Once upon a time, I was a middle school teacher, back before God decided He had other things in store for me and I became a therapist. As I remember what it was like to teach before a pandemic, my heart hurts for teachers and parents navigating life in 2020. It hurts for all the teachers doing the best they can right now, it hurts for all the students caught in constant change, and it especially hurts for all of you parents who are navigating your own emotions and parenting at the same time.
Whether you have your children back in school full-time, hybrid, or completely at home, I want to support you during this Next Normal.
So in true teacher style, I brainstormed an acronym to help you as a person and a parent–CLASSIC.
Classic means remarkably and instructively typical. The dictionary even says, “A classic example of a thing or situation has all the features you expect such a thing or situation to have.” I found this way too comical, given that the LAST WAY that we would describe life right now is classic.
Here are seven steps you can take to bring life, joy, and sanity back into your life and parenting routine in The Next Normal that we find ourselves in.
ELEMENTS OF CLASSIC PARENTING
C: Connection is so important, especially during this time when it can feel difficult. We are social beings and we strive for connection; our bodies are designed for it. Parents have to find ways to still connect to one another, their kids, and their friends.
When I sit and talk to adolescents, they are constantly finding ways to connect through social media, hangouts with friends, or instant messaging. Far too often, when I am checking in with a parent and asking them about time with their spouse or their own friends, I will hear “I just don’t have time.” Please don’t let excuses get in the way–think like your teen! Whether through virtual games, Facetime, walks, or outdoor activities, you deserve to be in community. If YOUR connection cup is full, you will have an easier time connecting with your little ones. Cultivating connection is a CLASSIC element of healthy parenting.
L: Laughter. You have probably heard the phrase, “laughter is good medicine.” It’s a scientific fact that laughter decreases our stress hormones, relieves physical tension,, increases our immune system, strengthens connections and actually burns calories. Remembering to Laugh is a CLASSIC element of healthy parenting.
Times right now are not always light and jovial, but choosing joy is a powerful tool. Even when laughter seems elusive, I know my Joy comes from God and the promises that He has kept, not from the constant ups and downs of this world. John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
A: Awareness of emotions. Emotions are mounting right now and we feel them constantly. Our go-to reaction might be to push them away, especially as parents. We have other people to take care of! But we MUST acknowledge our own emotions and honor them for ourselves and for our children. If we don’t, we are setting ourselves up for burnout and collapse.
Being aware of what you’re feeling is one of the most important things you can do, not only for yourselves, but for your family and modeling this for your children. If you’re interested in growing in this area, check out THIS PODCAST. Brene Brown gives strong tips for paying attention to your body and emotions and allowing your emotions space to complete themselves. Being aware of our emotions is a CLASSIC element of healthy parenting.
S: Sensory grounding. This helps us actually process through all that life is throwing at us. By finding different sensory access points that we enjoy (i.e finding a scent that we love, listening to our favorite music, feeling the breeze on our face, or basking in the beauty of nature) we allow ourselves to pause and ground. Grounding trains our body, mind, and emotions to stay in the present.
When we are too focused on the future, we often struggle with anxiety, and when we are too reflective of the past we often struggle with depression. The best way to stay regulated is to stay grounded in the present. Explore which of the five senses work best for grounding yourself and the other members of your family. You might find that smell is your favorite sense, but your child prefers touch (which is often the case for children). Learn to explore with them which senses are the best suited to calm them. I love having families create a “sensory box” or “sensory drawer” in their home with several different items to use. Have fun with it! Sensory grounding is a CLASSIC element of healthy parenting.
S: Stimulate your body. Movement is vital for processing and allowing our bodies to let down from the stress of the day. Be intentional to find ways to move (cardio, dancing, sports, etc.) and allow yourself to think through the stresses and nagging thoughts from the day.
I can guarantee the movement mixed with the time and space to think through the “stuck” thoughts will help alleviate some stress and allow yourself some breathing room to be more present with your child. When you have a million thoughts rolling around, it’s hard to be present and care about small details of your child’s day. The more you organize, declutter and process your thoughts and emotions, the more you will be able to connect with your kiddos. Encourage your children to get out there and move too, in any way they can! Stimulating our bodies to move is a CLASSIC element of healthy parenting.
I: Intentionality. Whenever we discuss routines, changing behaviors, spending more time with our spouse or children, or getting into the movement that I mentioned above…it all has to be intentional (or it won’t happen).
If you’re reading this blog to get tips on how to be a better parent in this season, I have to say that intentionality is a big part of it. You just have to decide what you’re going to do, and then take steps to do it. Set reminders on your phone, bust out a white board calendar, do what you need to in order to be intentional for your kids, your family, and yourself. Intentionality is a CLASSIC element of healthy parenting.
C: Compassion for self and others. At the end of the day, we are human and we are going to mess up. We are often stressed and doing the best we can—beating ourselves up is not going to help, especially as parents. We have to find compassion for ourselves and compassion for others, especially our spouses and children. Many of us are working from home where work, children, and normal life are all colliding.
I have had several conversations with moms, teachers, and students that felt the pressure of this “all or nothing” mentality. We have to be perfect, or else we become a “failure.” This is just not the case. We are not failures for having an off day. We might fail at a task, but we are not “failures.” We have to, more than ever, lean into supporting one another and giving an abundance of grace. This is hard for everyone! Compassion is a CLASSIC element of healthy parenting (and of life!).
Take heart, parents! You ARE going to get through this season. God has been faithful before and He will continue to be faithful in the Next Normal. Do your best. Give yourself grace. And when in doubt, remember to be CLASSIC in your parenting.