2021 has had a pretty rough start. No school (again), more restrictions, more lockdowns with no end in sight. How can one cope with this? My philosophy is that different things work for different parents and for different kids, so there is no panacea that would cheer us all up and make our lives better. However, we can all ask ourselves the same questions, and depending on the answers, we can make decisions that will help our individual circumstances (well, that's what coaching actually is all about). So here are the questions that I have asked myself, the answers that I gave myself and the actions that I took:
What is making my life miserable right now?
My answer was (for myself): constant change of circumstances, constant U-turns, surprise announcements, inability to plan for anything (not even short-term).
What can I do to be less affected by whatever is making my life miserable? What is within my power that I can change?
My answer was, stop having any expectations. Live in the moment! Be in the present! These all sound rather cliché (and they kind of are) - but then I realised that what's dragging me down is the fact that I cannot look forward to anything - like a holiday, or some exciting outing. So I figured I need to change my mindset as the future is not looking too bright at the moment.
Here is a great meditation that I keep coming back to (I came across it in one of Alan Watts' lectures. This one is only 3 min long). We think of our life as a journey, with some sort of a final goal or destination. However, it makes more sense to think of our life as a dance or a song - a dance or a song have no goal, no destination, it is all about being in the present. Same with our life! I come back to this thought whenever I catch myself constantly obsessing about the future, and I find it a very useful metaphor to bring me back to the present.
My other big source of upset is closed schools (again, I am speaking for myself here). So to stop myself from getting angry and upset about it, I dropped any hope of them reopening after Christmas, bought some workbooks and activity books for our boys, and set our own schedule. So when the announcement came that schools are closed for the foreseeable future, I was not as angry and upset as I was in the past. Still somewhat angry, still somewhat upset, but more prepared this time!
If you are finding current situation difficult - ask yourself these questions. Reach into yourself, be honest with yourself. And then when you answer these questions, turn your answers into actions, stick to them and consciously track your progress every day (even just in your head). See if you are feeling better, if your mood improves. And if it does not, ask yourself again what is making you unhappy and what's in your power that you can change (even if it is very minor).
On a final note, another thing that helps me to keep my cool as a parent is reminding myself to have empathy. Our kids are going through a very hard time, just like us. So if they demand our attention more than usual, throw temper tantrums, whine or act up more often - it is probably their way of expressing the difficult emotions and circumstances that they have been coping with for the last 10 months. Give them a hug, tell them how you feel, ask them how they feel, maybe have a good cry. Or a laugh. We often take things out on each other because there is no other outlet, but there is a way that we can improve it. This leads me to my upcoming blog entry about temper tantrums - which will be basically a teaser for the workshop on temper tantrums on January 18, make sure you check it out and see if you want to sign up (luckily support groups are still allowed to meet, so we'll hold it under that premise). And there will be another one on January 19 on Zoom.