Two years ago a very close friend of mine had both the cadence of her day to day reality and the future vision that she had for her family fall apart entirely in a single day. The future was insurmountable.
The only way that she could make it through that time was by taking what she called little sips. She couldn’t raise her head to see the horizon, because it was impossible to understand what the future might hold and there was no control to take over what was happening. So instead she took it one hour, one day and one week at a time. In those days that asked the impossible of her, she learned to practice taking little sips of the beauty and peace that she found in life to sustain her, and she found that it was enough.
This pandemic and the resulting social distancing might feel insurmountable. We’ve never faced something like this in our time, and all of us will have to be innovators both in our family or personal spaces and in how we interact from a distance with our world community. All of us will have to flex our ability to stay determined and to identify the stolen moments we can sip from to carry us lightly down what looks like a long road ahead. Here are some tips to find your grit, persevere through challenges, and walk hand in hand with your little ones as they walk this road and sip from this cup alongside you.
TAKE LITTLE SIPS
Find a morning ritual that centers and grounds you.
That may include stretching or exercise, music, candles, or intention setting. Try to have something that’s just for you, and some part of the morning that your kids can participate in too. Take sip breaks throughout the day, even if they’re just two minutes. Go outside, breathe, and notice the world around you. Take in the clouds, growing things, and the sounds of birds or wind. The natural world is a constant and has made it through much worse than this. Notice how it’s thriving for a moment.
Schedule a 15-minute break.
That goes for yourself and for your partner if you have one, so that you can have alone time to recharge at some point in the day. If you are alone with the kids, take at least 10 – 15 minutes for yourself when they are busy with nap time, bath, learning or movie time, even if the house isn’t quite as clean as it would have been if you used the time to pick up. Try to leave your phone in the other room, just for those fifteen minutes.
Take a few minutes each day to drink in the good.
As it runs a destructive and tragic course, the coronavirus is also showing us the indomitable human spirit; so much positivity is being catalyzed right now. For example, consider the people coming together while apart in creative ways like backyard dance parties, balcony concerts, and free online resources.
TEACH KIDS HOW TO BE DETERMINED
Be real with your kids.
When tough things happen, we become teachers for how to deal with things that don’t meet our expectations, with stress, and with the unexpected. Tell your children that it will take effort to get a rhythm going, and that you’ll fail and learn from it together many times along the way.
Redesign your life together.
As you try different approaches to this new day to day reality, turn that conversation into a practice. For example, ask the fam:
- What did we like and not like about last week?
- What do we want to do differently?
- Let’s give it another shot and see what sticks.
Commit to speaking intentionally about what’s hard.
For instance, we might describe that we’re not staying at home because we’re being forced to, but because we choose to in order to protect our community because it’s what’s right. Language like this models that we are actors in the world, not recipients of what’s happening to us. Even when circumstances are beyond our control, we have agency over ourselves and our actions.
Pay attention to stress signs.
As kids settle in, the times when they need support might show. They might get upset about something, and the reaction might seem out of proportion with what they’re triggered by. Or, their biorhythms might change and you’ll pick up cues that they’re stressed because they don’t want to eat, or don’t sleep well. Seeing our kids struggle is hard, but we are here to teach them they can do hard things. Take a deep breath and give extra hugs. Sit down and ask how they’re doing. Tell them that sometimes when everything changes at once, we lose our balance, feel upset and we don’t even know why—and tell them that’s okay. It might take some time to get to the bottom of what’s bothering them, but the most important thing is that they know you’re there.
Give yourself, and your kids, a break.
This situation is asking everything of all of us, all at once, 24 hours per day. Let’s relax our standards for ourselves as parents when we need to. Have a cuddle pile instead of a lesson plan when that’s what’s needed. When you can do nothing else, just be determined to show your children that they’re safe and they’re loved.
CONFRONTING IMPATIENCE OR NEGATIVITY
Take it moment to moment, a day at a time.
You don’t have to know what’s coming or understand how you’re going to get through three months right now but you can get through today.
Let this be a practice.
Each moment can be an opportunity to start from nothing. Even if you were impatient with your kids or you weren’t as productive as you wanted to be in a day, you can start over fresh again and again and again.
Practice the pause.
In the middle of my first week of lockdown, I noticed my patience thinning. When we’re on edge, can we set an intention to just pause and take one breath before we act? Sometimes one breath is all it takes.
Look for strengths.
That goes for within yourself, your kids, your partner, family, friends, and people sharing online. Everyone is doing their best right now, and our best looks different for everyone. Can we try to catch ourselves when we start to judge or find fault and look for what we like instead?
We all know a gratitude practice is good, good medicine. In addition to choosing a few specific things you’re grateful for whenever you need a sip, share this practice with your kids, and open up your gratitude list to beyond your own space. Share gratitude with your kids for the teachers reinventing their approach to education in a few short days, people working in transportation, grocery store workers, and of course, in our healthcare system. Notice all of the people out there who have your back.
Question our habits.
Right now, everything is new. What is one new habit you’d like to intentionally put in the place of something that’s not available any more? For example, if you can’t go to the gym like you’re used to, can you go on a neighborhood walk with the family at the same time each day to connect, move, and be out in the world together?
Right now, I notice the constant truth that we are both comfortingly the same and strikingly different. Like a magnifying glass, this new circumstance we’re in is bringing into focus realities that we experience on a smaller scale every day.
Right now, the container of what’s hard is similar for all of us. This is a new landscape and there is hard news all around us. We are reinventing how we interact with each other in small spaces, and with our virtual neighbors around the world.
But I also notice that for each family or individual, there’s something different that feels the hardest right now. The giant, hairy big deal that feels impossible to wrap our minds around or explain to our kids is a little different for everyone. For many, it’s financial problems. For others, it’s sick or lost loved ones. Some are in the terrible position of being laid off, or of laying off employees. Some are struggling with solitude, and others can’t find five minutes to ourselves. All of us know that this is just the beginning, and we’re trying to wrap our minds around how to do this for an extended, undefined period of time.
We can do hard things. Right now, we have an opportunity both to experience our connectedness in what is the same, and to develop our empathy for each other in understanding what’s different and hard for our fellow humans. Whatever your big deal is, you’re not alone. I wish you many tiny sips today, of whatever you most love in your cup.
Sarah McDonald is Galileo’s VP of Southern California Operations. When she’s not heading up camp operations, Sarah loves to write, paint, and adventure with her fam.