Practicing Self-Compassion During Social Distancing

These are scary, uncertain and uncharted times. Whether you are new to motherhood and caring for a newborn baby without contact from friends and extended family, or you have a house full of school aged children and have unexpectedly found yourself acting as substitute teacher, playground monitor, coach and conflict mediator, all rolled into one, while at the same time juggling a full-time job and being a mother, this is incredibly hard.

Few of us could predict the speed with which our lives have been turned upside down. We are unprepared under resourced and in a collective state of shock.

Many of us have become accustomed to managing our anxiety through control and order. We make lists, make plans and place Amazon orders to quiet our nervous minds and reassure ourselves that we’ve “got this.” However, our favorite coping strategies has been unceremoniously ripped from our clenched fists and we now find ourselves free falling.

In our confusion and disorientation, it is easy to get bogged down and lost in the detail. Our “inner-critic” can come out in full-force and berate us for not having seen this coming and ordered that extra math exercise book for our fourth grader. We wonder why it had never occurred to us to fill the space under our bed with toilet rolls and disinfectant wipes and the cries of our newborn baby seem to say. “why didn’t you order that extra box of diapers?”

In our isolation it is easy to forget that we are all in this together. We are not struggling to deal with COVID-19 because we failed to prepare, we are struggling because we had no way to prepare.

As we navigate these unknown waters over the next few weeks and months, the most important thing we can teach our children is self-compassion in times of emotional distress. Our children are not looking to us to grade their math pages, they are looking to us to see how we self-regulate. They are looking to us to see if it is safe to be flexible and adaptable.

While it is undoubtedly important to continue to provide our children with support, structure and learning, realistically there will also be days where in order to maintain the sanity of all concerned, the best we can do is put a movie on and FaceTime with a friend. When these days happen, our children are also learning; they are learning that it is okay to be flexible to take care of their needs, they are learning that it is safe to turn to others as sources of support and they are learning the power of distraction in getting through emotionally distressing times.

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