Resiliency in the Face of COVID-19: A Busy Parent’s Guide

"It was the best of times.

It was the worst of times."

Dickens’ famous words about how good and bad co-exist in our lives are as true today as the day he wrote them.

It’s easy to see the bad, we’re all at risk for catching a virus we know very little about, we’re sheltering in place, social distancing, stockpiling toilet paper, homeschooling our kids, wiping away the tears, and calming the tempers and fears (ours and theirs!). We know that it’s hard to cope with these challenges while we step up, make sacrifices, and protect those who are the most vulnerable.

The good is just as obvious if we look with an open mind. In every challenge, as our usual routine is no longer possible or ethical, we gain new and unique opportunities to stretch and grow and learn, to come out stronger on the other side.

This is what resiliency is all about.

So, here are 10 Steps to parenting with resiliency in these challenging times. There’s no need to read them all at once or try to make a lot of changes overnight. Put this guide where you can reach for it over the next few weeks when you want some inspiration and support.

At the end of each step you will find a link to stories and additional resources you may find helpful.

1. Gratitude

There is no better antidote to fear and distress than gratitude. With so many changes and unknowns, it’s completely normal that we, along with our kids, will have anxious thoughts and worries. Go ahead, list them out, AND then add another list, a list of all the things for which you are grateful. Keep adding to BOTH lists. For every fear, can you find at least a couple of things to add to your list of thanksgiving? Pancakes for Mom and Dad: Everyday Gratitude

2. Forgiveness

Yep, it’s guaranteed. We’re going to make mistakes. Our kids are going to make mistakes. We’re going to feel hurt, sad, scared, and upset, and we may even lash out at those who are closest to us. And so might our kids. So, let’s practice giving and receiving forgiveness. The Blue Plate Special: Empathy in Action

3. Humor

It was the second day since our schools closed and I started seeing clients online instead of in person. I was taking a few minutes to enjoy my breakfast when the house started to shake. Earthquake, 5.7. I know there are places where that may not seem like a big deal, but it was a pretty good shake for our hometown. As I started to check in on family and friends, someone said, “Does anyone have a funny story to share…I could use a good hard laugh at this point!” This is going to be true for all of us, over and over again. That Dog is a Thief!: The Fine Line between Pain and Laughter

4. Connection

How is your “connection” piggy bank? A warm and caring connection is essential to having a positive influence in our families. There are going to be plenty of “rainy” days ahead, so let’s start building up our relationship reserves now. It’s never too early, or too late to start. Three Little Kisses: Lasting Memories Through Daily Rituals

5. Hope and Optimism

When your anxious mind starts spinning out catastrophic possibilities, take a minute to breathe, acknowledge that we don’t know the future and your fears may or may not come true, then ask yourself what, if anything, you can reasonably do about your fears? If there is something, do it. If not, why not accept it and focus your energy on moving forward with hope and optimism? Live to Live: The Jed Nield Story

6. Dreams and Goals

Years ago, when I was going through a particularly difficult challenge, one of my daughters gave me a picture from Alice in Wonderland of the caterpillar asking Alice, “Who are you?” On the back, she wrote, “Don’t be afraid to be who you are because I will love you no matter what.” What are your dreams for you and your family? How do you aspire to be during these current challenging times? Finding Middle C: Meaningful Dreams

7. Hard Work

Recently, I read about the true-life experiences that inspired Laura Ingalls Wilder’s wonderful books, like Little House on the Prairie. She grew up in a family building a life on the American frontier. Today, we’re rebuilding our lives on our new frontier. We’re more isolated and on our own than we are used to being. For now, no more theaters, restaurants, parks, gyms, teachers, tutors, coaches…the list goes on. Who will fill in? We can! Make it a family experience. Invite your children to share the load and the rewards as we work together, side by side, as families have always done, cooking, cleaning, entertaining, teaching, and caring for one another. Uncle Niel’s Lariat: Creative Determination

8. Spirituality

I saw a sign the other day that read, “Wash your hands and say your prayers. Jesus and germs are everywhere.” Whatever your spiritual beliefs, now is a wonderful time to focus on how all life is interconnected and we are part of something bigger than just ourselves. Sit on your porch with your kids or put your heads out the window (at a respectfully safe distance from others) and listen to the birds, feel the sun on your faces, watch the moon rise, savor being together in the moment. Express gratitude for life. Bob and Dave Are Friends: Facing Life and Death Together

9. Values

With our usual routines and ordinary habits disrupted, we are nudged to consider afresh our values. How will we structure our days? What will we choose to put first on our to-do list? As I was writing this guide, I heard a loud knock. I went to the door and found a carefully wrapped loaf of freshly baked bread and a neighbor standing several feet down our front walk. He had spent the morning baking bread and safely sharing it with those around him. This is how we discover our values…how do we choose to treat others and spend our time? On Belay: In Word and Deed

10. Communication

Last, but certainly not least, how will we express our thoughts and feelings to our families? Psychiatrist David Burns, MD, teaches that in communicating with those we care about, we should ask ourselves, “Do I want to be right, or do I want to be effective?” If it’s most important to you to prove that you are “right,” than you will likely miss out on many chances to understand the other person, to show your interest in learning more about how they see the world, an excellent way to strengthen our relationships, even, or perhaps especially, when we disagree. An Alligator’s Dinner Sitting in a Canoe: Warn and Teach

We can:
Be safe
Be wise.
Be ordinary heroes – taking care of ourselves and our families, helping others from a distance.

We’re all in this together, and we’re going to get through this!

Let’s ask ourselves, “When we look back on these challenging times, will we feel a healthy sense of pride in how we lived with dignity and grace under pressure?”

Here’s to Failing Forward,

Anne and Cal


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