These last few weeks our world has changed drastically and most would agree, not for the better. It is safe to say that none of us has ever lived through anything like what we are now experiencing as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. “Social distancing” is a phrase pulled from the ether that is now a part of our everyday vernacular, it’s what we do or should be doing anyway. This virus and its domino effect on literally every aspect of our lives has many of us feeling scared, frustrated, angry, anxious, and worried. There is no finite end date and some are predicting this could go on for weeks, if not months. For myself and many whom I have spoken with, the uncertainty is the worst part. It makes planning impossible, and has created a panic resulting in empty store shelves and hoarding behavior. If you are a parent, you have the added stress of long days at home with your children. In addition to becoming the full-time entertainer and short-order cook, you have also been given the role of educator. This has led to an outcrop of hilarious social media posts from moms and dads who have discovered a newfound respect and appreciation for their child’s teachers.
Given all of this, I fully expected my parent coaching sessions this week to be dominated by parents at their wits end, but surprisingly and without exception, they all said that their week had gone pretty well. These are parents who initially reached out to me well before we’d ever heard of Covid-19. At the time, they were on the search for support for a variety of challenges they had been experiencing with their children. Each week we have spoken for an hour by phone and created steps for them to take in order to turn things around. For most of them, this week was their best week yet and I began to get curious as to why that would be the case when logic would have had me guessing the complete opposite.
Was it possible that these unfortunate circumstances were having some type of inadvertent positive effect on families? Pre-covid, life for most American parents was hectic, fast-paced, and stressful. The typical family began each day by waking kids who were not ready to be up. Rushing, nagging, and fighting their way out the door to arrive at school and jobs on time. Next came a full day of work for parents and a long day at school for the kids. This was usually followed by a scurried rush through after-school activities, homework, dinner, clean-up, bedtime routine, and ended with the whole family crashing into bed exhaustedly. In between left little opportunity for real connection, downtime, relaxation, or self-care. This week put the forced brakes on all of our busy-ness, and I think our kids like it. They are waking up naturally and the whole family is there and readily accessible. Even if there is still schoolwork to be done and parents still have work to do, the pace is just so much more relaxing. It is opening up time for family walks, exploring nature, being creative, cooking, art projects, science experiments, dancing, singing, music, reading and all of the things that feed our souls and, I think our kids like it.
All children need connection to thrive. When they feel a deep sense of connection with their parents, it invites them to be cooperative. In our busy lives, this often gets lost and is one of the reasons that things can start to go awry at home. Right now, our forced together time is manifesting in deeper connection and I am certain this explains, at least in part, why my clients had such good weeks.
My hope when all of this is over that life doesn’t exactly go “back to normal.” I hope we keep some of this slowness and remember to be together for no reason at all, to keep exploring, creating and just being with one another. Amidst all of the scary and sad news, something good is also happening and we would be wise to take notes. For the next few weeks, cherish the open-ended days and the freedom they bring us even while so much of our freedom has been taken away. When the stress and angst of the situation hits you, lean in to your family. When it’s all over (and it WILL eventually be over), hold on to some of the good stuff and bring it with you to create a new normal that’s better than before. Your kids will reap the benefits of the deeper connection with you, and they will really like it.