Connection Over Everything
At this time, many of my clients are presenting with similar anxieties and questions related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, you are suddenly faced with unemployment, financial stressors, homeschooling expectations, childcare issues and an overall sense of hopelessness and lack of control. Others are grieving the loss of academic milestones such as graduation or prom, missing important friendships, longing for privacy or independence. There are many who teeter somewhere in between.
The circumstances of our lives have changed but you are working from home, managing everything you would have before the outbreak, BUT now you have children at home and must continue to balance the expectations of establishing a new routine or schedule and pretend that the number of infected persons is not growing every hour. Wherever you are in this poorly written apocalyptic movie script, there are a number of things that we can do to collectively (or independently) move ourselves away from the anxiety of the unknown and into the present.
If there is one takeaway message that has been consistent in most of my client sessions over the last two weeks, it would be this: connection over everything.
As therapists, it is important to embrace a theoretical orientation to guide our work. Regardless of our training, an underlying framework connects most teachings and this is that to be human is to be driven by contact and connection. We need to be seen, we need to be heard, we need to be understood and we need to be accepted. Right now, more than anything, we need all of these things ALL OF THE TIME.
Without this fuel, we turn inward, we initiate conflict, we feel isolated and alone. Parents, I see you. I am a mother as well. The greatest gift that we can give our children at this time is connection. By acknowledging our own confusion, fear, despair or grief means that we can allow our children to express their own.
If you are struggling to maintain a routine at home or trying to incorporate homeschooling, please just stop. Check in with yourself and ask yourself if you are truly in touch with the reality of your situation. Are you overlooking your own needs and prioritizing your child’s academic needs or their need for structure? If this balance is hard to find, take a step back and pause. Acknowledge the emotions that you may be avoiding.
By doing this, you may be better equipped to manage the emotions that your children also need to pay attention to. It is ok to feel what you are feeling...as long as you honour it in the present. It is hard not to forecast how today will impact the next few days or weeks. However, if we do not bring our focus to the present, and connect with ourselves and/or the people we have around us, we will shift into auto pilot and continue to feel isolated and disconnected.
Parents of neurodiverse children who rely heavily on structure and routine, please consider the same balance. Before any structure or routine is attempted, connect with yourselves and consider your needs. Get your feet on the ground before establishing a new normal for/with your child. If you have not quite figured out how to do this, your child will not be ready either.
If you are struggling, try to maintain only a few non-negotiable routines at this time. Getting outside every day (maintain social distancing, PLEASE!) and mealtimes are good examples of non-negotiables. If you live independently, make some Zoom dates for mealtimes and share connections, stories and grievances. If you live with roommates or family members, consider virtually “inviting” others to your mealtimes.
Remember when screen time was seen as toxic and detrimental to family and marital connection.. (hahahaha…ooops). It would seem as though we need to take a turn away from this philosophy! Let us all lean heavy and hard into the technology that we have available to us at this time and use it to connect. Video chat, online gaming, remote multi-player card and trivia games-whatever you choose. If you have been averse to this type of communication because you worry about the impact on the future, now is your time to challenge yourself and consider the impact of NOT doing so on the present. If the platforms are foreign or confusing, reach out to someone (or your child) to teach you because CONNECTION.
Finally, if there is one thing that will help us through this period of uncertainty, it is the intention toward living in the moment and truly connecting with ourselves and others. If tuning in to your own needs triggers too much emotion for you to manage, this may be a sign that you need support. Seek out a friend or family member that will listen to you without offering advice and problem solving OR speak to an Online Virtual Therapist who can help you to gently check in with yourself so that you can be your best self under the circumstances.
Sending virtual and safe connection,