DFW's Trusted Leaders in Counseling, Career, and Life Coaching for over 10 Years

Ever-evolving Challenges of Parenting During a Pandemic by Charity Hagains, MA, LPC-S

Parenting during a pandemic has been…challenging. Everyday has been an education in flexibility and change for all of us. There have been some unexpected wins but also unforeseen shortcomings in how we parent during these strange and unique times. We have faced challenges that no one could have prepared us for, and we still aren’t done.

The responsibility of parenting has always been that we determine what is right and good for our children. We are charged with their safety, growth, physical health, and emotional wellbeing. It’s never been an easy gig, but it’s even harder now. With these new circumstances, we must find answers to questions that we had never before imagined. Finding guidance in how to make these decisions for our families is complicated and ever changing. For many of us we are stuck in a loop of nothing feeling “right.”

It doesn’t feel right to send our kids back to school while so many of us are still isolating and working from home ourselves.

It doesn’t feel right to homeschool our children and keep them socially isolated all day, every day plus risk their education suffering.

It doesn’t feel right to make kids wear a mask 8 hours a day while they try to learn.

It doesn’t feel right to allow our children to sit in a room with 20 other kids without a mask either.

These questions can easily turn into an endless list of circumstances we face when we are parenting during a pandemic. Do we isolate? Do we see our close family members? Do we see our elderly family? Do we take a much needed vacation? Is it safe to go to camp? Is it safe to have a sleepover with friends? Is it safe for grandma to come over?

Is it safe? Is it right? Am I being too cautious? Am I being cautious enough? Am I overreacting? Am I underreacting?

Doubt is part of our shared human condition, but it can become debilitating when paired with so many anxious thoughts and very real uncertainties. We like concrete answers to our questions, and right now we are getting very little of that. Even picturing what the coming months will look like is impossible. We have been disappointed so many times in the recent past by our vision and expectations being not only unmet but obliterated all together. It can feel scary to plan or imagine normalcy, two things we absolutely love as humans.

Here’s the bottom line: we just don’t know what comes next. Unfortunately, our idea of pre pandemic normal is off the menu, and we must begin to accept the ever changing reality in which we find ourselves. We have to adjust the expectations we have of ourselves, our children, and our society. All the while keeping in mind that our children are far more resilient and flexible in their thinking than we often give them credit for.

We look back at our childhood experiences and our understanding of what their upbringing would be, and we get stuck on those ideas. We feel immense sadness that the vision we have isn’t what is happening. Our children don’t have that memory and only a vague idea of what to expect for their future. Their vision isn’t as set in stone as ours. They haven’t really experienced any of this, so the fact that it is different isn’t as painful for them as it might be for us.

That’s not to say they aren’t experiencing disappointment and confusion…they are. We have to make space for their emotional turmoil that these new ways of living may bring with it. To do that, we must support them from a place of security and love.

“How can I offer them security when I feel like the future is so unsure?”

Stay present. Don’t live in the past idea of “normal,” and don’t try to plan too far into the uncertain future. Stay in today.

Listen. Don’t try to gloss over or make it all better if they are sad or anxious. Let them have those feelings because they are valid. Let them know you hear them and those are hard feelings to deal with, ones you too experience. Remind them that no matter what happens they are cared for and you have control over your corner of the world (the corner they live in).

Don’t have the grown up convos in front of them. Hopefully you are sharing your concerns with your loved ones and support system, you need that. But those conversations are best had after bedtime when you can fully focus on your own selfcare. This falls in line with not exposing them to regular doses of news coverage. An overload of information can cause their (and your) anxiety to needlessly increase.

Don’t pretend to have all the answers. Just like you are staying in the moment, your children need to do the same. It’s okay to say “I’m not sure.” “We will see what tomorrow looks like tomorrow.” “I don’t have those answers kiddo.” They likely have questions about the upcoming school year, what the next few months will be like, and when this will all end…it is a normal reaction to want answers. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have those answers, so encourage them to go moment to moment with their expectations. Reinforce that you know what today looks like and that’s enough.

I can’t tell you what the right answer for your family is regarding the upcoming school year. Homeschooling, in person schooling, hybrid schooling??? I don’t know. But I know for a fact you will make the right decision, for right now, for your family. I know this because you (and no one else) is the expert on your children. I can only offer you my confidence that whatever choice you make, it will be made with thoughtful consideration and intentionality, and that is the only standard we can aspire to right now. You wouldn’t be reading this article if you weren’t already doing your level best to make educated and mindful choices. Just remember, whatever you decide, you are allowed to change and adjust your choice to meet the ever changing needs of your family. You are and will always be your children’s best advocate…even when nothing feels “right.”

Childhood Regression in Quarantine by Charity Hagains MA, LPC-S

“Children don’t come with an instruction manual” makes it seem as if we brought our newborns home, then frantically began searching for the lost book of baby in our overnight bag convinced that its absence was a hospital oversight. We know they don’t come with a manual, which is what makes it so scary to be a new parent. It’s also why we are so thankful for the information on child rearing that we do find. Books, articles, blog posts, medical journals, our own mothers and friends are the resources we look to as a lifeline when we have questions about our child’s health and well being.

Sadly, there aren’t books or research studies on raising children during a global pandemic in the modern age. Our friends and parents haven’t charted a path for the world we now find ourselves in. We are the trail blazers now, and most of us have felt woefully unprepared to be such. Unprepared because we couldn’t, and still can’t, anticipate what happens from day to day and gage that against “normal.” Normal is ever shifting now.

I am not arrogant enough to tell you I have one clue what all of this means for ourselves and our children in the coming weeks and months. I can however give you insight into what we are seeing as a practice, how you can reframe some of that, and a few ideas on how to help your children (and yourself) cope with these unexpected changes.

With so many changes in your little one’s life lately you may begin to see some amount of developmental regression such as:

Potty Training Regression

Potty training is often externally motivated for young children. They choose to use the potty for reasons such as: their peers at school are using the restroom, adults they wish to please are happy with them (parents are excluded from this for various reasons), they are avoiding negative consequences of missing out on play time because they have to change, etc.

Many of these external motivators have been removed for them, and they fall back into old habits of accidents.

Try setting an hourly timer for “potty time” so they are routinely going to the restroom. Offer rewards for successfully using the restroom, and do not use anger or shame as a tactic when they have accidents. A gentle reminder that you believe in them and know that they will master this goes much further than angrily cleaning them up.

Sleep Training Regression

New routines and circumstances often lead to sleep regression. A new sibling, moving, attending a new school – these types of changes have often brought on some level of sleep regression.

The pandemic has had a huge change on their norm. Parents being home all day, lack of stimuli, and schedule changes can have a huge effect on their system. They may seek comfort from mom and dad in ways they hadn’t been before.

Disrupted sleep patterns, a desire to sleep in mom’s and dad’s bed, and difficulty getting to sleep are changes that you might expect while your little one is home in isolation.

First, take care of you. Sleep and nap when you can so that you have the energy to handle these difficulties. Go back to how you first successfully trained your little one. Maybe it is extra play time during the day, a solid unchangeable bedtime routine, and not making exceptions for sleeping in their own bed. These strategies will work again as they did before.

Emotional Regulation Changes

Tantrums may begin to reappear as well as unexplained meltdowns during this time. I know how frustrating this is, especially while you are trying to juggle working from home and your own heightened emotional state. This doesn’t make it easy to parent during isolation.

Young children have been in the midst of learning emotion regulation, and suddenly their newly implemented coping mechanisms have been shifted or removed for them. They are struggling to know how to process all of what they are feeling. Hell, I’ve been able to emotionally regulate for decades, and I still have moments I want to scream during quarantine.

Have grace with these little ones. Regulate yourself, then help them do the same. Hug them while practicing your own deep breathing, allow them to cry it out, and don’t try to change their feelings or reason with them. This moment of overwhelming emotion will pass for them, as it does for you.

Speech and Articulation Regression

Your child may experience a return to previous language patterns such as “baby talk” or poor articulation. They may appear to lose skills and words previously learned. This can be very scary for parents, as the cause of such changes can vary.

In some instances, this is due to a lack of typical stimuli they received at school or daycare. Another reason could be attention seeking.

Correct your child by using the proper term and articulation in a gentle tone. Use only the words they had already been using themselves, and don’t expect their articulation to necessarily improve beyond where they previously were during this time. If the issue persists and your concern mounts, reach out to your physician and get their input.

These regressive behaviors are most likely due to the drastic changes in your child’s routine, and no, that’s not because you have become lax with your own home routine. Everything about their lives has suddenly changed, and they have no way to understand why, nor do they realize it’s a temporary change.

The articles we write are typically inspired by a trend we begin to see in our practice. Five times this week I heard some variation of, “How bad am I messing up these kids?” You aren’t. They are struggling in their own way, much like we are as adults. Thankfully, us taller humans have the ability to articulate our concerns and work through them emotionally. Our smaller counterparts don’t, so they use whatever ways they can to process this new world. The best way you can take care of these little ones is to take care of yourself so you have the emotional bandwidth to care for them. Sometimes patience and peace feel in short supply, but remember we are a part of your village. We are here when you need an outlet!

Extending Positivity Through Quarantine and COVID-19 by Angela S. Taylor MA, LPC-S

So, I woke up this morning and thought, “yep, we’re still here.” I don’t know about you, but I’m having more and more mornings like this. As we enter the 369th week of quarantine, I think we can all say we’re pretty much over it. We’ve cooked all of the meals, cleaned and organized all the things, and watched all the shows. We’ve taken our 687th walk (which are life saving), had the zoom calls with friends and family, and had a ton of quality time with the kiddos. But now what? We’re all exhausted and in need of a good hug…and maybe a stroll through target.

So how do we continue to stay positive as this drags on? It’s important. It’s important for our mental and emotional health, and really, what other choice do we have? We can choose to drown in it or thrive through it. I hope you will join me as I continue to strive to choose the latter. Some of these tips will sound familiar, and I hope will serve as good reminders. Others may be some new ideas to help invigorate you to push forward. Let’s hold each other up during this time and find the joy whenever we can.

1. Get your body moving. Yes, get in the walks. But maybe, throw yourself a dance party, find a new hiking trail, take part in an online yoga class, or jump on your kids’ trampoline. Find some things you haven’t tried before that are fun and new. This could be just what you need to keep going, physically and mentally.

2. Turn off the news and social media. I mean it. Limit yourself to 10-20 minutes a day, and be done with it. You aren’t getting new information, and it’s definitely not making you feel happier. Pay attention to how it makes you feel/spiral, and step away.

3. Focus on what you can control. A lot feels out of control right now, but this is really just illuminating what is true in general. We have so much less control than we want to believe, which can be either freeing or debilitating. Letting go of the need to control is liberating but also takes a lot of work. Guess what? You can start that work now. What do you have control over? Your morning and night time routine, your personal hygiene, bringing focus back to the positive, deep breathing, stepping outside, etc. Lean into those things in this moment, hour, and day.

4. Watch your favorite (funny) movie. So much of what people are watching right now is pretty serious. It may be time to take a break from all of that and watch something that you know will make you smile and laugh. Bonus if it makes you belly laugh. I think we’re all in need of a good belly laugh at least once a day right now.

5. Find a routine and a rhythm to your day. Set a schedule that works for you, and try to stick to it. Our bodies and minds like a routine and feel more settled and at peace when there’s some sort of rhythm to our lives. A good morning and night routine plus intentional time set for pursuing personal and career goals will do the trick. Making this nonnegotiable to yourself, for the most part, will help you stick to your plan.

6. Do something good for someone else. Write positive messages on your sidewalk, deliver groceries to your elderly neighbors, write snail mail cards to your local retirement home, contribute to local businesses (yay take-out!), or just smile at people as you pass them on your daily walks (trust me, it really does lift someone’s spirit). Doing good for others is a win-win, they feel good and we feel good too.

7. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. I know you’ve heard this at nauseam from me, but it’s so important – now more than ever. Find 5-10 things everyday that you’re grateful for. Be specific, and write them down. Keep a journal on your nightstand that you can record these in everyday. Just think, if you do this for two months of this quarantine, you will have 600 things written down that have brought you gratitude. Try not to find positivity in that!

8. Look to your past, and remember how resilient you are! You have survived every hard thing you’ve been through, and you will survive this too. Think about those things that you thought just might kill you and how far you’ve come since then. You are a fighter and survivor, and I know you will make it through this (and probably be better on the other side of it). The human spirit is more resilient than we can possibly imagine, and we are built to pull through this too.

9. Acknowledge that you are doing your best. You’re taking the precautions, feeling the feelings when they come up, supporting your friends and families, and getting out of bed each day. You are winning at this quarantine thing and doing your part to get us all back on our feet. Be proud of yourself. You’ve made it this far – it hasn’t been easy at times, but you’ve done it!

10. Remember, this will not last forever. I know, I know…some days it feels like it just might. But, it won’t. The day will come when we can leave our homes safely, walk in a store, go to a restaurant, go back to our businesses, and live our lives. We will get there, and possibly, be happier and more optimistic on the other side.

We are thinking of you here at Noyau. I can’t wait to see your faces and hug your necks (when appropriate)! Until then, let’s lift each other up and try to find some joy!

Dealing with Confusing and Conflicting Emotions During a Pandemic by Charity Hagains MA, LPC-S

“I’m tired and I haven’t done anything today.” “I cry for no reason. I’m in a much better position than so many other people, but I’m still crying.” “Why am I so angry? I just snap sometimes. I should be way more chill without a commute or early wake up times.” These are some of the things I have heard this week, and felt myself. We are all in the struggle at one point or another during this isolation period. I call it my quarantine cycle.

Every few days I start to feel overwhelmed – not by anything particular, just kind of over the whole thing. It’s week three in our house (I think…could be 4…I’ve lost all track of time) and it’s feeling hard. I heard that same sentiment from my clients this week, as well as friends and family members.

It doesn’t feel like a vacation anymore. It doesn’t seem like a much needed slow down. It feels more like one long endless day and that makes the hopelessness that much easier to come creeping in on us. My advice to everyone (myself included) is to accept that feeling in that moment. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed from time to time right now. Even if you are healthy and not experiencing an immediate crisis. Don’t compare your situation to anyone else’s.

Sitting around all day isn’t as easy as it sounds, and staying positive during a global pandemic is a mental challenge. Reassure yourself that your reaction to all of this is normal and part of the human condition, because it is.
Love your kids but also feel impressively annoyed by them? Normal.
Love staying in your pjs but miss feeling put together in your favorite outfit? Normal.
Love the quality time with your spouse, but also desperate for alone time? Normal.
Love the slow down of life, but also miss your fast lane lifestyle? Normal.
I know I’m not telling you anything new. I think everyone logically understands the strain of these strange times and that having these contradictory feelings is to be expected. But if what I heard this week and last is any indication, we are still struck by confusion as to how it can feel so hard and depleting to hold space for both kinds of emotion. And there is a fair amount of beating ourselves up for lashing out or expressing what we feel in an uncharacteristically big way.

Maybe you are like me. I went all kinds of angry lady on the poor guy who dared tell me they couldn’t get out to fix my internet speed for four days. This was not a big deal and that guy had no control over anything, but I can’t yell at a virus. I can be angry at the full stop of our society and disappointed by so many missed opportunities, but I don’t really have anywhere to direct that anger…until some poor sap tells me something I don’t want to hear, and I unleash all those feelings at once. Misplaced anger is pretty typical in a situation where we don’t have an appropriate target. In case you were concerned for the internet guy, I did apologize and explain I’m a little extra at the moment.

Breaking out in tears is much the same way. We carry the stress of a situation that is far outside of our control, even when we are chanting our positivity messages and writing in our gratitude journals. It’s still sitting with us every moment of every day, and we have few outlets to unleash those pent up emotions. Therefore, they can bubble over and we are suddenly crying. Maybe you saw something that touched a cord, maybe an errant concern or sad memory crossed your mind and left you uncharacteristically sobbing. That actually is an appropriate reaction to the situation we find ourselves in, not an “overreaction.”

Expect big displays of emotion from time to time while we remain in isolation. Meet those expressions with compassion and forgiveness, not only for yourself but for those around you. Remember they too are in the same boat and will be experiencing similar conflicting feelings.

Curious as to why your teenager is more moody than usual while he is getting to sleep in and play video games more? Shouldn’t he be excited about that? Well, he is and he isn’t. Just like you feel both sets of feelings, he does too.

Upset that your younger kids are more needy than usual even though you are spending so much more time with them? They too are experiencing an abnormal routine and feeling a wide range of emotions, and they don’t know how to express or process those.

Is your spouse snapping at you for no reason? That is likely to happen and leave you feeling hurt and confused. While it isn’t “okay” to take our frustrations out on one another, we aren’t perfect. We will mess up and lash out when we don’t intend to.

In this moment of heightened emotional responses we need to offer as much grace as possible. That doesn’t mean we have to abandon our boundaries. It’s still okay to say “that was hurtful and I didn’t like it. Please don’t misdirect your feelings onto me.” But it’s easier to respond rather than react when this happens if we are viewing the situation through the lens of grace, understanding, and forgiveness.

Remember to offer yourself those same things. Be gracious with how you judge and talk to yourself. Share compassion with yourself as well as others. Be generous with your inner monologue. This is what it means to really be “in this together.” That phrase is easily overlooked when we hear it so much. The truth of that statement is “we are all feeling off our game and we all need more grace than ever because of it.”

Good luck this week everyone! I know we are all feeling exhausted by our suddenly changed lifestyles and disappointed that our holiday weekend was so different than we had hoped for. I hope you will continue sharing those hard feelings with one another, and with us, so we can all be there to offer support to each other!

Body Image and COVID-19 Navigating those familiar voices in the midst of quarantine by Angela S. Taylor MA, LPC-S

So here we are. Stuck at home with food and mirrors everywhere, and they’re coming for us again. Those voices that tell us we should finally lose that weight, our thighs are too big, our stomach is too jiggly, and on and on. Some of us have worked really hard to minimize or get rid of those voices while others of us were already in the midst of a full blown body image crisis.

What a time for issues with our bodies to creep their ugly heads. But it makes sense, right? It’s the one thing we feel like we can control when everything feels so out of control right now. If we finally get our bodies the way we want them, all of this will feel better. Or will it?

There are so many directions I want to go and things I want you to hear about this, but the main thing I’d love for you to believe and own is that, your worth and value has absolutely nothing to do with your body. Getting to that perfect size/body will not bring you peace, joy, happiness, success or any of the other things you have tied to it. There will always be farther to go in an unattainable journey to have the “perfect” figure, whatever that is (or society deems is the ideal at this moment in time). Your value lies in so much more than the shell you’re living in.

I’m assuming you’ve heard all of this before. Most of us know these things, logically, but find it difficult to actually believe them internally. How did we get here? Who told us this was the most important thing to pursue? That question is so incredibly layered. From the messages you received from your parents to words from classmates and peers to society in general, all of these unhealthy words and ideas have impacted how you feel about yourself today. But…they’re wrong. Likely, they were projecting their own unhealthy ideas of themselves onto you, and I am so sorry that you are now having to struggle in the same way they did, or worse. They don’t deserve that power over you, and you owe it to yourself to take that power back. You are worth it.

Your body is a tool that has taken you to great places, helped you accomplish unimaginable things, and moved you from one place to another. It has given birth to babies, created new ideas and brought them to fruition, climbed mountains, accomplished numerous goals, and gotten you out of bed each morning. And now…it’s helping you survive a pandemic that the world has never seen. Be gentle with it – it’s just trying to survive right now. It wants nourishment and movement, but it/you also need extreme kindness. Kindness that you’ve never known. Your body is working extra hard right now to get through the day with a world that is changing before our eyes. Listen to it and what it needs. It’s an incredible thing that our bodies are walking through right now, and that body deserves so much gratitude.

Thank your body for helping you survive all of this. Thank yourself for continuing to move forward, physically and mentally, in the midst of fear and uncertainty. You couldn’t do that without that body of yours, no matter what shape or size.

Yes, get out and move…because of the way it makes you feel. Pay attention to that. Do you feel less stressed, stronger, more capable, more positive? Listen to that energy and that voice. This is not an effort to lose weight – this is to give yourself those positive, feel good chemicals we all need right now. Your body is craving that and will need it to keep going. But, when you hear that voice saying to keep moving to lose the weight, stop. Go back home, you’ve done the work for the day. Challenge that thought, and praise those legs for moving beneath you. They really are incredible with what they can accomplish.

This is a battle, and I truly feel you and understand that. But it’s a battle worth fighting. My biggest desire is that you love all of you because you are a warrior and have so much more value than I can tell you right now. I am fighting with you on this, and we are all in it together. You are so valuable – do not let those voices deceive you on this. They are wrong, and you deserve to fight back.

If you are struggling with this, please reach out. We are here to help. We also know that eating disorders are being amplified and growing right now, so we want you to know that we are here for you. Our therapists are expertly trained in this area and are ready to talk to you via telehealth. Give us a call when you are ready.

Call Now ButtonCall Noyau Today