If only it were that simple. While masks and social distancing may no longer be mandated where you are, we all know the effects of this virus (and the virus itself) will linger well beyond our slow emergence back into “normalcy”. 

Wherever you side in terms of the lowering of restrictions (whether it be fear and anger, or relief), chances are you are still trying to answer the question of “what now?”

Does not wearing a mask help my teen’s pain and grief fade? Will I become less exhausted? How will the risk of a social gathering or hug impact my wellbeing? Will it quell my anxiety or spur it? Will my teen’s social needs finally be taken care of? Will their anxiety melt away? Will our family fight less, will tensions decrease?

Will we really, actually, go back to “normal”? Can we ever erase the harmful effects of this pandemic and strip ourselves of the collective trauma of it all – socially, emotionally, physically? I hear your pain and need. It has become too much and we all need relief. We all need life-saving connection. 

And yet, we’re still in tough times. Of course, I’m being careful not to impose any sense of right or wrong in terms of the current choices around restrictions. This newsletter isn’t about my feelings about the restrictions being lifted, it is about my care for your wellbeing and the needs you are still carrying with you as we collectively forge ahead. 

Are we entering a phase of social divide, prejudice, judgement and fear because now we are guided by personal choice? What choices will we make about how we react and respond to the choices of others around us and those we care about if they differ from our own? 

How do we in tough times come together despite difference? How do we lean hard into caring for each other, without forgetting to care for ourselves? And how does all this relate to parenting?

The past two years have been….indescribable. Let’s take this time to reflect. It is important before we forge ahead, full steam, that we take time to assess where we’ve been and where we are going. Where do you want to be in a year from now? Who do you want to be? What small steps do you need to take to get you there?

What have you learned and discovered about yourself, your family, your kid since the pandemic started? What tested your strength? What blessings in disguise were you able to find? What got you through? What’s going to keep you going?

It’s been rough. For many of us, family is a refuge from the storms that work, school, and the world throw at us. For others, family is the storm. So how do we take shelter? 

A popular saying goes: You cannot control the winds, but you can adjust your sails. 

In what direction do you need to adjust your sails right now?​​

If this pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that we need connection the way we need food, oxygen and water. Not all of us need the same type of connection, or the same amount of it (my pretty little introverted heart secretly loved that I had an excuse to cancel plans when this whole things started). Connection can be to others, connection can be to yourself, connection can be to your source. 

Whether your family is ​​functional or dysfunctional, biological or adopted, nuclear or a wonderful blend of a few families put together, a group of friends who rely on each other, a single or dual home…it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you feel safe and appreciated just as you are.

And this is what kids need to feel as well. And typically, the blueprint for this starts with YOU: their parent/guardian. 

The loving bond you share with your tween or teen can make or break their sense of safety and trust in themselves and in the world as they grow. 

No pressure or anything….​​

Right now as we step into the abyss, your tweens and teens are looking back at you going: Is it safe? Will we be ok? Is this the right move? What will happen to me? I’m scare…everything has been so disrupted lately I don’t know what to relay on. I’m walking on eggshells. 

And I bet you are saying the same thing: I’m ready to break down, I don’t know how to guide them forward, I don’t know how to move forward, everything seems to be explosive, I’m walking on eggshells…

We’ve done a lot of work together over the pandemic to help you improve your communication with your tween and teen. To get them to open up. To learn how to apologize without losing face. To validate them. To not make disagreements worse. 

But sometimes when times are really really tough we need to go back to absolute basics: Simply spending time together. With no expectations. No lesson to be learned or taught. Just joy. Just comfort. Just togetherness. 

This is what I call “family self-care”.  Not very creative but it gets the point across. 

we have been caring for them until we have become burnt out. 

We have been trying to introduce self-care into our day. 

Now it’s time to look at the family as a whole and say what do we all need to come back together?

We have a choice, now that restrictions are changing, to come together or drift farther apart. To focus on only other people’s needs, or only ours. As a family we simply need to do both. This pandemic has taught us that we cannot help others if we don’t tend to our own needs. AND that tending to our own needs, without thought to others, can also be exceptionally damaging. 

Let’s merge. ​​

When I see clients I often ask about their family life growing up. Most kids don’t remember half of what was ever said to them, but they remember how it felt to be around family. They recall the quality time family spent together as their favourite part of growing up.

And if that doesn’t warm your heart I don’t know what will.

That board game you played with your tween who rolled their eyes the whole time and said it was stupid? It’s the thing they tell me years later was their favourite part of growing up.

Saying the right words to your child is important when you are trying to validate their emotions or diffuse an argument, but being silent and just doing something fun with them has just as important an impact.

According to Denise Witmer (author of countless books, mother of three, and parenting teens expert): Spending time together is one of the greatest gifts families can give to one another. Not only does quality time strengthen and build family bonds, but it also provides a sense of belonging and security for everyone in the family. In fact, research has shown that when families enjoy activities together, children not only learn important social skills but also have higher self-esteem. Strong family bonds also encourage better behavior in children, improve academic performance, strengthen parent-child communication, and teach your child how to be a good friend.

(source: Verywell Family)

What we need right now, no matter where we stand on the great-divide, is a sense of belonging! Providing this safety for your kid is going to be the foundation from with they can spring ahead with resilience, and hopefully undo some of the pain and grief this pandemic has brought.