If you’ve ever been at the airline ticket counter and heard these words – “We’d like to upgrade you to First Class” – you know the thrill of a ticket upgrade. This happens when the airline wants to thank you for an inconvenience suffered as a passenger. Let’s stretch this to include our experience in the pandemic.
We can thank Corona Virus for upgrading our coping skills!
We have been inconvenienced by the virus and we have received “an upgrade” of sorts. Think back…a year ago. Would you be surprised by today’s “to do” list? It might be hard to believe, given how some days fall apart, but we have certainly learned more in the last year about change, stress, parenting, resilience, flexibility, and the importance of our relationships.
Let’s spend a few minutes celebrating these skill upgrades.
First, think about new Roles:
When we start something new it can be uncomfortable because we like to be competent, we don’t like beginner or rookie status. We don’t like to lose face when we do something wrong. This has been an uncomfortable year, filled with new roles. Maybe we could give out awards – Corona Virus Pandemic Participant Rookie of the Year! When I teach disaster mental health for Red Cross, the major concept relates how this isn’t going to go well – it is a disaster, and each disaster is new. We never fully get the skills we need to manage ourselves through a disaster because we are overwhelmed and exhausted. This disaster, however, is giving us more time to refine our skills.
How are your new roles impacting you? One new role is threat manager for yourself, your partner and your children. We are constantly monitoring threat to our immune system. This long-term threat monitoring is exhausting. We know this from PTSD survivors who learn new self-care strategies like setting boundaries to reduce worrying, practicing self-compassion and improving mindfulness.
Try these ideas to manage threats. Follow the CDC guidelines for public health. We know these now without thinking. Congrats – that is a skill upgrade! Perhaps we could take an inventory of current threats at home. Since we are spending so much time together, everyone needs to be able to manage low mood and the impact of close quarters on our ability to get refreshed. The number one remedy for low mood is fresh air and fun. Even in cold weather it is amazing how good it can feel to get a change of scenery. Drive to a park and run around for 10 minutes, it will do us good!
Another threat is how we are managing our relationships. These days I spend more time in my therapy office on conflict around new roles and responsibilities. Our children are watching how adults solve problems. If we are constantly bickering with each other, what are we teaching our children? A key question to ask is this showstopper. What am I doing that makes it difficult for you to give me what I want? Often it is the tone and the way we ask for help. It always sounds like complaint and it will make a partner or child defensive. Instead, listen for complaints and turn them into invitations for feedback like saying “I hear that doesn’t work for you – what would work better?” Let your partner know if you can accommodate their request/complaint.
Managing the relationship with your children
Children enjoy hearing compliments. Could you make a list of new skills you see in your kids and give them a compliment? Are they learning to be more self-directed? Are they asking for help when they are stuck on an assignment? Do they tell you they are bored and lonely? It is a skill to identify a need and ask for help. Try having a family meeting to reset expectations. We can remind kids that they need to be committed to their education. Another way of checking in with your student is to host Parent/Student Conferences. Invite your child to a meeting, like the teacher does and check in on what is going well and what could be adjusted. Highlight was is and is not working. Refresh resources, supplies, and goals. Remind them about being a team and learning to work together. Coach new behaviors and support good habits. We do not get tired of hearing compliments. Notice what is working and have empathy that things are difficult right now.
We’ve all been thrown into chaos because of the pandemic. Are you teaching your children to be adaptive because they witness your coping skills? One great strategy is to tell your children about your decisions and the factors that go into making a decision that impacts the family. Children are amazing at brainstorming ideas – let them help generate options for the latest family dilemma related to not only surviving but thriving in the current circumstances.
Let’s think about our new Outcomes:
One of the constant complaints I hear as a therapist is how bored we are. This pandemic makes us feel like we are in prison, locked in and stifled by the lock down. This is reality and a burden. Yet, the good news is that much of this feeling is of our own making. While worry about getting the virus is accurate, now is the time to invest some creativity for the remainder of this experience.
Let yourself ponder and see what your brain comes up with for a skill upgrade. Gather your family and make a list of what we could do to manage the rest of the journey. We need to give ourselves credit for getting this far. We need new energy to keep going on this treacherous journey as a Covid Virus Pandemic Participant. I’d say we’ve all earned that ticket upgrade!