Release Valves & Daily Rhythms for Families during COVID-19

Hi there! How are you holding up? Remember back in March when we were told to stay home? Parents rushed to find ways and resources to keep their kids’ education and behavior “inline”? One popular graphic was a color-coded daily routine example for people to follow. Then the two weeks we were told to hunker down turned into 2 months and oh, hey – it’s been close to five months now. How do you settle in to the new normal rhythm? And what works best for you

Practice getting comfortable with the uncomfortable

Hello, my name is Mariana and I am one of the MANY people who shared the above-mentioned color-coded graphic. Being a social worker, I intended to “do no harm” and I hoped that people would adjust it to meet their needs. Now I have to follow up that sharing by lifting the curtain to reveal some truths. If you follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook you will know I am a HUGE believer in getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. And, we can only do that with practice. This blog post could be that practice.

Moving away from the routine

I do not like the word/term/concept: Schedule. I much prefer the terms routine or rhythm. These terms are more forgiving. With a schedule, parents are actually set up for failure and beating themselves up – more than they already do. For example, the schedule says reading time at 7:00 pm. It’s 7:15 and kids are hanging upside down on the sofa, playing games or watching tv and the 2 other steps that may happen before reading time are nowhere close to starting. Parent panics. Shame spiral and negative thoughts start. Frustration, disappointment, and anxiety levels rise. Parents mean to say “Hey, let’s get ready to read “ but instead “OH MY GOD! why are you doing that? We need to go read NOW!” comes out. Meltdowns are triggered. Chaos ensues and a good night was had by nobody. Sound familiar? Yeah, good times.

Although not feeling great about having shared the color-coded chart to begin with, I do know consistency and a daily rhythm can help decrease anxiety. It can be reassuring and kind to the let’sit and psyche. I have listened to clients, friends even colleagues share ( as well as personally experienced and perhaps even carried out) sensing a lack of patience and kindness with their loved ones and with themselves. Families are living inside of pressure cookers, under microscopes, with magnifying lenses. Everyone is “trapped “ in the same space with unknowns and no concrete solutions in sight. There is no way to avoid the “little things” that perhaps annoy or irritate you about those around you as well as about yourself. Just like a pressure cooker, if you just take the lid off or ignore it – the contents will explode everywhere.

Anchor Points

I learned the saying “ We Can Do Hard Things” from reading Glennon Doyle. Often it is muttered under my breath; many times a day. Doing so reassures me and I believe it. It is the release valve to the pressure cooker of my psyche. It allows me to lift the lid off and serve up kindness and patience to others and more recently; myself. Yet, it takes practice, and establishing a daily rhythm does too. My daily rhythm is not perfect or carried out the same every day. I use what I call “ anchor points “ in my days. I find if I have 2-3 things I do consistently at similar times/parts of the day, more often than not – I am calmer, more present, and kinder. Anchor points should not be complicated. More often than not mine have been: having coffee on back steps, checking my plants, and watering the front and backyards. Some weeks I have added in ball playing with dog and “morning pages” of writing. Nothing complicated, expensive and easy to access in my surroundings

I have suggested to clients to practice that same kindness with themselves and establish a pandemic daily rhythm. I am suggesting you try it too. This requires curiosity and leaning into emotions and what feels right, comfortable, and good. For you and your family, at this moment, during a pandemic. There are no perfect answers at this moment. Try starting a daily rhythm yourself then add in your family and notice how or if the connection with your kids changes any.

Daily Rhythms

Establishing a rhythm for yourself and family may mean not following the norm or deviating from what family and friends are doing. That can be uncomfortable. There have been articles about the uncomfortable conversations families are engaging in so that they may gather in a socially distant manner. That uncomfortable conversation reduces fear and anxiety and sets up a gathering that is beneficial, not just successful. Now parents are wondering what to do about learning and school day options. Many parents are hoping that there will be a color-coded chart for this phase of ” all this”. Yet by April, many discovered – that color-coded chart was sorta, maybe, kinda helpful. And then it wasn’t at all.

Do yourself a favor… be curious. Observe and listen. To yourself, your kids, your partner/spouse. Shift as needed. Establish a rhythm for yourself and your family that works for you. Do what you can, need, and determine to help decrease the overwhelm and anxiety in your mind and home. Discover your own “ release valve” so you can allow yourself to feel, express, and receive kindness. We have been asked to function; in crisis, for a sustained period of time. That is a definition of ” unhealthy. Practice, consistency, and a daily rhythm can support you in taking care of you and in turn be present, kind, and connected with those around you.

Always here to support you and your parenting needs- be it collaborative problem solving or simply as a  “release valve” to listen. Email me!

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