By Joanne Wilson
We’re hurtling toward the end of this challenging year that I’m optimistically looking forward to farewelling. I’m taking a moment to evaluate post-pandemic parenting.
In a world that has previously lauded a hectic, action-packed lifestyle, I’m proposing busyness should not be a badge of honour. For those who have had the pause, I’m wondering if you’re like me and keen to make lasting changes to continue parenting in the slow lane instead? Not only does too much, too often too soon have a detrimental impact on our well-being, but that of any children in the house.
It is well documented that overloading and pushing ourselves and our children is harmful. Did you know there’s a noticeable shift in our generation of children that are gradually moving away from an internal toward external locus of control? That is, they’re focussing more on external methods to find happiness instead of within. They’re so overstimulated, entertained and surrounded by screens and toys, they’re losing the ability to self-regulate, self-soothe and find contentment for themselves. No wonder the rise in anxiousness, depression and narcissism.
2020 sure has given us all a shaken-not-stirred approach to what is important such as health, certainty for the future and the safety of close relationships. Many of my counselling clients report it has forced decisions for positive changes previously contemplated for “one day”.
Here’s our chance to intentionally step back, evaluate and choose a cruiser, joyful path moving forward that features emotional attentiveness and a firm foundation of love that launches children to success . Ask yourself these questions about life before the pandemic:
How was your pre-pandemic schedule? Could you spontaneously fit in a drink and a play with the neighbours or did they need to wait three weeks? Did you allow time in your weekday either with children after school with nil commitments? I mean, nothing.
Did you worry your children won’t be the best versions of themselves if they’re not involved in all the wonderful activities on offer? What if they miss out on finding their true gift? What if their friends learn new skills that yours don’t? What if…?
Did you approach tasks one at a time? I know us females pride ourselves on this one but to make it all happen, parents are “Milkshake Multitasking” as neuroscientist, Dr Caroline Leaf calls it. She says we can shift between different tasks in rapid succession but it’s impossible to multitask. This results in neurochemical chaos and brain damage. As we’re frantically switching between that email to pay the footy and dance fees, checking Instagram and listening to our child read; there’s nothing of quality occurring and we’re easily confused and exhausted.
Did you allow “margin”? It’s my favourite word that signifies the parking rest stops alongside your driving lane. It’s regularly pausing alongside your highway of life for attentive conversations, playing on the floor, drawing with chalk on the driveway, following a butterfly and running bare feet outside. Margin can be the intentional one-on-one time with a child without guilt and time pressure. It’s the allocated distance between you and your to-do list on the other jam-packed lane that’s lined with endless tasks.
Here’s how we create the self-discipline for lasting change:
Self-compassionately find hobbies that feature a slow-paced meditative element: Do you recall those activities you would lose yourself in as a child? Reading, painting, lying in the grass studying clouds or ants? Try a slow-paced exercise that doesn’t focus on achievement but purely enjoyment such as gardening, hiking, cycling.
Check your surround sound: Are your peers frantic-paced workaholics that boast work-hard/play-hard lifestyles where their children are lost along the way? Technology obsessed strung-out friends are likely going to fuel your fast-tracked freeway to Facebook envy.
Daily quarantine quiet: Brain fMRI’s display in real-time how we strengthen whatever neural pathways we do more of. Brain dendrites and neurons reinforce your “highways” based on your choices of a busy schedule that can result in frustration and anger. Let’s use the forced pandemic pause and to permanently choose daily “brain time out” without screens to breathe, meditate or pray that benefits both you and your children to regularly enjoy the stability of peace and calm.
Say NO: I’m the first to admit to being a YES woman both in my career and personally. The pandemic has taught me that I’m still loved even when I don’t attend everything and enjoy time out without the guilt. The land of opportunities can wait sometimes!
Little Johnny and Juanita are more likely to become masters of their destiny if we allow them the breadth to do so. We can certainly nurture their talents, but let’s not scrawl over their childhood with busyness in the process!
I don’t want a medallion of muddled madness, but a cordon of courage. It will signify we bravely didn’t scribble chaos in our blank margins of life that encouraged the children to inner resourcefulness to face life’s challenges resulting in their innovation and prosperity.
Joanne Wilson is the Relationship Rejuvenator and author of Renovate Your Relationship – All The DIY Tools For Your Most Important Project ($29.99). She is a neuropsychotherapist inspiring the community with thriving and dynamic relationships that impact generations for mental well-being.
Find out more at www.relationshiprejuvenator.com