By Kimberly Jeffs
Kimberly Jeffs founded the NC Center for Resiliency with her husband, Patrick, almost five years ago to fill a niche in somatic psychotherapy. The couple has been working to educate others in body-centered therapy, which focuses on the mind-body connection in response to trauma and stress. They currently have streamlined their efforts with their newest venture, The Resiliency Solution. Individual or group coaching and consultation is available on their website. They currently live in Chapel Hill with their two daughters: Pascale Margaret, 3, and Poppy, 8.
As I sit down to write this, I hear my puppy barking, children fighting over the yoga class I scheduled for them online, my husband trying to figure out how to Skype a teacher for a lesson, and my company sending emails quicker than I can respond. I am a trained parent. I’ve been practicing as a family therapist who specializes in trauma and self regulation for nearly 20 years, but I. Can’t. Do. It. I have skills, and yet, it’s still so hard. I say this to make you feel better not worse, by the way. We’re in this together.
Here are some tips to help you during this time at home with the kids. It might – I hope – help you find a little sanity amidst this COVID-19 pandemic.
Now is not the time for perfectionism
There’s no time to judge how much you’re doing or not doing – throw that judgement out the window. It will not serve you.
Cut down on your expectations of yourself and others
Take an inventory of your list of goals for the day and cut it in half and then cut it in half again, and you might be closer to what an achievable goal could look like for the day. (Remember those days when your child was a newborn and all you could do is shower for the day? Yes, go back to that level of expectation!)
Your relationship to your child is more important than anything else
That relationship will prevent them from life’s unexpected twists and turns (call it trauma proof, if you will). It’s a scary time, and kids need our presence and relationship more than another organized craft project. Kids need to feel the comfort of safety.
Physical distancing, not social distancing
Feeling connected and social is so important for our family’s mental health. We need to create as many situations for our kids to be social. I’ve seen everything from teddy bear hunts around town, birthday parades, lunchtime dance parties, cocktail parties with friends via Zoom – keep it up!
Remember to move!
Fear is paralyzing, and we can get frozen in body and mind. Dance as much as you can. Dance in rhythm with your family. Our daughter makes up dance moves, and we follow the routine. Move as much as you can, and if it’s with your family and quarantined loved ones, even better!
It’s hard to be in fear when we are creative. Let yourself and kids be bored and unscheduled, see what happens, follow their lead. The more creative we are with our time, the better our brains and bodies will feel. Put instruments on the floor and let the kids play. Give them tape and four boxes and see what they come up with. Play. Be a part of the creation! Zoom in some friends doing the same thing.
We are what we think. I oversee international retreats, and when I realized I couldn’t travel or leave my home, I was scared. When I reframed it to – this is a new retreat, it’s a pilgrimage inward – it changed my fearfulness into curiosity and self exploration. So reframe whatever you can. This can be a chance to spend extra time with our kids, connect with loved ones, learn new skills at work, pick up a new hobby and finish up old projects.
Help others whenever you can
Helping others makes us feel connected, like we can be a part of the solution. Spend money if you have it but you can also do things that cost pennies, draw pics with sidewalk chalk, write letters to the elderly, pick up a phone and connect with an old friend, donate to local nonprofits. Helping other people is so important to psychological health.
Community, I am with you in all of this, and I wish everyone the absolute best in dealing with this continuously changing, challenging situation. What I do know for sure is that, if you are reading this article, you have a 100% success rate in getting through the hard things in life. That means, you will get through this. Eventually, this will be over, and there will be other mountains to move.
I am pulling for us. Even when our sanity seems out of reach, we will get through this together.