The collective response to the coronavirus pandemic (i.e., shelter-in-place) has interrupted our lives with new demands on parents to be teachers as well as employees at home and created economic upheavals that can lead to mental states of hopeless.
The feeling of overwhelm is more common and the temptation is to seek control over the things we do not have power to control such as the world economy or how your child or spouse responds to shelter-in-place. And whatever behavior and health challenges that persisted before will become heightened and probably more painful (finances, behavior issues, addictions, anxieties).
This gap between what we want to avoid and what is happening inspires no confidence and leaves us vulnerable to anxiety. And consider this from Kaiser Permanente: “During this unprecedented time of uncertainty and fear, it is likely that mental health issues and substance use disorders among people with these conditions will be exacerbated. In addition, epidemics have been shown to induce general stress across a population and may lead to new mental health and substance use issues.”
There is nothing like a pandemic to remind us that we do not have control over other people and our circumstances, but we do have control over choosing what to think and how to respond.
This is the hope. Responding well to adversity is all learned behavior.
Your beliefs matter
One of the major lessons we learn from addiction treatment and recovery is that thoughts have somatic (or physical) properties in that they can stimulate a bio-chemical reaction to ignite the parasympathetic part of the brain (pre-frontal cortex responsible for executive function) that calms the brain (amygdala which responds to threats with anxiety) and allows your mind to respond well to what is happening.
To learn more, check out this video:
Thought leadership therefore is even more important in times of crisis. It is the difference between hope and despair and will most definitely shape a world view of being empowered or defeated by adversity.
What is your family creed?
At Core Connectivity we encourage families to memorialize their family creed about personal power and individual accountability. We teach discipline of the mind like a civics lesson which declares that you already possess power of intelligent life and free will which can never be taken but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device – or in these times, a pandemic threat. Here is an example of a family creed.
Every human being has been given a spirit of power and love and sound mind, and can be expected to take responsibility for their own thoughts and actions. Therefore every person is responsible for their own happiness.
Implicit in this belief about personal power is that every human being has this equal power to learn from life experiences to become resilient. Do you believe this to be true for your children?
When your child sees your face are you reflecting back thoughts and signals of hope because you believe they can learn and grow from the adversity you are all experiencing? Or are you reflecting back signals of despair, anxiety and even anger because you want to be in control of what is happening that is out of your control?
How many of us parents feel shame and despair when we cannot control adversity impacting our lives? Will our children think less of us?
Check out this video from an Israeli mom that went viral around the start of ‘shelter-in-place’. And she is a special ed teacher. Notice how her feeling of overwhelm made her feel inadequate and her fear was her children would realize she wasn’t smart enough to teach math.
How to hold on to hope
Step 1: First prepare yourself. Cogitate, pray, meditate. Focus on the thoughts that bring about peace and empower others. Start with a wisdom thought that makes a free society possible: liberty already belongs to the soul, and it must be defended one heart and mind, one family and one community at a time.
Do you believe this to be true for you and your family?
Read more about wisdom thoughts: Tips to express wisdom to kids
Step 2: Identify thoughts that bring about peace and empower by using three columns.
Column 1: Crisis Situation
Describe the circumstances (i.e., my child is out of control, trapped in an abusive relationship, bullied, addicted, lost, angry, seriously diseased, in great pain, depressed, or anxious).
Column 2: Anxious thoughts
Next to the things that you are witnessing with your child that are concerning and painful, write down the thought associated with it. For examples, “My child will never be a good student and succeed,” or “my child will never survive this experience”, or “my child is a drug addict and lost to me forever,” or “my child hates me and I am not able to help,” etc.
Column 3: Hopeful thoughts
Then next to the thoughts that are associated with your worst fears and anxieties, write the opposite thought. For examples, “My child will learn how to have a successful life,”, “my child will grow strong from this experience,” or “my child is a divine idea in the mind of God,” or “I am a trusted resource for my child who loves me.”
Step 3: Decide – What do you want?
What is your greatest fear and greatest hope in this time of uncertainty? Give yourself permission to choose hope, and defend that thought in your own mind. And then take steps to put your hope into action.
- Make a list of the things you admire and appreciate about each child.
- Catch your kids doing things right and let them know.
- Create a family schedule and invite your children to define their own schedules to complete school assignments and help with household jobs.
- Initiate conversations about the things we know and need to discover about this crisis or circumstance. Verify the facts.
- Identify your greatest fears and also your greatest hopes.
- Make time to meditate and give your mental energy to your hopeful thoughts. In this way you can retrain your brain.
Core Connectivity is an initiative of Banana Moments Foundation. When you shop at Amazon via AmazonSmile, Amazon will make a donation to Banana Moments Foundation.
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.
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