Episode summary:

Susan shares tips for staying grounded while honoring Coronavirus recommendations of social distancing. You’ll enjoy a calming mindfulness moment and hear ways to feel sturdier with kids underfoot. 

Susan Stiffelman is a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Therapist, an educational therapist and a highly lauded speaker. She is the author Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected and Parenting With Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids (an Eckhart Tolle Edition).Susan offers online events for parents around the world on topics like Raising Tweens and Teens, Parenting in the Digital Age, and Raising Siblings and also hosts a monthly support group with Wendy Behary on Co-Parenting with a Narcissist.​​​​​​​ www.susanstiffelman.com

Things you’ll learn from this episode:

• Three specific things you can do to stay centered
• How to forge a network of support
• A short mindfulness practice for finding your calm

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Read the entire episode!

Hello and welcome back to the Parenting Without Power Struggles podcast. I’m your host, Susan Stiffelman, and I’m really glad you’re here. I’m a marriage and family therapist. I’m the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles and Parenting with Presence. And I’m really glad you’re here. Oh boy. Everybody, deep breath. How are you doing? Today’s going to be all about offering support to all of you parents out there who are navigating this incredible and bumpy ride that we’re all on as we adjust to changes in our lives from coronavirus. I know it’s a lot and I also know that when we humans have support and connection we can find our way through anything. So I’m going to be offering a few different ways to help everybody feel less isolated and alone and anxious during these coming weeks. Now if you’ve listened to other episodes, you know that I usually start the podcast with a mention of our monthly Parenting Without Power Struggles membership program, and that’s there if you want to check it out.


But this week I want to start by focusing on telling you about a free weekly online interactive get together that we’re setting up so that we can talk back and forth and share support and suggestions. This is going to be a great way for us to get together whether you’re feeling a little overwhelmed or you need tips on homeschooling or you just want to feel less isolated and alone. If you visit https://susanstiffelman.com/ on the homepage, you’ll find a link to our weekly Monday gathering, but the URL is https://susanstiffelman.com/parenting-coronavirus-support/ and you can get the scoop about how to join us for the next few weeks each Monday and I can see you there. Literally thank goodness for technology and Zoom right now. So let’s get started. Today I’m going to talk a bit about how to cope with the sudden and drastic changes that we’re all going through and offer some suggestions for navigating with a little more grace and steadiness in upcoming episodes.


I’ll keep doing that as well as offering regular support on things like chores and bedtime, but I know that with kids underfoot 24 seven there’s a lot that you’re facing right now. So let me begin by saying you know, those of you who are familiar with my work, you know that I talk about the three ways that we can parent, we can interact with our children. One is that calm, steady, confident captain of the ship. Then we can interact with our kids as the lawyer so that they’re in lawyer mode and we’re in lawyer mode and we’re pushing against each other, arguing, negotiating and all that. And then of course there’s the dictators. So I’m going to explain that very briefly, but in the first episode or two of this podcast and certainly on my website under about Susan, you can see the hand images that I’ve come up with to help illustrate this idea and find out more about what that means to be the captain, the lawyer or the dictator.


And by the way, we flow through those three ways of interacting all the time. It’s just human nature. Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you’re a Saint, so please don’t be hard on yourselves when you’re struggling or you shouting or you want to go hide in the bathroom. This is all normal, especially now when the volume is turned up really high on stress and anxiety and uncertainty. When you’re that calm, steady captain of the ship. The analogy is related to what it would be like to be on a ship where perhaps it’s smooth sailing and the captain just visits with the passengers or enjoys a twirl around the dance floor. But if the alarm goes off, you see this captain sort of managing whatever’s needed in a way that instills confidence in the passengers and right now we are at least attempting to be that calm captain for our children and it’s so reassuring because listen, our kids don’t know what’s going on.


They one day they’re going to school every day and then they’re going to soccer practice and then they’re supposed to, you know, they have a birthday party and suddenly they’re just home. They’re just with you. And I commend all of you who are honoring those requests because it’s really important that we do that, that we are flexible enough to pull in for a little bit and listen to the advisories of those who are in the know about how to prevent the spread of this virus. But I also know that everybody’s in the state of a people and our kids are looking to us to be that captain and we’re looking around the room like where is the grownup who can get a handle on all of this because we ourselves are feeling kind of upside down. But we also know that when we hold that energy, that alpha, calm, steady, confident energy, children do better, they’re more cooperative, they are more receptive and life just goes more smoothly.


We also know of course that children are incredibly adaptable and resilient. So let’s aim for just inching a little bit closer to being that steady captain. I’m going to do some things today, offer you some suggestions today to help you be there. And we also know that you’re going to slip into lawyer mode where you’re defending, justifying, arguing, and dictator mode, which is where the parent feels really frantic and out of control and uses threats and bribes and punishments to try and feel on top of things. I understand that we’re going to struggle to be calm right now and at the same time, there are some ways that I think we can help you find that place a little more easily. So all of us are swimming in uncertainty. We’re trying to stock up on food. We aren’t sure how we’re going to keep our kids away from their friends.


We’re concerned about the health of our loved ones. It’s not easy to be that calm captain because we feel like we’re in the middle of a hurricane, but because our kids take their cues from us, if we can do a few things to feel a little steadier, it will help everyone feel a bit more settled. So let’s start right here and now with a short mindful practice, this’ll just take a couple of minutes, but it’s something you can do throughout the day. That’s going to help you feel more grounded. Place your hand on your heart and just notice that it’s beating.


Wow. Isn’t that amazing? Your heart is beating all by itself. You didn’t do anything to make that happen yet. There it is. Your beautiful heart is beating. Take a moment to just savor the gift of that beating heart. Now shift your attention to your breath coming in and out. Notice the sensation of air coming in through your nostrils. How it feels as it travels past the back of your throat. Is it warm or is it cool? Is there a sound associated with this incoming breath or as you exhale? Isn’t that amazing? Air is pouring into you free of charge without you doing anything.


Take a moment to savor the gift of that breath coming in and flowing out effortlessly. Now allow your shoulders to drop. Allow the muscles around your eyes to relax. Soften the muscles around your mouth. Just sit here with me for a minute. Enjoying the pleasure of that breath coming in and out, syncing the beating of your heart, allowing yourself to drop into a feeling of safety and calm and peacefulness. If your mind starts generating thoughts or plans or worries, greet those thoughts with loving awareness and then return to following that beautiful breath flowing in, flowing out muscles around the eyes, relaxing muscles around the mouth, softening, shoulders dropping.


Just give yourself the gift of soaking in that feeling just for a minute and as you’re feeling that sense of peace and relaxation, give a little tug on your ear lobe, your right ear lobe, if you’re right handed your left ear lope. If you’re lefthanded, this is a way to anchor this feeling of peace and relaxation that you’re resting in right now so that throughout the day you can tug on that ear low to remind yourself of that feeling, to reconnect with that feeling of peace and calm. And this is the thing, these feelings of peace, of rest, of stillness, of calm, of presence, they’re always nearby. Even as we’re juggling all the activities in our lives, we can take a few seconds throughout the day to follow three breaths coming in and flowing out to give a tug on that ear lobe and reconnect to something steadier and calmer inside ourselves.


And that’s such a simple but powerful way to develop a habit of centering ourselves so that we can number one, just enjoy ourselves more and be less like by worry and fear. But also we can better move into that place of being the captain of the ship. So I hope you can allow yourselves to step away a few times a day from the chaos and demands of your life and just place your hand on your heart or feel that gift of breath flowing in and out. Now here are a few things I want to suggest for this first week of torrenting to help you be that calm captain of the ship, even when you don’t feel very captain. The okay. So the first is to stay present. Just take things one at a time. Right now. I know we all want to get a handle on what’s going on, but there are a lot of unknowns and it can be easy to get lost in worry.


As we tried to imagine how things are going to roll out apart. Totally talks about how there are no problems. There are just situations to be dealt with now or to be left alone and accepted as part of the present moment until they change or they can be dealt with. Come back to this moment by noticing your breath, feeling the beating of your heart, noticing the sensation of life coursing through your body and you’ll be better able to deal with whatever’s right in front of you. So staying present really helps us be steady as we move through our day. The second thing I want to really encourage all of you to do is to create a network of support. We really, really need each other right now. So my suggestion is that you text two or three friends or even one friend and ask them to be your people or your person, even if you have a partner.


It’s really helpful to have someone on the outside who you’ve agreed can be someone you connect with every day or two. Yeah, it’s great to be connected in online social communities to post things, but we really need one-on-one interactive connection with someone or a few friends or family who can really listen to us if we’re feeling overwhelmed or worried and you just can’t get that by posting comments on social media. It’s too superficial, so check in every day or two with your person or your mini tribe and keep it real. You guys tell the truth. If you need a little propping up, ask for it and if somebody in your mini tribe has been especially quiet, please reach out and just ask them how they’re doing. Some of the introverts among us are people who struggle with depression or anxiety especially need us to check in and offer a safe space to talk and to listen to one another really helps.


The third thing I want to suggest is that you prioritize connection and laughter. Listen, many of us are feeling pretty frantic about how we’re going to homeschool our kids or get toilet paper or manage financially. It’s a challenging time and it’s going to take time to sort out many of the unknowns that we’re facing, but for the moment, shorten your to do list and focus on connection and lightheartedness from time to time throughout the day. When kids feel seen by us, when they feel enjoyed by us, they’re much more willing to cooperate. Go along with the plan. They’re more receptive to our guidance. So set aside time at least once a day to just be with your kids. Ideally one-on-one to share a laugh or a cuddle or play around a Juno or enjoy the chase around the house. Just don’t add pressure to an already overwhelming situation by pushing to you at all the math homework done.


Take plenty of deep breaths and smile and hug your kid and give yourself a few days to sort out how to manage this new normal. Okay, so listen, you guys, we human beings are incredibly resilient. We have no idea how many resources come preloaded within us for coping with challenges, but they are there. We’re strong and we’re sturdy and we’re resilient and we will get through this, but we need each other and even though some of us are terrible about asking for help or reaching out for, it’s part of the beauty of being human and it’s really needed right now. So that’s it for today. I really hope you’ll join me for our interactive get together as you can visit https://susanstiffelman.com/ and the URL is https://susanstiffelman.com/parenting-coronavirus-support/ and you can get the scoop on that. I’d love to meet some of you and hear how you’re doing it.


As always, if you need more personal parenting support, you can check out our membership at https://susanstiffelman.com/membership/ and you can use coupon code Podcast19 in your first month is just going to be a dollar. I know that this feels like a really difficult time. But listen, if you focus on connecting with your kids and with yourself, if you create a network of support that you can lean on, and if you stay as present as possible, you’ll be okay. We’ll all be okay. Remember that no matter how busy life gets, look for those moments of sweetness and joy. Take good care and I’ll see you next time.


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