How has parenting during a pandemic changed parenting for you?
The biggest thing that stands out to me, and it is underscored by our relatively recent move, is the lack of community.
When my husband deployed to Afghanistan, I had family nearby, friends a phone call away, and neighbors at the ready to help out. Somehow, with their support, I managed to increase my output at work while juggling childcare for my four children out of school for the summer. Looking back, the only way I made it through that time was with community connection and support.
For the most part, I’ve lacked a sense of community during this pandemic and that has made getting through these times much harder. This was especially true at the start of the pandemic when I didn’t know our neighbors at our rental house. My husband quietly deployed to NYC one day and I quietly stayed in the home with our four boys. I don’t think anyone knew or noticed. When we moved into our home that we live in now, I met and texted a few neighbors, but we didn’t gather. Additionally, my family was on the other side of the country. My closest friends, scattered around the country, were available by text. I cobbled together as much support as I could via text messages and phone calls. Also, I rebooted my yoga practice and took heart in familiar faces and voices. But, like many of you, there were no shoulders available to lean on.
My 9-to-5 hours that had once been filled with work that mattered to me were swept away by virtual learning and various children’s meltdowns. After all, their experiences of loneliness were even bigger than mine. If the pandemic was hard for me, it was definitely hard on them.
Now, as I head into this school year, as opposed to last, I feel more optimistic (at this moment). Unlike last year, with the help of some increased socializing due to vaccines and getting to know our neighbors, we all have friends now. My two younger boys have buddies they play outside with and my two older boys have online friend groups that have gathered here and there. My husband has social groups and I have made a couple of promising friendships.
The schools will meet in person this year. So that’s better, I think. (Maybe not. Time will tell.) Outdoor sports teams are active. Indoor activities are masked. I will have some more time to devote to my work. (Again, maybe … we will see.) So, on to my work … and the point of this topic:
Community and Parenting
I’ve relied heavily on my knowledge and experience as a psychotherapist, and play therapist, in particular, to get our family this far in the pandemic. When I say my kids had a tough year, I mean they REALLY had a tough year. They were uprooted just before the pandemic and barely knew people in their classes before we went to online instruction. Then, their dad deployed and when he came back we moved again. Plus, add to that virtual school … it was a nightmare for us. We secured therapy, coaching, and all the outdoor play resources we could to help them socially and emotionally. Despite these resources, they still suffered anxiety and depression.
I drew on my knowledge of attachment theory, developmental theory, and play therapy to help them regulate and find joy and connection again. For myself, I drew on my experience in mindfulness and practice of yoga to cultivate peace when I felt fires beginning to burn in my belly and I wanted to scream or just melt into a puddle of dissociation.
Now, we are in a good place. Like many families, we’ve cultivated practices and rituals that we want to keep beyond the pandemic. We are in a flow now. We have a base from which to draw. For me, personally, I believe that recent connections I’ve made in my yoga practice, with neighbors, and through blossoming friendships, have made a huge difference. Essentially: community.
As we head into this next phase of the pandemic, I want to cultivate community online. I am offering Soul and Steady Parenting as a support and resource for parents. Mostly, though, because I believe you know what you need to know, I want to offer the inspiration that comes from connection. It’s the connection and inspiration that will get us through hard times.
Starting September 12, we will meet for six weeks on Sundays, from 4:30 to 6 PM, Pacific Time. I will offer an integrated approach to parenting based on my training in psychotherapy and play therapy, and on my experience as a mom of four during this pandemic.
We will explore, connect, and find inspiration to switch from places of reaction to places of response. Together, we will cultivate practices for parenting with intention. No matter what your religious and spiritual background: we will cultivate soul-centered parenting that offers the steadiness we and our children are needing. Join me, and find the connection and inspiration you are needing to navigate this next liminal space.