When That Which Isolates Us, Unites Us – Connection in the Time of Corona

I don’t know that there has ever been a time before when the world has been so completely united against a common enemy. That which has come to isolate us, unites us. At a time when we are having to physically distance ourselves from one another (and we must do this), it is faces and voices that are able to reach through the distance and uncertainty of it all and let our common humanity do its job. For me, this is not just through connecting with the ones I know, but by seeing in the faces and hearing in the words of strangers that more than ever, we are in this together. We are vulnerable together, anxious together, sad together, scared together, and in some sweet moments, hopeful.

We are having to adapt in ways that are completely new, and the unfamiliarity of this can bring anxiety for us and our children. Unfamiliar things do that.

For the children and teens in your life, the antidote to their anxiety is you – your words, your presence, your warmth and wisdom. Whether you are a parent, a grandparent, a teacher, or other trusted adult, you have a profound capacity to bring comfort to their world. They need the same things we all do at this time, radical tenderness, play, sleep, exercise, to be held close and loved big. If schedules or routines fall away in favour of this, that’s okay. If screen time gets a little longer and bedtimes get a little later, that’s okay too. These are such extreme circumstances, and there is no formula for how to move through this. We do what we need to do, and if playing, and telling stories, and watching movies together takes the place of schedules and routines, and if that’s what makes them (and you) feel more held through this, then that is what needs to happen.

There will come a time when we will return to normal. It will be a new normal, perhaps, but it will have more of the safety, predictability, and familiarity that comes with a version of normality. The task then will be getting kids back to school, but that will be easier if we can provide a bridge for that before then. There is no hurry for this to happen, but it is something to keep in mind. That bridge might look like online catch-ups with friends, or building an association between something (a music playlist, mindfulness meditations), and feeling calm. Then, when it comes time to return to school, they will have something they can tap into to that can help activate those feelings of calm in the brain. For now though, the focus is on keeping each other safe, and doing what we can to make the world feel safe enough for our children. 

For us, the adults in their world, it’s about coming back to the things we know to feel safe and certain. This might look different for all of us – reading, playing, walking, getting outside into nature, exercising, sleeping, playing, cooking, but maybe not tonight, watching movies, or taking warm baths. If you’re not sure what it is, what helped you feel safe when you were little? Can you go back to that?

We have to do what we need to take care of each other. For the moment this means those of us who can stay home, need to stay home. For those who can’t – our teachers, nurses, hospital staff, doctors, supermarket employees, paramedics, police, and many others – we need to stay home for them too. They are the heroes, and it’s the least we can do for them and for their families. This is important, and it’s what we have to do, but it has consequences. People will feel more isolated, or lonely, perhaps more anxious or sad. Don’t underestimate what the little things might mean to the ones in your life who might be missing you, or who might be feeling more separate from the world, or maybe more anxious than usual – phone calls, messages, video chats, social media tags with ‘this reminded me of you’ in the message. Let’s not take the little things for granted. They matter. As it turns out, the little things will be the big things that will get us through this.

Yes, we need to physically isolate ourselves, but let’s not isolate ourselves socially or emotionally. We need each other more than ever – not only to get to the other side of this on a global scale, but individually. Let’s be more like the people we need to be, and the people we were called to be. Let’s leave judgement and comparison and righteousness well behind. They have nothing for us anyway. They never did. And let’s replace them with radical kindness, compassion, and open-heartedness. Let’s do that.

We will get through this, and we’ll do it together x

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During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
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But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
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We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
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Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.
"Be patient. We don’t know what we want to do or who we want to be. That feels really bad sometimes. Just keep reminding us that it’s okay that we don’t have it all figured out yet, and maybe remind yourself sometimes too."
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 #parentingteens #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #neuronurtured #braindevelopment #adolescence  #neurodevelopment #parentingteens
Would you be more likely to take advice from someone who listened to you first, or someone who insisted they knew best and worked hard to convince you? Our teens are just like us. If we want them to consider our advice and be open to our influence, making sure they feel heard is so important. Being right doesn't count for much at all if we aren't being heard.
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Hear what they think, what they want, why they think they're right, and why it’s important to them. Sometimes we'll want to change our mind, and sometimes we'll want to stand firm. When they feel fully heard, it’s more likely that they’ll be able to trust that our decisions or advice are given fully informed and with all of their needs considered. And we all need that.
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 #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #adolescence 
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"We’re pretty sure that when you say no to something it’s because you don’t understand why it’s so important to us. Of course you’ll need to say 'no' sometimes, and if you do, let us know that you understand the importance of whatever it is we’re asking for. It will make your ‘no’ much easier to accept. We need to know that you get it. Listen to what we have to say and ask questions to understand, not to prove us wrong. We’re not trying to control you or manipulate you. Some things might not seem important to you but if we’re asking, they’re really important to us.❤️" 
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#neurodevelopment #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting

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