The following blog was submitted by Author, Kameron Moody.
“So, it’s pretty much sucked for parents everywhere since mid-March. We are going into the 10th month of this madness, and many of us are feeling burned out, hopeless, on edge, anxious, depressed, angry, fed up, worried about our kids, and teetering on mental breakdowns. Some of us have maybe even had one or two. And if you have, good for you. That means you’re paying attention and actually feeling things instead of numbing out. These are unprecedented times. Scary times. Some may have even lost family and friends to this and are dealing with unbearable grief. And when you add in the already complicated dynamic of raising a child with special needs, it’s a gross understatement to say “it’s a lot,” which is my go-to response when friends and family ask me how I’m coping. But it is A LOT.
Here are some tips that have worked for me, on managing these stressful times, and supporting our amazing kids through this. Because they are feeling every bit of what we are. Kids are super sensitive and pick up on even the most subtle shifts in energy. Not only are they absorbing and reacting to all of the energy we give off, they are also most likely picking up on the collective unconscious of our world, which isn’t so great at the moment. But before we can comfort and help them, we have to first take care of ourselves. Sounds good in theory, right? Self-care. What a lovely concept. But how exactly do you take care of yourself when time, money, and space is limited? And the people you relied on pre-lockdown are now unavailable or quarantined? What if you’re too frightened to have anyone in your home to help because your child is one of the most vulnerable to Covid? Or you are now having to work from home, all while homeschooling your kids, because their schools have shut down? It’s enough to drive anyone to the edge. Whatever your situation is on a scale of “Doing Great” to “Dire,” hopefully the following can help until we can return to normal.
First, go inside. Not like a Gavin Newsom/Cuomo kind of go inside, but go inside to connect with your higher power, your higher self, whatever you call your inner knowing. The part of you deep down that is a part of something bigger, the soul’s USB port to God, the Universe, the greater good. Make it a practice before you get out of bed (and you might have to set an alarm to get this done before the kids and life start pulling on you) to go inside through meditation or prayer. Ask for strength and wisdom, express gratitude, even if it’s just for waking up, and then visualize yourself making it through the day operating at your highest potential. Ask for compassion, patience, kindness, love, joy and peace. Do this exercise before you turn on your phone, look at emails, or check your calendar. Let nothing get in the way of this every single morning. You could also journal during this time. Even if it’s just scribbles on a page or words that don’t make sense. Get it out onto paper. Whatever it is you wake up thinking about or feeling. If you are religious you can read scripture or a devotional, but don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. If all you do is start with a couple minutes of reflection, meditation or prayer before your feet hit the ground, you will notice a difference, I promise.
Second, hug your family. Hug your kids with intention, hug your spouse or partner like it might be your last, hug your pets. Physical touch and connection are so important for all of us right now. Make it a priority every day before the day gets underway, before the stress and impatience take over. On this same note, tell your family how you feel about them every day. Express how proud you are of them, how much you love them, what a great job they are doing. Be supportive if you want to feel supported. Be an example to your kids and spouse or partner of how to lift people up. We all need this, and the best way to get something we want is to give more of it.
Third, get your body moving. Either through exercise, housework, or playing with your kids. Gyms are often not an option these days, but a walk around the block with your family, by yourself or a friend can help tremendously. Being outside in the fresh air and sunshine can do wonders. You can also get a mini trampoline or rebounder and bounce while you watch your favorite show. It’s fun and easy and doesn’t take up much space. Try to take at least 20 minutes a day to move your body any way you enjoy. At the very least stretch. It’s so important to connect to and care for our body, and exercise keeps our immune systems strong and releases endorphins which can improve our mood.
Fourth, be gentle with yourself. Take the pressure off to get everything done. Let things go during the day that aren’t absolutely necessary to complete. Be easy on your kids, especially around school work. Everyone is in the same boat right now, feeling unmotivated or overwhelmed with online learning or being at school but with everything so different. Let’s extend the same grace and compassion to ourselves as we do to others. It’s ok to not have it all together. This is the longest-running get out of jail free card humanity has ever had, let’s use it more often with ourselves.
Fifth, turn off the news. Its fear inducing and not helpful. If there is something you need to know, you’ll find out. Listen to music instead, or turn on a fun show or movie. Along this same line, limit social media. It’s nice to connect with our family and friends, but if you find you are checking it too often and it gives you any feeling other than joy, either take a break for a little while or watch your usage. Focus instead on your family and all of the things in your life to be grateful for. The news and social media tend to pull us away from what’s really important.
And lastly, talk to your kids about what’s happening. Admit if you haven’t been your best self lately, and apologize if necessary. Tell them in whatever way is appropriate developmentally for them what is happening in the world and the effect it’s having on everyone. Maybe they will open up and share how they have been feeling. I know with my two kids they have both been affected. My neurotypical daughter recently opened up about feeling anxious about the world situation and also feeling depressed about not being in in-person school. My son with Down syndrome has said how angry he feels because he can’t see people and be around friends as much. Empathize with them and share your own feelings, talk to them about ways you have learned to cope. Simply giving them permission to not be ok with everything going on will lighten their load. Do the same for yourself.
These are difficult times for everyone, and we are all going to react and feel differently. The most important thing we can do is love each other through it, including ourselves. When you take care of yourself, you are also taking care of everyone else. Please reach out to someone if you’ve gotten to the point where it all feels like too much. There are so many resources available through GiGi’s Playhouse, the DDD, and other networks if you need assistance. We are hopefully almost at the end of what we will look back on as one of the most intense times of our lives. Hang in there, know that you aren’t alone, and ask for help when you need it. We are all in this together.”