Parenting is filled with loads of uncertainty even in normal times. These days, the level of uncertainty is off the charts!
Take a moment to take a deep breath and know that you are not alone in the challenges of parenting, particularly during these crazy times. There are some clear explanations for what you’re feeling and a few things you can do to not just “get through” this, but make it an opportunity for positive growth and connection for your family.
We are all being challenged to get really comfortable with uncertainty and the unknown. I don’t know about you, but I’m really tired of it—not just emotionally tired, I’m physically tired too.
You may be asking yourself why you are feeling so fatigued? It is because we humans are hard wired to be homeostatic beings. Homeostasis is your body’s way of maintaining equilibrium and helps you retain a normal body temperature, metabolism, weight and other functions that are necessary for your survival.
Think of it as your body’s internal thermostat. Any time something causes your heart rate to increase, your breathing to change or you stuff your belly full of yummy comfort food, your body’s thermostat reacts. Those changes cause a disruption to our body’s homeostasis. As an effort to maintain homeostasis, your body actively resists these physiological changes.
Survival is our #1 instinct. Our brains and bodies will do anything to keep us safe. We are always scanning for danger, so all of the change and uncertainty we are facing keeps our brains and bodies on high alert. Being in a state of prolonged alert and persistent change is just not something we are designed to handle and results in chronic stress, tiredness and other physical and mental symptoms.
This is actually known as change fatigue and happens when our brains and bodies can’t keep up with the pace or volume of the changes that are coming our way. After a while, we start to short circuit.
All of the change and uncertainty that is swirling around us is affecting all of us, including our kids. Not only do your children see and feel all of the changes that are going on in their world, they see and feel how all of the change is affecting you. They sense it and pick up on it whether you like it or not.
Find Stability Together
We are all craving safety and stability right now, especially your kids. They don’t have the emotional capacity or the lived experience to process all of the change and the emotions that are being kicked up for them. As a parent, it’s tempting to want to fix it. You want to DO something to make it better for them. Maybe you tell them it’s going to be okay. That they shouldn’t worry. That it’s all under control (even if you don’t really feel like it is!). Unfortunately, telling them those things won’t stop their brains or bodies from scanning for danger.
As a parent, the number one thing you can do for your children is to just BE present with them. Encourage them to talk about their discomfort, their fears, their anger and their frustration. And be open to sharing your feelings too. We have to learn to sit together in the discomfort and the uncomfortable.
Don’t feel like you need to fix this. You can’t fix this. Let go of the guilt, the questioning and the discomfort. Stop trying to push it all away. In times of change and disruption, embracing and honoring your emotions is what will help you move through them so you can process them and let them go.
Mom, What’s for Dinner?
As a working parent, I always dreaded the 3 o’clock phone call from my daughter asking me “Mom, what’s for dinner?” This call came everyday up until my daughter left for college. My response was always the same, “I don’t know, I haven’t gotten that far yet.” Many times, I was irritated by that phone call. I looked at it as an interruption to my day and it made me feel bad because I never had a plan for dinner.
Recently, my now 26-year-old daughter and I were talking about this and she enlightened me by saying, “Mom, those phone calls were never about dinner. I just needed to hear your voice and know that all was right with the world.” I was dumbfounded and sad. Because I was responding to those phone calls from a place of DOING, I perceived those daily interactions as an interruption and judged myself for not being what I thought a good parent should be.
I missed the opportunity to BE with my daughter, to connect with her, to assure her that she was loved and accepted and that all really was right with the world.
Going through change and disruption together is powerful. When we struggle together and feel bad together, we feel connected, loved and accepted. We learn that being angry, sad or scared is just as good as being happy and joyful.
When our survival and belonging needs are met, we are able to grow and flourish and step out of our comfort zone and take risks. It’s not easy, but it’s okay. Your kids will learn more from watching you struggle while you are BEING open and vulnerable with them. You are teaching them valuable skills that they will need to be able to juggle the never-ending world of change that they will be living in for years to come.