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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‘Brave’ doesn’t always feel like certain, or strong, or ready. In fact, it rarely does. That what makes it brave.♥️
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We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they should – respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first. 

We can’t stop difficult people coming into their lives. They might be teachers, coaches, peers, and eventually, colleagues, or perhaps people connected to the people who love them. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognise that person and their behaviour as unacceptable to them. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behaviour, beliefs or influence. 

The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to others should never be used against them by those broken others who might do harm. We have to recognise as adults that the words and attitudes directed to our children can be just as damaging as anything physical. 

If the behaviour is from an adult, it’s up to us to guard our child’s safe space in the world even harder. That might be by withdrawing support for the adult, using our own voice with the adult to elevate our child’s, asking our child what they need and how we can help, helping them find their voice, withdrawing them from the environment. 

Of course there will be times our children do or say things that aren’t okay, but this never makes it okay for any adult in your child’s life to treat them in a way that leads them to feeling ‘less than’.

Sometimes the difficult person will be a peer. There is no ‘one certain way’ to deal with this. Sometimes it will involve mediation, role playing responses, clarifying the other child’s behaviour, asking for support from other adults in the environment, or letting go of the friendship.

Learning that it’s okay to let go of relationships is such an important part of full living. Too often we hold on to people who don’t deserve us. Not everyone who comes into our lives is meant to stay and if we can help our children start to think about this when they’re young, they’ll be so much more empowered and deliberate in their relationships when they’re older.♥️
When we are angry, there will always be another emotion underneath it. It is this way for all of us. 

Anger itself is a valid emotion so it’s important not to dismiss it. Emotion is e-motion - energy in motion. It has to find a way out, which is why telling an angry child to calm down or to keep their bodies still will only make things worse for them. They might comply, but their bodies will still be in a state of distress. 

Often, beneath an angry child is an anxious one needing our help. It’s the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. As with all emotions, anger has a job to do - to help us to safety through movement, or to recruit support, or to give us the physical resources to meet a need or to change something that needs changing. It doesn’t mean it does the job well, because an angry brain means the feeling brain has the baton, while the thinking brain sits out for a while. What it means is that there is a valid need there and this young person is doing their very best to meet it, given their available resources in the moment or their developmental stage. 

Children need the same thing we all need when we’re feeling fierce - to be seen,  heard, and supported; to find a way to get the energy out, either with words or movement. Not to be shut down or ‘fixed’. 

Our job isn’t to stop their anger, but to help them find ways to feel it and express it in ways that don’t do damage. This will take lots of experience, and lots of time - and that’s okay.♥️
The SCCR Online Conference 2021 is a wonderful initiative by @sccrcentre (Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution) which will explore ’The Power of Reconnection’. I’ve been working with SCCR for many years. They do incredible work to build relationships between young people and the important adults around them, and I’m excited to be working with them again as part of this conference.

More than ever, relationships matter. They heal, provide a buffer against stress, and make the world feel a little softer and safer for our young people. Building meaningful connections can take time, and even the strongest relationships can feel the effects of disconnection from time to time. As part of this free webinar, I’ll be talking about the power of attachment relationships, and ways to build relationships with the children and teens in your life that protect, strengthen, and heal. 

The workshop will be on Monday 11 October at 7pm Brisbane, Australia time (10am Scotland time). The link to register is in my story.
There are many things that can send a nervous system into distress. These can include physiological (tired, hungry, unwell), sensory overload/ underload, real or perceived threat (anxiety), stressed resources (having to share, pay attention, learn new things, putting a lid on what they really think or want - the things that can send any of us to the end of ourselves).

Most of the time it’s developmental - the grown up brain is being built and still has a way to go. Like all beautiful, strong, important things, brains take time to build. The part of the brain that has a heavy hand in regulation launches into its big developmental window when kids are about 6 years old. It won’t be fully done developing until mid-late 20s. This is a great thing - it means we have a wide window of influence, and there is no hurry.

Like any building work, on the way to completion things will get messy sometimes - and that’s okay. It’s not a reflection of your young one and it’s not a reflection of your parenting. It’s a reflection of a brain in the midst of a build. It’s wondrous and fascinating and frustrating and maddening - it’s all the things.

The messy times are part of their development, not glitches in it. They are how it’s meant to be. They are important opportunities for us to influence their growth. It’s just how it happens. We have to be careful not to judge our children or ourselves because of these messy times, or let the judgement of others fill the space where love, curiosity, and gentle guidance should be. For sure, some days this will be easy, and some days it will feel harder - like splitting an atom with an axe kind of hard.

Their growth will always be best nurtured in the calm, loving space beside us. It won’t happen through punishment, ever. Consequences have a place if they make sense and are delivered in a way that doesn’t shame or separate them from us, either physically or emotionally. The best ‘consequence’ is the conversation with you in a space that is held by your warm loving strong presence, in a way that makes it safe for both of you to be curious, explore options, and understand what happened.♥️
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#mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #parenting

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