It didn’t take long for the start of 2021 to feel like a rinse and repeat of 2020, between surging Covid numbers and the insurrection at the Capitol — and that was just the first 10 days. Unfortunately, turning the page on a calendar did not make all of our problems go away. We are still dealing with the pandemic, political divisiveness in our country, racial injustice, inequity in education and off-the-charts crime in our city. However, with promising news of a vaccine distribution plan, I am determined to stick to my new year’s resolution of keeping my kids and myself hopeful. Here are a few ways we can do that:
COMMIT TO SELF-CARE
Taking care of our bodies and our minds is something we teach our children from a young age, but when life all around feels heavy and daunting it becomes all the more important. It is all about the basics such as brushing your hair and teeth every day, getting dressed, and as I remind my sons, this includes changing your underwear and socks every day. When you are working or learning remotely, these basics can easily slip by the wayside.
It is also important to keep up with the care that makes us feel good. For me that is my morning Zoom workout or a walk with a friend. For our kids, self-care may look different, but the goal is the same — to integrate positive habits into their daily routine. This could be keeping a journal, mindful coloring, or meditation. Before the pandemic I could probably count on one hand how many times I had meditated, but this has become a nightly ritual with my 8-year-old. We listen to a 10-minute relaxation and sleep meditation, and it has really improved our sleep and our ability to calm our minds and slow down the anxious thoughts that can race in our heads.
GET INVOLVED AND GIVE BACK
Another way we can find hope is by getting involved and giving back in our community. This helps us keep perspective and allows us to focus on something bigger than ourselves. During the pandemic this could be diving into an issue we care about, which for me was reopening playgrounds. As a family we have also done a lot of volunteer work. Without the busy sports schedules and social calendars, we have more time to give back. We have done things remotely like writing letters to troops overseas or thank-you notes to first responders. We have also had some wonderful experiences together packing food at a pantry and pop-up food bank.
Over the summer, I was feeling especially helpless and hopeless about what was happening in our city in regard to crime. I have witnessed numerous instances of blatant stealing at Walgreens. Then fall came and we found our kids would be able to return to school, which has been a blessing, but I am constantly aware of the thousands of children who need to be in school for food security, safety, and resources, and who are not. So I am working with an organization, TogetherSF, on webinars with speakers on these topics to better understand them and what we can do to make effective change.
This one may be the hardest and the one that is easier said than done. However, optimism is a learned behavior and is a teachable skill that we can model for our children. Part of this is how we are able to reframe our thoughts or find a different outlook. When my teenagers tell me how mean I am that they can’t go to their friend’s house and how they are stuck at home with nothing to do, I try to help them reframe how they are feeling by reminding them to think of it more as being safe at home with an opportunity to connect with their family. After a few major eye rolls they usually get the point even if they will never admit it. At family dinners we usually take time to say what we are grateful for that day. Gratitude is a great way to train our brains to see the positive.
These past 11 months have challenged us and our children, and it looks like it might continue this way for a bit longer. As parents when we start to feel overwhelmed and discouraged, try this: turn it off and tune it out. Model for your kids when those feelings start to arise to turn off the television, stay off social media, and do something good for yourself or your community. There are known physical and mental benefits to staying hopeful and optimistic, and as hard as it may seem at times, it is like I always tell my kids: “nothing is impossible.”
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