parenting in a pandemic

Parenting in a Pandemic: 3 Ways Not to Lose Your Mind

Written by Chris Davis, MSSW, LMFT

Parenting is difficult. End of story. I have done office-based and in-home therapy with parents and kids for over 10 years. I believe I have just about seen it all. But how about parenting in a pandemic when it seems like the whole world is falling apart and we’re pretty much stuck inside with our kids? Sounds like a parent’s nightmare. And in many ways, it is.

However, it is possible to shift our thinking, feelings, decision and actions to break the trance of “I’m stuck and this sucks.” In a previous article, I discussed important steps to take before reaching a point where we might possibly abuse the ones we love. Many of the same principles apply here. However, I would like to focus on three other important principles we can follow that will alter our experience enough to make it through these difficult times. 

1. Adjust Expectations

There is no template for how to live, much less parent, during a pandemic and extended quarantine. We are all on shaky ground struggling to find our footing. One of the biggest mistakes I have seen when working with parents during the quarantine is the expectation that they can continue parenting as they always do. Their kids will continue to act in the same ways and need to be parented the same ways. This is not the case. NOTHING is normal or the same.

While our children may seem oblivious, or as if they don’t care about what’s happening, they are aware and do care. They are experiencing a significant amount of stress and trauma like the rest of us. Children are very sensitive and pick up on all the stimulation around them. They are like little antennas for stress. Adjusting our expectations and establishing a “new normal” can make all the difference in how successful our parenting is during these difficult times. 

2. Strike a Balance

Parenting is on a continuum. On one side are very permissive parents. On the other are very authoritarian parents. Most parents fall somewhere in between. During the quarantine, most parents will attempt to continue parenting as they always have, as discussed in the previous point. Some parents will swing the pendulum to the other side, however. This severe change in parenting can leave children quite confused. The goal of parenting, as with most things in life, is to strike a balance as close to the middle of that continuum as possible. Children need enough guidance and structure to keep them from falling too far without a safety net. But they also need enough room to make some mistakes and learn from them.

During the quarantine, parents who find themselves a little too far on either side of the continuum can benefit from shifting more towards the center. If you are a parent who counts every minute of your child’s screen time, it might behoove you to be a little less stringent on that. If you’re a parent who more or less let’s your kids do whatever they want as long as they aren’t getting hurt, it might be best to tighten that up some. Striking a balance in our parenting can make this quarantine a better overall experience for us as parents and for our kids. 

3. Prioritize Play

I believe one of the most important things parents can do to make not only their parenting better during the quarantine, but also just their own personal experiences, is to prioritize play. What I have heard from many parents is that they are struggling to keep themselves busy. They often finish their work faster if they are at home. They clean the house. Then deep clean the house. They hang up that picture they’ve been meaning to. They even organize their sock drawer. Ultimately, they are struggling to find something productive to do. Therein lies the problem: the idea that we should all be productive all the time. We have a serious problem in our culture in that we do not know how to play. This is not everyone of course. There are plenty of adults who are gamers, hikers, and cultural creatives. But many adults struggle with being able to adopt an attitude of play. Now we can relax. And we can vacation. But it’s not the same thing.

Playing is the language of children that we forget as we grow up. When we grow up, our culture tells us it is time to work. We are also told it is okay to rest. Playing, however, is a rarity and requires the ability to flip the idea of being productive on its head. Playing is the opposite of being productive. It doesn’t mean that being productive can’t be a byproduct of play. Some of the greatest inventions and accomplishments came through an adult at play when they occurred. The end product wasn’t even the goal. So, during this time where we are all mostly isolated in our homes with our families, try finding some activities where you can purposely not be productive. You just do the thing, whatever the thing is, for the sheer enjoyment of it. A great way to start is to let your kids teach you their language. Ask if you can join them in whatever activity they are doing. Then branch out to find your own activities that you can immerse yourself into. By prioritizing play, we can detach for a while from the madness the world is experiencing. We can drop into a different experience with our children. 

Chris Davis is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over 10 years experience working with individuals, couples, and families. Chris’s passion is helping couples increase their intimacy and connection with one another to have the type of relationships they have hoped for. Chris is also passionate about helping everyone he meets to experience increased awareness and mindfulness to be more present in their lives. He utilizes a variety of techniques and approaches to meet each individual and couple where they are. 

couples playbook

The Couples Playbook

Written by Rob Giltner, MAMFT

The process of self-soothing is extremely important.

  • When an individual feels flooded (emotionally overwhelmed) she/he may begin to have over 90bpm and it makes it very difficult to listen to understand, offer empathy, and dialogue. This may then result in stonewalling, criticism, and defensiveness.
  • Antidote to flooding is self-soothing. Being aware that you are flooded and that your partner might be flooded is the first step to avoid causing damage in a relationship.
    • What triggers you and your partner to feel flooded?
    • What ways does your partner soothe?
    • What is something your partner does that soothes you?
  • Couples who soothe are extremely more likely to come back to the argument and discuss the problem in a rational and gentle way leading to a solution.
    • Steps to manage flooding:
      • Being mindful
      • Pause
      • Soothe
      • Ask for a Break (not avoidance)
      • Come back to the problem

The act of accepting bids.

  • Couples have small moments throughout the day that build up and can “make or break” a relationship.
  • Bids are bids for connection.
    • Ex. Come sit with me while I read.
    • Do you love me?
    • Is it cold in here?
    • What do you think of this outift?
    • Look at this meme.
    • That cooking class looks fun.
    • I am so tired.
    • Did you see that?
    • I am fine.
  • Couples need to accept influence to accept the bid.
    • Accepting, understanding, and allowing your partners perspective, feelings, and needs into your decision-making process as a couple.
    • Find the emotion in the bid and turn towards.
  • Managing failed bids.
  • Couples must repair after failed bids because small moments can create lasting scars. Ex. A partner might be feeling lately that her partner is annoyed or frustrated towards her. She offers a bid to connect to feel valued. If her partner is not aware of the bid it has failed and she may be left feeling rejected and not important and that feeling can grow.
    • The Script to repair after failed bids:
      • Understand your partners subject reality. (Both partners have their own subject reality)
      • Communicate your understanding, make meaning of it.
      • Admit some role.
      • Offer empathy.
    • Ask follow up questions:
      • How have I/we been expressing needs for loneliness?
      • How have I/we been expressing needs to be alone?
      • Is there a better way I/we can express needs?
      • Is there a conversation we need to have but have not?
  • Understand the triggers
    • Events related to influence.
    • Events related to acceptance.
    • Events related to affection.
  • Triggers that go unnoticed can grow into emotional wounds that can corrupt relationships.
  • Find the “seeds” (dreams within conflict) to heal wounds.
quarantine

Before We Abuse: 5 Ways To Handle The Quarantine

Written by Chris Davis, MSSW, LMFT

Stress at home is not a new thing. We all experience a regular amount of tension, conflict and stress on a daily basis. Being a loving, patient, caring partner and/or parent can feel like a full-time job. When the stress gets too high, and we find ourselves without coping skills, the slippery slope from conflict to abuse can happen all too quickly.

If this scenario is all too common during “normal” life, the “new normal” of isolation and quarantine from the coronavirus has compounded the difficulties of managing conflict in households. Combine this likelihood with the fact that abuse hotlines and state child/adult services were already overwhelmed, and the potential problems multiply exponentially. In fact, statistics from all over the world are showing a definite increase in reported abuse. It does need to be clearly stated: If abuse has happened or is presently occurring to you or someone you know, those incidents have to be reported. Anyone who suspects, or is aware of abuse, can and should report it. While services may be overwhelmed, actions can still be taken to help those in danger.

So, what can be done prior to abuse? This article is intended to provide some awareness and options to those who find themselves on the edge of committing abuse. By taking important steps before getting to the point of no return, you can choose an alternative path. While options may be limited, there are steps that can be taken to lower the risk of domestic violence and child abuse. Below are five options that can lower the risk of abuse and provide tools for those that find themselves on the brink of doing or saying that will damage those they love.

1. Get Help

While it may not be possible to see a therapist in-office right now, telehealth is a perfect solution to get the assistance you need before things spiral out of control. Telehealth has proven to be a perfect solution for the times we all find ourselves in when we need counsel. Reach out to a therapist or schedule an appointment here to get started: www.louisvillemindfulnesscenter.com

2. Stay Connected

We may not be able to have all the social interactions we’re so used to, there are alternatives to stay connected with family and friends. FaceTime, Zoom, Skype and a host of other options are available to stay connected to friends and family. Reach out and be real with the struggles you are having and the fears you have about what you may say or do if you can’t de-stress.

Click here to read the full article!

toxic positivity

When the Dust Settles: Avoiding Gaslighting, Toxic Positivity, & External Validation

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

In Julio Vincent Gambuto’s brilliant article, “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting” we see that the treadmill we’ve been on for a decade has abruptly stopped. When life returns to “normal” or some semblance of a “new normal” the economy is going to need a huge boost and we will be sold a lie that we need stuff to soothe ourselves from the trauma we’ve experienced due to COVID-19.

Gambuto’s article refers to Gaslighting as: “Manipulation into doubting your own sanity.” The example he gives is, “Carl made Mary think she was crazy, even though she clearly caught him cheating. He gaslit her.”

The last several weeks of realizing that the treadmill is broken and there’s no way we’re ever getting back on it has been a traumatic experience whether we realize it yet or not. While we’re “in” the traumatic experience we go into survival mode (fight, flight, or freeze) to get through it. It’s not until the trauma has stopped and things go ‘back to normal” that we begin to see the effects of trauma unfold.

Most of us are quite resilient and will recover from the isolation of this pandemic just fine. Some of us will be shaken up for a while and need help getting our bearings. If this is you, therapy can be extremely helpful. Look for a wonderful therapist who will validate your experience and allow you to move beyond it as you are ready. Don’t get caught up in toxic positivity which forces you to think that if you aren’t “staying positive” something’s wrong with you. That’s a load of shit. You are human and your moods are watery, shifting and changing with the tides. A good therapist helps you make friends with the ocean so you can navigate it and find the balance that is best for you in each new moment as you ride the wave of life.

Click here to read the full article! 

calm yourself during covid-19

5 Easy and Practical Ways to Calm Yourself During COVID-19

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

I think I have COVID-19! I’m having a hard time breathing, my chest feels tight, and I’m more tired than normal. Or perhaps it’s just my wonderful friend Anxiety, reminding me I’m still alive and kicking.

Here are five things you can do to welcome your friend, Calm, into your life during this time:

1. Blow out Birthday Candles!

Say what?! Yup! When you are holding your breath, you already have a breath of air in so you want to focus on your exhale. Forcefully blowing out air and squeezing every last bit of air out of your lungs invites your body to breathe a deep breath in on the inhale. Do this a few times and it feels wonderfully invigorating!

2. Get clear on what you have control over and what you don’t have control over.

The easy answer is: You don’t have any control over COVID19, you only have control over yourself. Your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Even if it sometimes feels like you don’t, you can learn how to do this. What you don’t have control over is anyone or anything else — what they do, what they say, how they think, how they feel, or how this whole pandemic plays out.

3. Focus on Your Five Senses

Take a moment, or two, wherever you are, to focus on each of your five senses — sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Encourage yourself to find descriptive words for each sense you notice. Being curious and noticing counteracts the desire to judge or evaluate things. Allow what you notice to be just as it is without it being good or bad, right or wrong, you like it or don’t like it.

Click here to read the full article!

extrovert

The Extrovert’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving COVID-19

Written by Ashley Vaden, LMFT

It’s a basic human need to feel connected to others, and more importantly, connected to ourselves. The fact is, we are all in this together, and we share much more in common than we realize. Everyone knows what it feels like to be alone, or have your mental health rocked in a time of confusion or uncertainty. Here’s how to make the most of it:

Get creative.

There are a lot of posts/messages on social media about making this a productive time; to really buckle down and tackle projects that you haven’t had time for, read that book you’ve always wanted to read, and start that hobby that has always felt like a distant dream. The truth is, it’s great to get stuff done and “be productive,” but because this is a difficult time, we might be placing a little bit too much pressure on ourselves to “be our best selves” and “live the life you’ve always imagined.” While we are not advocating that you neglect our responsibilities, shun your school work, and stay in our pjs all day (although, we’re not against it), we are saying that instead of framing your quantity of work to equal a successful day, why don’t you give yourself he chance to be creative?

Is there any creative endeavor you’ve wanted to research, learn about, or even try? This is the time to go for it. Not only will you be more present because you’re learning something new, it adds an extra built in layer of meaning to your day that doesn’t have to come from getting stuff done. You are more than a number; use your imagination. Connect with your sense of wonder, your curiosity, your passion, your interests. Ask yourself, “what inspires me?” and run with it.

We know the words “mindfulness” or “meditation” may make your eyes glaze over.

But hear us out! Just 30 minutes of self-compassion a day has shown to make a positive impact on mood and increased happiness (Desmond, 2017). Doing this practice may add some much needed structure to your day and help to cultivate joy. A lot of people think that if they just focus on the future and the fact that one day the quarantine will be over, as soon as that day comes, they will be so happy! Full of energy! Thankful, blessed! However, our happiness doesn’t always work that way.

Most of the time, our happiness is kind of programmed to stay at a certain level, and if we aren’t intentional about smelling the roses and thinking about what we’re thankful for, even just in the current moment, then our happiness levels tend to drop and may take a while to comeback up. Kind of like if you don’t go to the gym for a while you can get out of shape. If you are intentionally working toward being positive during this time, you’re much more likely to be able to bounce right back when this is but a distant nightmare.

  • Take a few minutes to focus on your breath. Try taking 5 deep breaths, slowly in and out, and notice how your breath feels in your nose, and in your throat.
  • Focus on feeling thankful for breath. Focus on breathing in positivity and joy, and breathing out anything that is negative and does not serve your body or mind.
  • Identify and locate any positive sensations, thoughts, or feelings in your body, and imagine these growing, almost like a flower blooming. Welcome them to become as big as they want or even to stay the same.
  • Take a minute to write down what you noticed in the exercise and 3 things you are thankful for that day.

Volunteer and reach out.

If you’re catching yourself complaining, know that it’s ok, and that you can offset it by reaching out to someone or helping someone. We aren’t here to compare pain, or feel sorry for ourselves and others; we’re in this together, and there is always someone out there who maybe has it a little or a lot harder.

That’s not said to bring on feelings of shame, but more to make you aware that you can help someone in this time. There is a problem out there and all it needs is someone to care enough to fix it. If you’re naturally inclined to want to be around people and connect with them, find out how you can become involved in community efforts to make an impact. Your generation has so much to contribute that you may not even be aware of! This is an opportunity for you to notice a deficit and bring light to it with your natural talents, gifts, abilities, and interests.

Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social neglect; organize a Go Fund me with your friends, or even reach out to someone that you’ve been meaning to check on. This could be a great time to build relationships. Maybe someone that you’ve always wanted to know more about is feeling lonely at this time too; wouldn’t it be a great opportunity to connect or find out more about someone that you may not have had the opportunity to in the past? What if they are wanting to talk to someone just as much as you are?

Louisville Mindfulness Center’s “A” Rating on the BBB

Exciting news! The Better Business Bureau has invited Louisville Mindfulness Center to be listed on its website! What an honor. We strive for excellence in our services and our clients agree!

Check out our “A” rated listing HERE!!

Scapegoating in Dysfunctional Families

Scapegoating in Dysfunctional FamiliesPerson in gray skirt suit stands under spotlight, head bowed, in red-toned room

If you were the scapegoat in your dysfunctional family, this article by Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC titled “The Blameless Burden: Scapegoating in Dysfunctional Families” may be an incredibly powerful read for you. Oh, and CONGRATS! It likely means you were put in that role because you are the strongest and healthiest!

Megan Returns to Fortyish Podcast to Promote New Book

Megan Returns to Fortyish Podcast for a Third Time to Promote New Book, Don’t Go To Sleep

 

I know I’m in for a good time when Stephanie White and Dan Vonderheide invite me to be a guest on their podcast, Fortyish. For Episode 93, they wanted me to come on to talk about my new book, Don’t Go To Sleep. Click HERE to listen!

Don’t Go To Sleep is a silly and fun bedtime book to help children (and their grown-ups) get relaxed and calm at bedtime. Essentially it’s a guided meditation that parents read to their kiddos that actually may be just as beneficial for the parent as it is for their kiddo. It is a method I developed and used with my own daughter when she was 4 years old. We had always struggled at bedtime to get her to relax and calm at bedtime. For years she would flip and flop for a good hour or more and want me to stay with her until she fell asleep. Not knowing exactly what was going on, I tried all kinds of ways to help her. A few things we tried with limited success: a bedtime routine, limited screen time close to bedtime, aromatherapy, homeopathic remedies, flower essence, chiropractics, and craniosacral massage.

Finally, I decided to put to use some techniques I was using with adults in my practice at Louisville Mindfulness Center. I helped her get out of her head and more into her body. I utilized her senses to get her focused and keep her mind occupied so she wasn’t preoccupied with a fear of the dark, monsters, or being left alone. What I noticed as my method developed more fully was that not only was she responding to it well, but I was much more relaxed at bedtime. In fact, I now would look forward to tucking her in since I knew she’d be asleep in five or so minutes. It was incredible!

Eventually I thought, “If this can work this well for us, I wonder if it can work for others?” So I gave it a shot. I started writing the method down how I thought it could be most helpful for others. It went through several revisions after trusted feedback. One suggestion was to make sure it had pictures. My husband and I had a good friend whose drawings I had always admired so I asked him if he’d contribute a few drawings to the book. The illustrator, Erik Schullstrom, is a former Major League Baseball pitcher and now spends his time scouting players for the Hiroshima Carp.

Overall, I’m thrilled with how the book turned out. Don’t Go To Sleep is available on Amazon! Check it out for yourself, or send it to someone who could use it!

Click HERE to listen to Megan on Episode 93 of Fortyish!

Click HERE to buy the book, Don’t Go To Sleep!

 

Welcome New Therapist Chris Davis, LMFT!

Welcome New Therapist Chris Davis, LMFT!

Like I said a few posts ago… Louisville Mindfulness Center is E X P A N D I N G!!

Chris, Megan & Margaret

Margaret and I are excited to have Chris Davis joining our team. Chris has been a therapist for several years and is super-interesting! He’s had a few careers before becoming a therapist so he has lots of life experience (which we love!!). You can read more about him HERE.

Chris and Margaret will be taking the bulk of new clients as I (Megan) focus on some new endeavors. Clients will be in excellent hands! I would not trust just anyone to work in my practice.  I hand-pick all the therapists who work in my practice because they are excellent at what they do. We are committed to providing excellent services at Louisville Mindfulness Center.