Sequels can be a bit hit and miss. I like Die Hard 2, (actually I love all of the Die Hard films, as I disclosed in this article), but some sequels should never have seen the light of day. Like Jaws 2 (or Jaws 3 or 4, for that matter). Thankfully we have managed to avoid some sequels that would have just been horrific (Waterworld 2, anyone?). And then there’s the unwanted sequel that seems almost inevitable for a lot of us – The Lockdown Part 2.
While it’s fair to say that perhaps a very, very, very small minority of people would have enjoyed Waterworld 2, it’s more likely that not even Kevin Costner would have tolerated it and the rest of us would have received it with very (very!) mixed feelings. Much the same as how many of us feel about the sequel to The Lockdown. (Which is not actually a movie, it’s a Government imposed stay-at-home policy in response to a global pandemic – just in case we needed to clarify.)
For parents, the first lockdown might have brought some unexpected bonuses. We might have enjoyed the slower pace of life, treasured the time to reconnect with ourselves and our families, and loved finally having an excuse to binge-watch Netflix like a teenager! Whilst it was still a stressful time, there was a sense that we were all in this together and that everyone was working towards a common goal. We were almost certain that the humble sacrifice of an entire population’s waistlines was a one-off and temporary measure. So we all knuckled down and dreamed of a better, brighter post-lockdown Aotearoa. And for a while it actually seemed like things were going to end up just as we had anticipated.
But not anymore. Now we have to navigate the unwanted sequel and this time, the familiar lockdown activities involving glue guns, jigsaw puzzles and tuning in for Ashley Bloomfied’s daily “Kia ora koutou katoa” could leave us feeling overwhelmed and out of our depth, rather than in control and slightly proud of ourselves. As part of Lockdown 2.0, many of us are instead feeling disappointment, anger, frustration, fear, blame, denial and helplessness. This sequel might actually be worse than Jaws 4.
Of course, all of this means that, this time round, we could end up being way less patient, less understanding and less empathetic with ourselves and with our children, which could make parenting through Lockdown 2.0 even harder than the first time. And in our overwhelmed state, we might end up making the biggest parenting mistake of all: we may force our children to actually watch Waterworld because misery loves company and if you can’t beat them, join them! So what are some better ways to deal with all this?
We are often tempted to think that complex problems and challenges require complex solutions and answers. But this isn’t always true. In fact, the basics still apply. When we feel overwhelmed, we should make sure to take a breath (or lots of them). We should take the time to notice, name and accept the emotions we are experiencing, and then we should show ourselves empathy and compassion. Next, when we’re ready to face the world and deal with the situation, we should focus on the things we can control, rather than on the things we can’t. And we should prioritise relationships with those around us. In short, we should Pause, Hold, Engage (we’ve written heaps of go-to articles on Pause, Hold, Engage, you can find a couple of them here and here).
It might be helpful to know that skills like Pause, Hold, Engage are really just a shorthand way to get us to remember to regulate our emotions. Emotion regulation is not about denying our feelings or trying to avoid feeling them. In fact, emotion regulation is all about experiencing emotions, but in ways that don’t compromise our ability to think straight or take the perspectives of others, or make us do things we later regret (like all the chocolate I ate in the first lockdown).
Emotion regulation helps us to ‘down’ regulate the intensity of our feelings so that we can ‘buy some time’ before we yell at our children, kick the cat or buy chocolate slab number 187 just because we’re feeling angry, frustrated or really worried.
That is why a skill like Pause, Hold, Engage is so useful and important. It helps us take the time to get regulated so that we can be nicer to our children, the cat and ourselves. It helps us show ourselves and our children empathy and compassion so that we can be parents who are patient, understanding and available to our kids – you know, the kind of parents our children actually need!
So remember to Pause, Hold, Engage (you can even print this memo and stick it on your fridge!). It will help you to positively navigate all sorts of things – even if we have to endure The Lockdown Part 3! Also keep in mind that there are some sequels that would have made the world a better place, like “Jason and Thingee’s Big Adventure Part 2”. Not all sequels have to be bad.
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