Helping our Kids (and Ourselves) Deal with Unwelcome Visitors...Difficult Emotions

Children have different ways of expressing stress and anxiety. Under stress, they may have a decreased capacity for handling frustration, difficulty with sleeping or eating, or show some signs of developmental regression. They may tantrum, withdraw, or express physical complaints. Sometimes it's hard to give them the care and attention they need when we are also suffering from anxious or depressed feelings.

We seem to have more time than ever, while simultaneously being busier than ever.

I heard a parent recently comment that we seem to have more time than ever, while simultaneously being busier than ever. Sound familiar? While several things have been cut from our schedules, many of us are juggling working from home, monitoring our children’s schooling, and cooking more with very little downtime to ourselves.

In these highly unusual times, we can and should expect that we and our children will experience uncomfortable emotions and have difficulty coping at times.

Through self-care, we can be more available to meet our children’s needs. I often think of the analogy from airlines in which adults are instructed to put on their own oxygen mask before their children’s so they can survive and be there for them.

So what makes you feel better when you are having a hard time? Go ahead and make a list and post it on the refrigerator. By planning, you will be more likely to make it happen. Start small and realistic and then add to the list later, if time and situations allow. Tell yourself that you are worth it and also remind yourself that the better you feel, the more available you will be to care for your family.

Tune into what it is that makes you feel most relaxed and happy. Some of those activities may be off limits right now, but can you modify them? Exchange a pampering trip to the spa with a 20 minute soak in the tub? How about limiting your exposure to news and instead reading a few minutes in that book you’ve been putting off.

Or what about planning a stay-cation day? Maybe your family orders take-out, stays in their PJ’s, and ignores chores for a day? Having something planned extends the excitement and fun for the days leading up to it.

Have you been getting outside everyday more than once? Have your kids been taking regular outside physical activity breaks? Research supports nature’s effect on reducing stress, anxiety, and depression and for me, getting outside and moving is key. It’s good for everyone and is especially needed by our children who have been spending unusual amounts of time in online learning activities.

Research supports nature’s effect on reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

For kids, creating routines, limiting news exposure, providing opportunities for joyful play and exploration, and really listening to them can support their emotional load. During these times, it’s helpful to think of the ways we are really blessed. Ask your kids to think of three things they are grateful for at family meals or to share something new that has changed in your family for the better recently.

Mindfulness and meditation activities can help too. As a mindfulness instructor, I sometimes have to be a little sneaky about how I slip mindful activities into my own family’s routines but I have noticed that my kids need it more than ever right now. Curling up for nighttime snuggles is often the perfect time to share a meditation and often calms them down faster than anything else.

Uncomfortable feelings don’t last forever, and they don’t define who we are.

I will be sharing some of my favorite mindful activities and family-friendly meditations to help children and families cope with the stress, worry, and difficult emotions that may be visiting during this time. Remember, that’s what feelings do. They visit us, sometimes staying past their welcome, sometimes leaving sooner than we like. By keeping this perspective, we can remember that uncomfortable feelings don’t last forever, and they don’t define who we are.

Please visit my Facebook or Instagram feeds each day next week to experience a daily meditation and other mindful activities to care for you and your family. I’m providing these activities as a community service to help support local non-profits who provide care to Jacksonville’s homeless and economically disadvantaged communities. If you enjoy the activities, please consider making a donation to Family Promise of Jacksonville or BEAM. Feel better and know you’ve done some good.

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