Dear parents helping children cope during a pandemic,
Dear Dr. Dara,
Since the pandemic my child’s attitude has changed. She is upset and angry. She is not excited to start school next week or do much of anything. She missed out on end of the school activities in the spring, her summer plans were cancelled, and now she is disappointed for the upcoming school year. It does not seem like anything I say or do makes her feel better and her attitude STINKS!
Dear Sad Mom,
First and foremost let’s start out by saying what you and your daughter are experiencing is natural and this cycle can be adjusted. I consider it more weird when families are not navigating through any challenges. It would not be realistic and it would be more unhealthy to pretend like everything is F.I.N.E. (F.I.N.E.= F*ed up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional!!). Although, while we are in this pandemic that feels like forever, this too shall pass. Every parent out there can relate to what you are experiencing. Anyone that is not a parent can also relate to being upset, bitter, or even angry about the effects of the pandemic and societal havoc we are living in. Yup, the current state of affairs and events is making us all a bit batty and for some, bat sh*t crazy!! But, pandemic or no pandemic there is always something causing anguish and distress in our lives. It is inevitable to not experience anxiety, disappointment, or any batch of mixed emotions. Let me strongly say, the pandemic is not the cause of everything that has gone bad in our lives! The pandemic is the straw that has broken the camel's back. The last nail in the coffin. The drop that spilled the drink. Made you reach your tipping point. The icing on the cake. The thing that p.u.t y.o.u o.v.e.r t.h.e e.d.g.e…
Stay with me a minute and read along. If I could pick an emoji to represent the pandemic, it would be a magnifying glass 🔍! I know, I know, most would pick fire 🔥 or a bomb 💣 or a storm ⛈, something really intense, disastrous, or sick 😷, or for sure give it a thumbs down 👎. Well, I pick 🔍! Listen, don’t think I am minimizing the awfulness of the pandemic or the difficulties to have challenging, heart wrenching times with kids. Remember, I experienced COVID-19 first hand and I am still experiencing its aftermath (My taste, smell, hearing, and vision are still compromised, in fact, getting worse. Randy, my husband is slowly regaining his strength and dealing with a whole slew of left over chaos and debris). AND, I have 2 kids, 3 dogs and a partridge in a pear tree with me through it all!
Let me share my theory, let’s call it a Dr. Daraism…. Yes, the pandemic has caused physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual trauma. You read it right, I wrote TRAUMA (remember trauma is a physical or emotional response to a perceived threat (thank you for that golden nugget of knowledge Dr. Jon Connelly, founder of Rapid Resolution Therapy). AND it has created all kinds of variations and heaps of messes of accompanying symptoms- anxiety, stress, illness, anger, isolation, sleep problems, financial hardship and stress, relationship problems, Panic attacks, increases in alcohol and drug use, disordered eating and/or eating disorders, obsessive- compulsive behaviors, depression, anxiety, and for some suicidality. The list keeps going people, these effects are the tip of the iceberg.
But, before the pandemic you had stuff going on and it left an imprint. And before that stuff you had other stuff leaving a deeper imprint (let’s call them memories). You had a history. Your mind read old information as being current. Like groundhogs day happening over and over again (sort of like insanity-doing the same thing and expecting different results, just saying!!) So, you may have had one or some, or other symptoms not listed above going on before the pandemic even started. Then, March 2020 came along and the pandemic made any past anxiety, stress, or problem bigger, it MAGNIFIED 🔍 it!!
Whatever was going on before, BLEW UP, lit up like wildfire 🔥! Maybe it was unrelated stuff. Maybe you did not even realize, but there was poop and then there was more poop. What do you get if you have a pile of poop with more poop on it? 💩 An enormous pile of poop. Everything becomes bigger, more vivid, brighter, intense, MAGNIFIED. The break-up you had a couple months ago becomes unbearable, financial worry becomes financial suffocation, dissatisfaction with work becomes hate, lonely weekends become isolation, marital disputes become no intimacy and talk of divorce. You get my point? This all does not have to be bleak. I recognize for some and hopefully more than some, out of all this Pamdamnedic (Dr. Daraism) there are blessings (I can say that, because after all I went through, my gratitude outweighs the ick hands down).
Let me get back to the mom worried about her daughter’s poor attitude. What I am really asking is, did this change in the daughter’s attitude really only happen because of the pandemic? Was the writing on the wall? Were there signs? Or were concerns already happening that got swept under the rug and when the pandemic started it became bigger and then it was like watching a pot of water boiling, staring, waiting for it to happen. Unable to take your eyes off it like driving past an accident! Only all the energy (focus on her daughter's attitude) going to what you don’t want to happen becomes a thing, a problem. And now it is labeled an attitude problem!
So, things magnify during a pandemic. Little deals get big, and big deals get huge! Somewhere in the middle of this magnification,🔍 A.K.A. pandemic, I am learning about being a mom x 1000 💁🏼♀️ 🔍. I constantly notice changes in my kids. Like how did they learn to say no, answer back, talk mean to each other, convince me to stay up later, watch more tv, or have more cupcakes?!? It is impossible to not notice things because I have been with my kids non- stop, everyday, every minute (please notice my ATTITUDE and exhaustion!) since MARCH 13TH (yes, I yelled that)!! During this time, you know watching water boil, I have noticed that Elyah, my daughter, who just turned 7, has sass! She has spunk, Chutzpah, a mind of her own, expression, she is creative, or she has AN ATTITUDE! Then I realized two things, 1) clearly she had it before and 2) she sounds like me!
So, here we go. What do we do?
First, parents (or anyone experiencing anyone else as being challenging) have to change their attitude about the "bad attitude"!! Look hard in the mirror and ask yourself what example you are setting since children and people are a product of their environment (remember I talked about this in length last week). Second, as a parent it is essential to make sure your own love cup is full. A full love cup ❤️ ☕️ is when you are physically, emotionally, and spiritually satiated and putting out good vibes and energy to your family. You know, unlike Jerry McGuire, you don't need anyone to complete you (watch the movie if you have no clue what I am talking about and take a break from panicking about your child!) or putting everyone else’s needs in front of your own (putting your oxygen mask on first- that is a whole big other heap of a post!)
When your love cup is full then you can implement The 3 C’s to Parenting a child, a tween, or a teen that is expressing themselves.
The 3 C’s
Communication, Compromise, and Collaboration!
Communicate your truth and concerns with authenticity and sincerity. Talk to them as you want to be talked to. Don’t be an A**hole! Communicating with your child is like an ‘as is’ sale. Meet them where they are at. Do not plan or expect to change them! Buying a shirt “as is” is buying it in the condition as it is! Expectations are constricting, confining and limiting. Expectations will leave you disappointed. Expectations are limiting, because when it does go well you create a limit and keep it from expanding further. You don’t want to stop the stuff you want!
LISTEN to your child. Yes, LISTEN and LISTEN. Make them feel you understand and have connection. Then, compromise on what is important to each person. Not just you! You catch more bees with honey and when you give an inch!
Focus on solutions. If you sit around mulling and shoulding all over each other, energy stays in the negative. Focus on what you have to be grateful for NOW. Have appreciation and gratitude for what you want more of. Notice strengths and what you would like to increase more of while ignoring what you do not want more of. When a young child has a temper tantrum or calls your name a million times when you are on the phone, if you yell louder at them it only makes them get LOUDER!! Go back to basics with your child, tween, or teen! Ignore what you don’t like!!
Newsflash… wait for it... Their attitude is not about you as a person or a reflection on your character. You could not have done anything different. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY! It is not always about you. And you didn’t cause them to be this way (if you did, then stop reading this now and go back five paragraphs ago about filling up your own love cup)! Step outside yourself for two seconds and consider what your child may be experiencing and their perspective.
Remember there was no parent handbook when our kids were born. There sure as hell is not a Handbook for Parenting During a Pandemic! Not yet anyway (hurry up and write that Dr. Dara!!). Attitudes shift in their own time and there is no specific formula. The more your energy focuses on stopping to think about the poor attitude, the more energy continues to focus on thinking about the poor attitude!! Our minds do not understand the word “no'' or negation. Telling your child to stop having a bad attitude only increases the stinkin' attitude since it is translates in your child’s mind and yours, as “have more of an attitude”.
Don’t just tell your kids what to do, how to do it and make it boring and demanding. Work together, Collaborate. Have FUN and keep it simple. KISS= Keep It Super Simple! Set dates together- set aside time to spend one on one! Ask them what they like to do. Yes, I get how hard it is to find time. You have a million things going on. Where are you going to go? Excuses, excuses! Figure it out! Have dinner together, make a picnic, go for a walk, do a movie night, or do mani/pedis. Time together puts you on the same wavelength. And remember, no serious talk or chats about attitude on dates. Hang out with your buddy!
Your no bull-shiFt, COVID SURVIVOR, advice giving, Covid-19 Chronicle/ RANTING, Mom, Psychologist and wife, Dr. Dara
P.S. But wait, there is more, for today only, for just $1.99 (kidding about the money) in the next 3 seconds you get (like on an infomercial voice) the valuable information of also knowing the above date idea and the 3 C’s also work great with your partner or any relationship!