Who isn't finding this COVID-19 period stressful? First of all, it is difficult because we didn't choose it; it was forced upon us. No one likes being forced, at any age, into dealing with something they didn’t ask for. So, you automatically have your back up. The instinctive thing to do is to resist and fight against it. That usually looks like a lot of mumbling, grumbling, foot-dragging and complaining which gets us nowhere, just more frustrated. So, I am going to recommend that rather than resisting this oppressive, restrictive and limiting lifestyle, you accept it.
This is how that would work. Instead of fighting against the reality of you and your spouse being around each other more than you ever dreamed (24/7), instead of trying to suppress your anxiety with the kids being home all summer with no camps opening, and instead of pushing against the depressive weight that this virus is here to stay for the long term, let’s accept what we can’t change, and put all of our energies, power and imagination into turning a negative into a positive. Once you do that, take that deep breadth of acceptance and let it out slowly, try to feel the anxiety declining as you stop trying all the tricks in your bag to resist, because we can’t resist this dilemma. Acceptance will give us peace and more energy. It will set us free to be in an active, progressive and positive mode. We are not fighting against something we are moving with it; we are in a sense joining in, moving with the tide, and making and creating the best we can out of what we have around us. Instead of it is tough working from home, think, “thank God, I still have a job”; instead of thinking that your daughter is a complainer, think, “she sure is developing her voice…now, how can I help channel her to use it constructively.” Resistance produces anger, resentment and helplessness; those quality only drag us down. Stop resisting; get with the flow; take this enemy on, do battle with it, build a protective shield around your family; develop a family support program that will insure everyone’s safety.
So, what is the Plan? The first thing is to take responsibility. The last thing to do is “blame” anybody. In my definition, responsibility and blame are two different things. Responsibility is the power and ability to respond. Sounds simple, but, it is a very sophisticated skill. When a responsible person comes on the scene, they know that they are capable of responding to what they find, making the situation better, moving it forward. A responsible person never says, "who's fault is it that we have this mess” - never looks for someone to blame! Rather, they have the single-minded, laser focused initiative that steers everyone involved into a single mind set of what can I do to help, to make this situation better, to rally the troops around the plan for improvement.
The next step in the plan is to have a parent step up and assume responsibility. It is best if shared between two responsible adults, but a single adult also can meet the challenge. I do not subscribe to the common thinking that if you have two adults in the family each of them can contribute 50% of the love, work and energy required and you will have 100% success. You are capable of putting a 100% into your relationships and your family all the time. You want to strive in your heart to be that kind of person that always gives 100% in whatever you do. When it comes to parenting as a team, if you are having a bad day and only functioning at 75%, and your partner is hitting 90%, in my model you are contributing at 165%. In the other model, if you're thinking that all you have to do is reach 50%, only need to contribute 50%, and you both fall short on the same day, you are well below 100%. If you start from a belief that you always have the ability to contribute 100% of your love, attention and focus to every relationship, you will achieve great results and be a very happy person.
So, the responsible person has to set the tone for the home. It is important to know that you can control your mind and what runs through it, both positive and negative. You need to monitor, be conscious of and be in control of the thoughts that enter your mind. Our thinking dictates how we react to people. If you hold the thought in your head that your son is a slacker, then your interaction with him will be dealt with from that negative thought. As the leader, you know that everyone else can tell when you are upset, anxious or stressed. If you can pay attention, check in on your thoughts periodically, you will be able to change it when it's heading in the wrong direction. The people following you will likewise have a more comfortable journey.
Next, the leader should call a family meeting. This is when everybody gets to express what they think they need as both an individual and what the family needs as a group. Here are a few examples that I’ve heard from families; 1.) have a family dinner night each week where everyone attends, participates in planning the menu, cooking the meal, contributes to cleaning up, and all cell phones are removed from the room; 2.) schedule a night that we regularly contact extended family through Zoom, both individual contacts as well as group sessions, where we can stay in contact with grandparents and loved ones that we cannot visit in person because of the virus, 3.) have a quiet room where you can go and shut the door and just focus on you…rest, reset and reinvigorate yourself - there is a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door - this is really important and needs to be respected 4.) have a set time each week to do something that’s fun, easy for everyone to participate in - it could be as simple as everyone agreeing to watch the same movie - it produces together time.
The virus is here. You can stay ahead of or on top of it only if you commit to a family plan aimed at everyone’s well-being. This is not a time for “Business as Usual”! To thrive you need a responsible leader to commit to a definitive and inclusive family plan aimed at everybody’s well-being. Are you up for it?
If you need help with ideas, you can email me. Let’s continue the discussion at: www.familyconsultationservices.com/articles