It’s OK That Your Kids Are Struggling! It’s OK For You Too. You CAN Let It Go… By Nicola Wakeling
Are you noticing anything different about your kids, yourself?
We’re now 7 weeks into our social distancing protocol in Abu Dhabi, with what started as some rapid changes for us all. From schools closing, malls, beaches and, parks and a variety of rules handed to us daily to keep us safe. At first, it may have felt hard to keep up, I found myself glued to the official sources for guidance and direction. After a few weeks, I felt confused, and to be honest, angry.
Have you noticed any changes in your feelings and moods? You may have noticed some changes in your children and partner too. This is all normal and just like the virus, these feelings will pass. At our own varying rates, we’re all moving through 5 stages of grief, as explained by the psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. We’ve lost the life we knew before and it’s not easy to let that go. This is grief and there’s no going back.
I can just about recall the early stages of denial, that this wouldn’t affect us, and we’re not in the categories at risk, to then the shock at school closures. The anger was the ugliest part for me personally, it’s what hit my mental health hard. And at the same time, my family had their own individual struggles as they adjusted to this new way of life. My son didn’t really understand that Daddy was still working as he sat at his desk teaching lessons via Zoom, connecting with other children and not him. He had this energy that was building up in his body that was leading to him thrashing and bouncing about our home in the evenings whilst getting incredibly worked up himself. The news had hit that we couldn’t go out, even for exercise anymore so we worked hard to find new ways to keep our kids entertained and their bodies moving.
This is when I dug deeper into my gratitude practice. It was not serving me to look at what other people were doing, scrolling through social media, seeing my friends having family walks in the woods, and the English countryside and beaches of my old home. Perhaps this was part of me moving through the stages of bargaining and depression as I made such comparisons. How I wished I had a maid to do our housework, a better routine for my kids, a shorter wait for my grocery delivery. I was stuck here for a little while. Maybe you’re still stuck here, and that’s ok but please don’t stay here.
Through experience, I’ve learned that in order to support your family, it’s essential to first look after yourself. Children will pick up but may not be able to understand and communicate their feelings as effectively as us, in fact, this is still a work in progress for me as an adult. Many of us were raised to suppress our feelings and emotions and can quickly become overwhelmed with carrying their weight. Allowing our feelings space to be seen and heard helps them pass through on their journey more quickly, and therefore we can move through the stages of grief to acceptance. No need to fight these feelings and no need to hold tightly onto them. Let them go.
This is where gratitude comes in for me. It’s one of my favourite mindfulness techniques and it’s simply about noticing what we have in this present moment. It’s a quick fix to increase happiness and when practiced frequently, it becomes a habit. Do you notice all the simple things right now? Some of them were always there. I have a family that I’m happy to spend time with, a home that is safe and access to food and an outdoor space. I encourage you to look at what you have instead of what others have. Write them down daily in a journal and encourage your family to share in doing this with you, I promise that you’ll feel even more wonderful when you hear the gratitudes of your loved ones. They may not want to do it and that’s ok too, you’re simply planting a seed.
Today my son said that he wished he could go out, he’s not voiced this before now. I heard him and held space for his feelings. He said he was sad that Mummy and Daddy had work to do and he wanted to play with us. After all, we are social beings and I relate to my son’s need for lots of human interaction. I managed to show him compassion for these feelings rather than hit back with the fact that I’d just been playing with him and provided him with extra things to keep him busy. The acknowledgment helped him to feel validated and then to help him process the time on his own, I gave him an hourglass and the promise that I’d take another break to be with him then. This helped to provide calm and reassurance to him and relieve me of any guilt that he’s not getting the connection he needs right now. Life isn’t perfect though and what is working today may fall flat later on and I will need to be flexible and adjust. When I notice that I’m struggling with that, I know it’s time to offer myself that same compassion and find a way to meet my own needs, whatever they may be.
Before writing this today, I spent some time checking in with friends and asking what they’ve noticed within their family during this time too. It’s reassuring to see that there are patterns there, the guilt of extra screen time, the uncertainty of when we can travel to our home countries again, return to school to see friends, and struggles with juggling e-learning and even harder bedtimes. But most of all what came through was that people are enjoying a slower day, a flexible and reduced routine, and extra time and connection with their family. Just as the hard times will pass, so will the good times. So without judgment, take inspiration from those friends who are playing more family board games but don’t beat yourself up if that isn’t what your home looks like. Find the best fit to bring peace, joy, and connection to you and your family, it looks different for each of us and changes daily. Take a moment to honour what you’re doing well, even if it’s just taking a shower and some time for yourself.
Bodytree member Kerry Singleton told me about how she’s managing this time with her two boys at home. Her 7 year old, Timmy is happy in his own company but loves to connect with his teacher by sending messages online; I think this shows how important the relationship with a teacher is during the primary school years and Kerry praises the school for providing a fun balance of activities for him to do. One challenge she had was with William who is 12 and spends a lot of time gaming with his friends online. When Kerry tried to reduce his gameplay, he got upset and she quickly realised how important this contact with his friends is to him and she’s had to let it go. Kerry has also spent a lot of time doing various mindfulness practices with her children at home and has noticed the positive impact on them all as a family.
Outside of our own homes, there’s so much going on that brings me joy also, the earth is thriving, good deeds are being done by people and I see so much kindness. Seek out this news. I’ve heard many people who are using this time to take new directions or self reflect and take what gifts they can for their own growth. Maybe the world has thrown us a curveball and perhaps that’s a good thing. We’re being forced to do things differently and yes, it’s uncomfortable, but only at first. I’m a big David Bowie fan and he once said,
“If you feel safe in the area you’re working on, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”
I think we’ve all been thrown right out to sea! So I’ve pondered this myself, especially as I’ve taken my work online. Some days though, this isn’t about making huge entrepreneurial steps forward or putting pressure on myself to learn a new skill, but taking a step back and getting to basics, just playing with my kids or learning more about myself, what makes me happy and how I can show myself and my family more compassion.
If you’d like to create a little space and time for your family to come together socially and learn more simple take away mindfulness techniques then look out for my Mindful Magic sessions online. Practicing mindfulness as a family has an increased effectiveness than doing it alone and parents have told me that they love this special time with their children and enjoy using the tools long afterward. We move our bodies, have fun, take time to breathe, notice, and just be. There’s more information about what the classes cover on my website www.nicolawakeling.co.uk and I’m also available for 1:1’s through Bodytree.
Remember, you are enough. You’ve got this!