Welcome to your letter of encouragement. We are your Non Violent Resistance (NVR) coaches and mentors. You may be facing the next few weeks with trepidation, horror or enthusiasm, or a range of other emotions. Having your children home full time, and becoming teacher and guide as well as parent may feel a daunting task, especially with so little preparation time and the need to balance the stresses that we are all facing – work challenges, financial challenges, relational and health challenges.
You are not alone – we are all in this together. We have put together some ideas that we hope might be useful – each paragraph is written by a different person, and we are sure you will have some ideas of your own which will be sparked, so we hope this letter will be a kind of conversation.
Julie Oates: To begin at the beginning – look for ways to look after yourself. I like to think about it in terms of the instructions you get on airlines for in the event of an emergency –putting on your own oxygen mask before you put one on your child. What gives you life-saving oxygen? A phone chat with a friend? A bubble bath? Some yoga? Drinking a mug of tea on your own? How might you work that into your daily routine?
Peter Jakob: I am thinking of ‘The Baskets’. In NVR, we ask parents to prioritize. Which problematic behaviours will you deal with? There should only be a few, no more than two or three of the most serious challenges. The others you can ‘let go’ for now. When you focus on what matters the most, you can also give yourself – or if there are two parents, give each other – permission to let go. A child who e.g. does not show good table manners may not have to be reprimanded, whilst as this child’s parent, you will need to focus on cruelty towards a pet, aggression towards yourself or abuse of a sibling. Letting go of what matters less can be very liberating: I don’t have to deal with everything s/he does that isn’t alright. You need this right now, as you are in the same house with your child 24/7, more than ever. It also creates emotional space in the relationship – your child may feel that you see more in them than just the person who causes trouble.
Jackie Lindeck: I’m thinking about how important it is to build in reconciliation gestures at this time, those unconditional acts that tell your child or your partner ‘You matter to me’ ‘I’m thinking about you’ ‘I care about you’. I also think it’s really important to extend those acts of kindness to yourself… Notice the things that have gone well, however small they might seem, forgive yourself for the things that didn’t go as planned or didn’t get done, and hold on to the hope that today can be different because it is a new day.
Jo Buchmuller: I have been working with a parent who is seeing this virus as an opportunity to rebuild a different relationship with his daughter. He is resisting seeing the enforced ‘staying at home’as a negative and is embracing the idea that this is a gift to him as a parent which he would not receive in his normal everyday life. It is early days, but so far he feels he is raising his presence in his daughter’s life and making the most of this time.
Jill Lubienski: I have been reflecting on how our lives are completely changed in a matter of days. I think it is hard to grasp just how much is required of us in order to adapt. Alongside this are the fear of the virus, fear for our own health and fear for those we love. Given all this, I would like to broaden the concept of ‘home schooling’ – in the situation we find ourselves, I would now give more priority to reducing the pressures on parents and children. We have to take account of the stress we are all under, and for many children with developmental trauma or additional needs, this may be greater than most. I think being flexible and as relaxed as you can be is going to be so important, as will be prioritizing self-care: focussing on what you need for your own health and wellbeing, not only your children’s needs. This may be different from hour to hour as well as from day to day. Don’t worry about consistency, that’s for different times! Education can be seen in a wider sense. We are all using the internet and social media more at the moment. It’s a great way to keep in touch and to access any number of resources. Monitoring use of the internet without escalating with your child is key – perhaps you can re-evaluate its place at the moment as something crucial in the current climate. Also, consider maybe just hunkering down and reading, playing games, baking, looking at photos; creative activities can all be valuable ways of spending this time.
These are such unprecedented times. I am just thinking that we should treat ourselves and each other with compassion and kindness, and not place undue stress on ourselves. My mantra for the moment is ‘Connection and Compassion’.
Rachael Aylmer: I am supporting a parent who is isolated with her child and experiencing some very challenging behaviours. I sense how stretched she is right now, trying to keep herself and her youngest child safe without the presence of her support network who would normally offer some much needed respite. The support network is most crucial at this time, and it is helpful if the supporters can find themselves being creative in the ways they deliver messages to the child. Consider popping a note in the post, recording a voice message, recording a video message, use WhatsApp and text to write something positive for parent, child and sibling. These small messages, no matter how trivial they may seem, will make a huge difference to families managing day to day.
So we send good wishes from us all at PartnershipProjects, and we look forward to meeting again face to face on the other side!