For many parent’s out there, the most challenging part of the Coronavirus outbreak hasn’t been the cancelled events or the harboring at home, but rather the ongoing state of uncertainty. Many early statements about the virus have later been contradicted, and nearly every deadline for re-opening our communities has been extended multiple times. This is only compounded by instability surrounding finances, health, social life, and political unrest.
So, what’s a mom to do; throw her hands up in the air in defeat? We all know there are too many people relying on us, most importantly our children, to throw in the towel. Follow along for 7 tips for coping with uncertainty during these troubling times.
- Do Something; Anything! A little trick I use for writer’s block is to simply start writing anything down that pops into my head, which more often than not gets me past a place of paralysis. Similarly, one of the most important ways to move past the feelings of helplessness that arise in uncertain times is to empower yourself with action. Identify those things that are still in your control, and move forward with what you can still accomplish. Consider tackling projects that bring you a feeling of security, such as making and freezing stocks and soup, or updating your resume or will, or things that spark happiness, like going to the beach or heading on a nature walk. Kids get huge amounts of joy from things like washing your car or taking a free downloadable scavenger hunt sheet on your walk.
- Make Open-Ended Plans. For the majority of us, the Covid-19 restrictions have resulted in a heartbreaking slew of cancelled plans, which can make anyone want to quit making plans all together. However, studies have shown that planning trips and events often creates just as much happiness as experiencing them. What does not create happiness, as we all are acutely aware these days, is cancelling plans, one after the other. Consider planning trips, outings, and get together, and experiencing the pleasure therein, without attaching a firm date to said plans. The key here is reframing your mindset to one of “when, then” rather than the ever-depressing “ifs.”
- Learn to Appreciate the Unforeseen. The best moments of my life have never been the most expected. My wedding day was lovely, but also exhausting and overwhelming. Finding myself a newlywed with a fixer-upper home and a partner in life was far more satisfying. Having newborn babies was always more stressful than joyful for me. Watching my kids grow up and gain their independence has made me happy in ways previous unknown to my heart. The point is to acknowledge that there is beauty in the unknown, and always the possibility of disappointment in well-made plans. Control can be comforting, but also stifling when it comes to joy and growth.
- Take Things One Day at a Time. Has anyone else found themselves mumbling the serenity prayer under their breath lately? I have definitely found it popping into my head when I consider the thought of school not starting back up in the fall. These current times are certainly a lesson in accepting the things you cannot change, and further, the notion that dwelling on a situation when you have no real control over the outcome is a waste of time and energy. A much healthier approach in times of unrest is to focus on the present, putting energy into how you and your family can best get through each day as it comes, hopefully with a little happiness, accomplishment, and fulfillment.
- Adjust, Don’t Abandon Your Routine. Seasoned parents know that having a family routine provides kids with a sense of security and parents a little sanity. These days everyone’s routines of likely been upended in one way or another. The best way to regain a feeling of control over your days is to adjust your routine to the new normal. For example, don’t abandon your exercise routine simply because the gym is closed; find a streaming class or an outdoor routine that works. Kids won’t have a bell alerting them to different school periods, but having a schedule for their daily activities (recess included!) at home is as important as ever.
- Remember that Sheltering your Children from Disappointment is Not the Point of Parenting. Even though I know I’m not to blame for the current state of affairs, I have found myself guilt-ridden about the many joys of childhood (milestone celebrations, playdates, extra-circulars, etc.) my kids have missed. Something that can ease these pangs of mommy guilt a little is acknowledging that there is a difference between taking good care of your kids and shielding them from disappointment. Yes, disappointment is heartbreaking, but it is also a part of life for which now one escapes. Consider reframing your thoughts about the current times as a lesson in resiliency for your kids, rather than a series of disappointments.
- Have a Daily Gratitude Check-In. When struggling with the uncertainty of things, it’s important to take a moment to pay attention to where you are focusing your attention. Since it can be so easy to focus on all the negativity out there, consider scheduling a little time each day to acknowledge the things that bring you happiness and security. These can be the big things like family, friends, health, nature, or gainful employment, or the little things, like a new candle, a hot bath, the sound of the birds, or juicy Netflix series. Several families I know choose to highlight a daily peak (and pit) at dinner time, while other mothers I know practice gratitude with nightly journaling or morning mindfulness meditations.
During these uncertain times, we cannot control what goes on in the world, but we are in charge of our reactions. Take a little time to reset your course, adjust your expectations, and maybe even find a little beauty and joy in these endless, numbered days.
Feature photo by Pingpao Photography/Adobe