This month, Sonya Richardson-Thomas, a Licensed Professional Counselor, gives practical tips and tools for parents as they work to extend grace and acceptance during the current COVID-19 Pandemic.
“Life is like a box of chocolates… You never know what you’re gonna get” -Forrest Gump
If nothing else, coronavirus has brought this idea home! We think we know what is coming next and then WHAM! Pandemic…not a word I’ve used before now. How about you?
When things are unpredictable and chaotic-feeling, we tend to have more anxious feelings than normal. That’s okay AND expected! We are not machines, we are SUPPOSED to feel. Our brains process FEELINGS before thinking. Always. So be gracious and accepting of yourself and your feelings. The good news about feelings: they come and they go.
Also, let’s extend that grace and acceptance to our kiddos’ feelings. We are most able to show we are accepting of their feelings by looking BENEATH the behaviors and asking ourselves where this behavior found its origin: worry, frustration, loss, anger, etc. All are valid feelings in this unique and open-ended historical moment.
Here are some PRACTICAL suggestions for parenting during this stressful season:
- Connection before Correction: Hear the WHY and REGULATE the feeling, THEN correct the behavior. Your child will be able to listen to you, think, and correct their behavior better AFTER their strong emotions have subsided and they are calm again.
- Soothing Touch and Soothing Words: Calming touch and calming words help kids become Regulated and ready to move towards finding solutions. Remember: THINKING comes after feelings. They won’t be able to process what you are saying about their behavior until they are able to calm themselves.
- When parent/child conflict inevitably arises, here are some good questions to help your child problem solve:
- What are your ideas/solutions?
- How could this be different next time?
- What is the NEXT best thing to do?
- Breathe: The ONLY stress symptom we can control is breathing! Simply drop your breathing from your chest to your belly. Belly breathing tells your brain that the threat is lessening and this will help you relax.
- Move Your Feet: BEFORE the big feelings come, head outside and move OR carry books and boxes from one floor to the next …movement is a researched stress reliever!
- Engage Your Senses: Take a minute to find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. Very effective in relieving anxiety!
- Be Real because this is Real! Resist the urge to minimize or “fix” feelings.
- LOVE first, Always. Remember when it is so SO hard, this is not forever… Lead with Love!
Here is a printable and shareable cheat sheet to remind you of these Practical Parenting Tips That Lead With Love During Stressful Times:
Sonya Richardson-Thomas is a Licensed Professional Counselor practicing in Liberty, Missouri. She is an experienced therapist in many areas including child and family issues such as attachment, divorce, trauma, and developmental issues. She is also an experienced public speaker. For more tips on parenting through stressful times, follow her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/srtfamilytherapy/.