Parenting and beyond during Covid-19 times
Admittedly, the majority of parents have felt a LOT of pressure these last few months.
The uncertainty of schools reopening, quarantines, job losses or changes, inability to plan, cancellations of trips, difficulties in organising family life and socialising or seeing dear ones has been very challenging. Also, the confinement of working parents and children at home without support, for an extended period of time, has brought to parents an unprecedented amount of relentless pressure and, in some cases, has raised serious psychological, social, inequality and other issues.
In the best case scenario, parents have taken additional full time jobs as teachers on top of juggling family life and being a parent (it’s not the same!) and working very often full time where work demands and logistics have changed.
They have to deal/ are dealing with children who are themselves struggling, unable to access full education for an extended period, missing their friends, delaying cognitive, emotional and social development.
As an executive coach and trainer, and a mother of two very spirited boys, I feel that given the situation it is paramount to manage stress and increase resilience to avoid burning out and incurring mental health issues.
My strategies have changed as I had to adapt to ever changing scenarios and ever-changing rules.
However, I found that concentrating on 3 aspects of my life was going to be the best strategy to carry me through and allow me to increase resilience and do my best, whatever that best was going to be, without putting additional pressure on myself.
Such aspects are:
Dealing with negative emotions: In moments where I feel despondent and really feel the unsustainability of the situation, I feel angry towards the lack of planning by the governments or other people. At these times, I consciously try to pause and meet my feelings. I don’t deny they are there but, as I slow down, I treat them as someone who is coming with me for a walk. So, if possible, I go for a walk and take them for a walk with me or I sit quietly and meet them. After the feeling and the acknowledgement, I start to detach from them (or in psychology jargon I cognitively defuse from them). I almost let them figuratively go or leave them in the park thinking they are only a temporary emotional reaction. And I question if on the back of such reaction I can proactively do something for myself or others
Cultivating positive emotions: psychological agility is a very connected with positive psychology as relates to the empowered navigations of our thoughts and feelings. During this period I have made an effort to apply many principles of positive psychology (a branch of psychology which studies human flourishing performance and life satisfaction) and I have increased, intentionally, my positive emotions in particular gratitude and optimism. When the pressure is mounting, I am tired and I am thinking of escaping somewhere and hiding, I remind myself I have been through worse, that we are healthy, and fortunate to have food, a house with a garden and live in a lovely neighbourhood.
We can express gratitude towards our life even in times where we feel there is not a lot to be grateful for, and towards other people by noticing the things they do for us however small. We all lose our patience with partners and children but just noticing whatever small thing they do and showing appreciation can be hugely beneficial if done consistently on a daily basis.
Positive psychology research shows gratitude and other positive emotions such as curiosity, learned optimism, growth and humour are consistently associated with greater happiness, good experiences, improvement of health (they apparently also boost our immunity!) , coping with adversity, and building strong relationships.
Negative emotions are surely impermanent whereas positive emotions can be seen as resources and can be cultivated on a daily basis.
Time management: There is certainly no time for complacency and wasting time. Lists are disingenuous and do not work as they do not allow for prioritisation whereas the Urgent Important Matrix allows us to focus on the work that has priority. So, it is consistent with the 80/20 rules (pareto principle) and also forces us to eliminate, or at least reduce, those activities which are in fact time wasters or that, if possible, can be delegated.
Once I have determined what my priorities are, I transfer them to the Google calendar so that I know what I will be doing and how long is going to take me. I leave some buffer time between activities because I have found that being “ back to back” does not allow for the inevitable unknown, especially when children are involved but also does not give space to rest and pause to be intentional with the next group of activities.
Urgent & Important
Non Urgent Important
Planning in advance. Someone once told me that structure governs function and failing to plan is planning to fail. So, I have learned to put my proactive hat on and I usually plan my week in advance and revisit the planning every night so I am ready for the morning.
Focus. Given how precious time is, now even more than ever, I am making a concerted effort to remain focused and bring my attention back to what I am doing every time I notice my mind wandering. It helps that most of the time I put my phone away from my desk.
One of my past coaches used to say KISS, keep it simple sweetie. We know how important is to look after ourselves: eating healthily, exercising and getting enough quality sleep. Eat food you like but opt for healthy versions, do the exercise you like and recharge your mind in addition to your body, schedule it in your diary as an important task. Ask for help from your partner or if possible family/ friends/ad hoc childcare. They say it takes a village to raise a child so I suggest we gratefully receive all the help we can, we are not wonder women or supermen.
Last, but not least, we need to ensure adequate sleep and rest. Whether it is going to be going to bed at 10 pm every night or having 20 minute nap sleeps which is like charging a phone. Without sleep our functioning is impaired and all the planning, the time management and the dealing with emotions will be difficult to manage so ensure it is your top priority especially with small children who may interrupt it during the night.
In conclusion, thinking about a strategy, being mindful of our time and our wellbeing are essential parts of building our resilience and being stronger for our children.
Many people do not grant the enough attention to psychological/emotional wellbeing, which is as important as physical wellbeing, given the interconnection between mind and body. A dear friend of mind read this article in a draft form and commented, “I have nothing to add but the fact that our children learn compassion through our own vulnerabilities. When they see us crying or engaging with an emotion they learn to that is ok to “feel”. Very often we make the mistake of preventing them from hearing bad news or experiencing bad situations but by watching us expressing our emotions and dealing with them they learn compassion, empathy and resilience.
Maybe this lockdown has taught us and our children the biggest lesson of humanity.
Our thanks go to Annelise Pesa for this article.
Drawing from her background as an international finance lawyer, and also from her athletic pursuits, Annelise helps emerging leaders to maximise their potential, reach authentic pursuits also by leveraging on strengths. She specialises in leadership, career development, career transition, work life integration and developing resilience in the work place.
Annelise is a Meyler Campbell Business Coach Programme graduate, accredited by AC and EMCC.
She has delivered corporate training in stress management and resilience, team communication, sexual harassment in the work place, diversity and inclusion, positive leadership.
Annelise’s clients have reached excellent results by obtaining partnerships and promotions, increased performance, successfully changed roles and careers and consolidate leadership skills. She has also worked with small business to help with establishment and confidence issues. Her clients says she has the right mix of being supportive yet challenging and motivating.
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