Written by: Aoife Ryan, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Parenting at the best of times is not always easy. Parenting during a global pandemic can be overwhelming. But there are some things that you can do, for yourself, that will help you navigate this difficult journey.
With the arrival of COVID19, parents are trying to juggle many different roles, being pulled from countless directions and with numerous pressures on their already stressed emotional resources. Children are experiencing long days away from family, friends and their ‘normal’ routines and activities.
Parenting is not about being right all the time, ruling in an authoritarian manner, where a child fears losing their parents love. Nor is it about giving in all the time, in a permissive manner, where the parent fears losing their children’s love. Parenting, for me, is always about connection, relationship, and loving responsiveness. This type of conscious, connected parenting is based on unconditional love, regard and holding, both for yourself and for your children.
It can be challenging to remain connected and lovingly responsive to yourself and to your children, especially in the current circumstances. A helpful way of caring for yourself, and by extension for your children, is with boundaries.
A boundary calls for an action for yourself or another. It is never an action against yourself or against another. A loving boundary is a line that you draw around your worth and dignity as a human being. Think of an island, your own space, that you stand solidly and separately on. When you have this boundary line in place around yourself, no one can diminish you or your presence. Setting boundaries is about confidently taking responsibility for yourself and your actions and not placing your happiness in the hands of anyone else. Boundaries arise from unconditional love (for self) and are also an expression of love (for your children).
Currently, when we are physically distancing, we may find supports that we have utilized previously are no longer available to us. Boundaries become even more important. Some examples of loving self-boundaries might include:
Creatively finding time for yourself (a cup of tea alone, taking the time to brush your hair and put on your lipstick, going to bed on time each night, making a phone call to a friend, cooking and eating for pleasure, not necessity, finding time to read your book etc.)
Limiting time on electronic devices (e.g. no devices at dinner time or in the bedrooms)
Being genuine, authentic, honest, direct and clear in your expression of your feelings and emotions (when we acknowledge and give expression to our own feelings, all feelings, we are modeling for our children how they can acknowledge and give expression to their feelings.)
Participating in activities or exercise that makes you feel good
Choosing to contact family/friends
Choosing to NOT contact family/friends
Saying NO to what is not right for you
Communicating your needs directly and clearly and asking for support when you need it
Speaking your own truth
There are many ways of introducing helpful and appropriate boundaries and you will know best what you need to do for yourself and your family.
Intricately connected to boundaries is the idea that separateness is the basis for togetherness. The act of staying separate from what is going on around you, and not personalizing what another says or does, is an act of loving self-care. Standing separately on your own island and knowing that what you say and do is 100% about you, and for you, and that what another says or does is 100% about them and for them, brings a strong sense of inner peace and calm.
Standing separately can be challenging in a cramped full house where everyone has different and competing needs. I must admit I struggle with it myself some days. On those days when my own emotional cup is depleted, I recognize the need to reach out for support and ask for help (from family, friends, or a professional).
When I attend to my own emotional cup and ensure that it is full (or nearly full) most of the time, I am more likely to respond lovingly to my children rather than react defensively. On the days when I know I am struggling, I tell my children and my husband. By giving myself permission to be real and honest, I am giving my children (and husband) the permission to be real, honest, authentic, creative and above all themselves!
As I mentioned earlier, parenting is always about connection and relationship. We may be forced to physically distance currently, but we can remain emotionally connected. Boundaries and standing separately are acts of loving self-care. As parents, when we care for ourselves, we will automatically be in a place to care for our children. If we model a strong boundary setting for ourselves, our children will learn what boundaries are, and they will learn to value their own self-worth and dignity.
Creating appropriate boundaries for yourself and your children will deepen relationships within and between you and allow for a more intimate connection. Boundaries and staying separate will give you all the space you need to breathe, the space to be, and will ultimately draw you more closely together, during these difficult times.
Aoife Ryan, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Aoife Ryan is a Parent & Relationship Mentor. Aoife works with clients helping them explore all aspects of self, to look at their relationship with self and the relationships they have with others around them. She works with organizations and companies, guiding and supporting their employees to become the best versions of themselves that they can be. When employees are operating from a strong conscious place, the company will be one that thrives, with diversity, inclusion, creativity, and human connection at its core. Aoife is passionate about supporting parents through the difficult and rocky terrain of parenting, thereby improving the health and well-being of all family members and by extension society. When parents’ needs are looked after the next generation will automatically be looked after. Aoife's approach is non-judgemental, kind and loving. She believes that with the right support, individuals will discover their own unique solutions to any difficulties they may be experiencing.