Everything was thrown into question at the onset of the pandemic. Responding to such a grave issue seemed bold and potentially unwise as the ground we were standing on was constantly shifting.
But, COVID is here with us, and instead of debating the exhausting topics of whether our rights are being infringed by having to wear masks, whether we should gather, whether the virus is a real threat or any other divisive issue, I’m talking about a topic a little more weighted on our children and how to pull ourselves together as their parents.
Our children have been thrust in a world of change. And while the world is constantly changing, it’s important to note that we are parenting in a world with simultaneous pandemics: the medical one, COVID; the isolation one, fear and depression; the drug one, where folks are using more drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain; and the divisive one, where people aren’t quite sure how to relate to one another.
Experts are constantly shaping and shifting their stance and while “how to approach parenting in a pandemic” is a topic that literally has no right answer, there’s value in discussing how we can make the best of this situation for both our kids and ourselves.
One fundamental element of life that doesn’t have to be called off — it won’t change at the whim of someone else, it isn’t unsafe and won’t put your life in danger, it’s non-partisan and unrelated to the bloodsport of politics — is choosing joy.
You might scoff at first as I tell you this, you might tell me that your situation is worse than others, you might tell me that choosing joy isn’t something you can do and I’m going to tell you that choosing joy is quite literally the only thing we most definitely, positively have control of. We can control ourselves and our actions but we can’t control the actions of others. Don’t expect joy to pass over you like a plague. It is hard work, rewiring your brain to think joyful thoughts instead of pessimistic ones. But I can tell you, making the choice to have joy in your heart will be the lifesaver for you and your family as we weather the pandemics.
If you’re not ready yet. That’s fine. But when you are ready, please humour me, give these little tips a try and see how you fair. And, if you are in agreement with this, then also SPREAD joy to others. It’s tremendous what impact it can have.
1. You have more than you know, don’t take it for granted. Counting your blessings always gives you something to feel grateful for. Is it a hug? Is it a sip of your morning coffee? Is it the peace and quiet that accompanies your kids’ bedtime? Putting warm socks on cold feet? Cherish it and let it warm you. Feel the joy and appreciate the moment.
2. Be grounded in joy. It’s easy to be swayed into the vortex of hype and drama each day. It flashes at us constantly like a slow drip from a leaking pipe, constantly penetrating and creating slow damage to that which it touches. It calls us and demands our attention. Don’t succumb to the vortex and instead remain grounded in joy. Choose to let those around you spiral into self-doubt, pity and fear and resolve to remain grounded in joy and hope instead of joining them in their misery.
3. Be in the moment with your kids. One of the things I’ve noticed with the the onset of lockdowns and thereafter is focusing on what’s going on around us at the expense of experiencing what’s going on within us or within our kids. Tuning out our realities to stream movies or shows on TV or mindlessly gazing at our phones. We’re missing out on on opportunity to be present with our children. Joy is when we tune in to them and play with them and we seek their spirit. Instead, ask them to help you with your basic activities. Say yes when they ask you to play. There’s nothing greater than the love and joy shared between a parent and their kids. Your kids will miss out on nothing if they feel fulfilled and satisfied with the joy you’re creating with them and among them.
4. Create a peace zone. There are a lot of names used to describe an environment where you can rest, relax and retreat. Basically, finding a spot in your home or outside where you feel free from distractions and where you can have time to reflect is imperative to your ability to feel and spread joy. Here, you might want to clear your head. Whether it’s writing, reading or a mixture of both, a peace zone enables us to feel like we have a place where we can deliberately recharge ourselves. Try finding joy in this space and letting it transform you throughout your day.
5. Choose what you consume. Any time I’m reminded about “you are what you eat” I think about the old Kraft Dinner commercial where the actor turns orange from eating so much KD. If we put in garbage, we put out garbage. If we put in good stuff, we put out good stuff. Our minds are very sensitive and given the fact that we are exposed to 1000s of ads and news articles each day, it’s no wonder some of us are struggling to find a balance. Picking an appropriate time to catch up with what’s going on in the world might help us sleep better and it also might help us feel more in control of our day. Choose consuming things that are healthful and filling and joy will flow.
It’s my hope that amidst so much going on in the world that we can turn inwards and experience the best versions of ourselves and our children. There’s too much to lose. Too much is on the table. I’m hypothetically shaking you to remind you of how much you have at stake to not choose joy. Life is a gift, even when pandemics are running rampant through our homes, cities, states and globally. It’s our children’s right to feel joy and to feel free from fear. Stop worrying about the things they don’t have and start focusing on what no one can take away: joy.