Supporting our Children While Caring for Ourselves

Written by: Roni Horak, RSI Clinical Director for Behavioral Health and Counseling Services

 

Everyone struggles in their own way, and we always view the world from our own lens. When we experience challenging moments and traumatic events, we naturally react and respond in different ways as well. Through the aging process, we also develop tools and coping mechanisms based on our past traumas, triumphs, and life experiences. 

Have you ever noticed that when you are around calm people you feel calm? Similar emotional exchanges can occur with stress, anxiety, and frustration coming from others, and we may respond in the same way. Young people are no different in this. While children have the ability to experience a range of emotions and challenges just like adults, they may rely more on changes in behavior and emotional dysregulation to express their feelings.

Helping children during this time can be challenging, as we are also attempting to understand what’s going on around us and trying to maintain balance. Parents will make more progress by taking care of themselves and by “putting their oxygen mask on first” so that they can take care of others. In my practice, I often use metaphors to help us understand concepts, and this is one I find particularly helpful. I know there are parents out there trying to manage these sudden and drastic changes to our everyday life, so there is no better time to make sure you put your “oxygen mask” on first right now. Allow yourself some grace during this time. I know that things have changed in so many ways and you’re suddenly cooking more meals, doing more cleaning, helping your children with eLearning, and spending long hours at home. So, to all the parents out there: you are amazing and you are doing the best you can, so remember to be patient with yourself. It’s also important to extend that patience to the children in your life who may be struggling to understand everything that is going on in the world right now.

A round of applause for all of the young people who have been through so much this year and continue to push through. They are staying in more, they are away from friends and loved ones, they have new routines and rules, and so many other changes that they may not understand fully. Children can be extremely resilient but every day our little humans are experiencing this right along with us.  

 

Things to watch for during this time:

Here are some things that can indicate anxiety, fear, stress, and confusion in children: 

  • Excessive crying or irritation
  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown
  • Excessive worry or sadness
  • Unhealthy eating (undereating or binge eating)
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Irritability and “acting out” 
  • Difficulty with attention
  • Decreased concentration
  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain
  • Small tasks appear to be overwhelming

Ways to support children:

  • Reassure safety by going over everything that your household is doing to prevent illness such as good exercise, cleanliness, and social distancing.
  • Offer to help them look at what they CAN control and let the rest go. Offer to help them look at what they CAN do versus what they aren’t able to do at this time.
  • Honor and validate their feelings. Facilitate a conversation about what each family member is feeling during dinner time and share how your family unit will overcome.
  • Encourage and model a hopeful attitude. This will pass in time, and our lives are forever changed, so look at the positive aspects this time has provided and will continue to provide for our new future.
  • Share tools and coping options such as stretching, tag in the yard, yoga, or writing a letter to a friend or loved one.
  • Limit news coverage. We want to stay informed, but excessive coverage may have a negative impact on emotions and increase fear.
  • Monitor misinterpretation of news and correct it. Pay attention that comes from organizations like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other credible sources.
  • Keep a routine (structure your day, take breaks, and maintain a high-quality evening routine that promotes good sleep)
  • Find connections in new forms (phone calls, handwritten letters, and video meetings)
  • Last but not least for the parents and caregivers, “put your own oxygen mask on first.”

 

 

Learn more about Roni’s work at RSI on our Outpatient Counseling page.

Resilience in Life’s Challenges

By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector

 

“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
― Nelson Mandela

I love the word resilience and have always been drawn to stories of survival and overcoming the odds. Adversity is sure to come to each of us in life. Will we be crippled by it or see an opportunity for growth? The answer lies in our ability to be resilient.  

Perhaps the best definition of resilience is: “the power or ability to return to original form or position after being bent, stretched, compressed; elasticity. The ability to recover from illness, depression, setback, or the like: buoyancy.” 

This pandemic has challenged us in many ways. Many of the stories I hear these days are framed as stories of loss. Whether it’s losing a loved one, employment, or just everyday routine. We have all experienced loss in some way. But, for many of us, this loss has led to opportunity. 

First, resilience takes a lot of self-discipline. It takes a lot of concentration to block out the noise and the clutter of all the negative voices trying to get through. It would take a lot of self-reliance to avoid blame and contempt. That self-reliance to know that in your heart and mind you have the skills, the talent, and the strength to overcome adversity. Cultivating a resilient character turns failure into success. Our history is riddled with these stories, from celebrities to everyday heroes. A resilient person doesn’t give up. A resilient person will, in spite of obstacles and setbacks, transform failure into success. Resilience is not always an easy practice. Unfortunately, it is built through challenging experiences. However, after some personal experience and research, I‘ve been able to see some common threads.

Resilience comes from within: Resilience requires personal initiative. As a resilient person, you have to count on yourself to bounce back. Although resilience is an independent practice, it’s also tied to others. The more people you are responsible for, the greater your motivation to begin again- the stronger the reason, the stronger the motivation!

Resilience has an element of creativity: Resilience is rarely scripted. With resilience, you are able to look at a situation, assess the landscape, and creatively take the best way out. You need to develop the ability to ask yourself tough questions and answer honestly. If you had something to do with your outcome, be honest and take responsibility for it.

Resilience requires an element of humor: It’s hard to see the humor in loss, and you may cry until you start laughing, but a sense of humor is so important when turning your life around. You’ve got to take your goals and strategy seriously, and you have to take yourself seriously. But when the time is right, it’s also important to be able to laugh at yourself and your situation.  

The funny thing about resilience is that it has a compound effect on our sense of self-awareness.  Survival can lead to confidence and an ability to see yourself differently. This pandemic is challenging us all in different ways, some more than others. But in the end, it will be those that have developed resilience who will bounce back with more insight and confidence. It starts with clarity, and you don’t get it through the news. I urge you to take the time to look deeply into yourself and the lessons learned daily. What can I do better? Who can I treat better? What do I need to add or subtract in my life to lighten the load and heaviness of this situation? Resilience requires initiative, and today is a great day to start!

Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.

The Power of Words and Positivity

Written by: Roni Horak, RSI Clinical Director for Behavioral Health and Counseling Services

 

The language and the negative lens we sometimes use to view things have become increasingly bothersome to me. The words we use impact how we interpret the information that is coming to us. I worry that some of the terms I have been hearing more of recently could lead to increased anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation. 

 

Social Distancing: In the context of health and safety, “social distancing” means to physically stay six feet or more from others to limit the spread of infection. Here, “distancing” is used to describe physical space. However, we know now more than ever that we can remain social without sharing a physical space. We could think of “social distancing”  as physical safety or our safety bubble.

Social Isolation: This is another term that is often used when talking about safety measures. However, we know that people are actually using social media like Facebook, video conferencing like Zoom and Skype, TikTok, YouTube and a variety of social tools to stay connected. There is no need to isolate completely. We do, however, have to find a way to connect differently. I’ve heard some people say that they actually feel closer to others now. People have reconnected, mended fences. I prefer to use the term “social reconnection.”

 

 

There are a variety of new words being used during this time. We may not always choose the best way to describe or influence during a crisis, but we can reframe our understanding of these words without losing their meaning and importance. At times of crisis, it is natural to experience a variety of emotions from one moment to the next. It is my hope that after the dust settles we see this experience for what it is and then put things into a healthy perspective. 

 

Remember that these words are used out of necessity, to be sure we share a common understanding of the world around us at this moment in time.  However, there are ways we can take these ideas and look at them more positively without losing the importance of their meaning and our shared mission for safety.

Learn more about Roni’s work at RSI on our Outpatient Counseling page.