stepparents. www.debraorbuchgrayson.com.