Guess who is back? No, not Buck Shelford… Level 3.
You might be feeling all sorts of different emotions at the moment. Everything from grief to relief, worried and stressed to chilled and blessed (we are sorry for the rhyming emotions).
Much of what you will be feeling will be based on your last experience of lockdown. Our brain is constantly looking for patterns, which means that if your last lockdown experience was positive, you might actually be feeling excited. BUT, if your last lockdown experience was something that you would rather leave in the past… then right now, you might be feeling pretty overwhelmed. Which actually makes perfect sense.
So, what do you do with all of the feelings that you have about being back in Level 3 again?
Step one: Look after yourself
Chances are you’ve noticed a wave of feelings wash over your body as your brain sent you into emotion-overdrive. When our brain senses that we are in ‘danger’, it throws us into survival mode; and when that happens, most if us experience the fight/flight/freeze response.
It’s likely that you’re currently experiencing a huge range of emotions. It is helpful to accept that all of these emotions are natural and understandable. But, not all of them are necessarily rational or logical (in fact, most of them probably aren’t rational or logical). Emotions can overwhelm us and stop us from thinking and acting in helpful ways.
Emotions aren’t bad, but sometimes we need to put some ‘psychological distance’ between what our feelings are telling us is going on and what the reality of the situation actually is. Getting some psychological distance will help you to support your kids as well. Your kids will also have a huge range of emotional reactions about going back into Level 3. The intensity of those reactions will often be a reflection of how well you are able to regulate your own emotions and how intensely you are expressing them.
You can think of your children as the thermometers measuring the ‘temperature’ of your emotions and of yourself as the thermostat that sets that ‘emotional temperature’. If you’re able to bring the temperature down by calming yourself enough so you can notice, understand and accept your emotions, act and think logically, and be mentally and emotionally ‘present’ with your kids, then your children will feel more secure and safe, their own emotions will settle, and they’ll feel much better equipped and more confident that they will get through this.
How can you be the thermostat?
One way is to pause, hold and engage.
Pause – Breathe. (Seriously, oxygen is the best medicine for a worried brain.)
Hold – Take time to notice and accept how you are feeling with empathy and compassion. (Honestly, how you are feeling makes heaps of sense.)
Engage – Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t. Prioritise relationships. Speak calmly, continue to notice how you are feeling, and make space for the feelings of others – especially if they are hungry!
If you want to learn more about Pause, Hold, Engage, you can check out our free course that teaches the basics of emotion regulation. You can find out more about that here.
Step two: Create a safe and secure atmosphere for your bubble
Be a calm presence.
If you are telling your kids that everything is fine, but you are acting like nothing is fine, then your kids will pay more attention to what you are doing than they will to what you are saying. What we are learning is that our kids’ brains give way more mana to our general vibe than what we verbally communicate. If you are saying “lockdown is a great opportunity to connect and play Scrabble” but you are chewing your fingernails and buying bulk toilet paper from Ali-Express, then your actions really will speak louder than your words.
Keep adult problems adult problems.
You may be worried about your finances or job security, or getting sick, or your ability to be your kid’s teacher. Your children will have heaps of questions about what this all means. Whenever and wherever possible, tell your kids the truth. You can tell them that money is tight, or you are worried about your job or you genuinely think that life would be easier if you were a dog. But (and this is really important) only give them the information that they need to quench their current questions based on their age and their understanding of the world.
Limit media consumption.
This includes social media, news media, and Women’s Weekly (just because it has way too many polarising opinions about Will and Kate). There is only a certain amount of news that is helpful, and after you are informed, media can actually end up creating an unhelpful level of anxiety. So be careful how much ‘extra’ information you end up consuming, especially if it takes your attention away from your bubble. (In fact, if you are going to take this advice seriously, you should probably stop reading right now.)
As Burt Bacharach’s famous hit proclaimed, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love, no not just for just for some, but for everyone”. Burt was probably composing that in the midst of the 60s when people were all hippies, but he was actually on to something. Humans can thrive in the midst of all sorts of challenges if they are deeply known, seen and loved.
So remember to speak with kindness, because kindness creates connection, and connection with others can keep us from feeling lonely and can make us feel more positive about the world in general. (Even if we are in Level 3. Again.)
Looking for more personalised strategies and solutions for your family?
Our Family Coaches bring their extensive training and experience to help uncover new insights, ideas and practical solutions to parenting and relationship challenges. Through one-on-one support (in person, via Skype or email), you’ll be provided with take-home strategies to bring about the positive changes you desire for your whānau.