This column is the 14th in a series providing information and suggestions about parenting through the COVID-19 pandemic. Therapists, authors and child experts Jim Wellborn, Ph.D. and Stacy Jagger, LMFT will be helping parents explain to their kids what is happening as well as how to deal with the various challenges of having kids home for the next month or more. They will be giving you suggestions and advice about setting up schedules, dealing with bored and irritable kids, continuing their schoolwork from home, keeping them occupied, maintaining friendships and social connections, managing and monitoring screen time and taking care of yourself so you can take care of your kids.
"Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” – Princess Diana
Kindness through Connection
Here is what we know. When we take our eyes off ourselves and focus on someone else, blessing them with our care and compassion without any consideration of reward or acknowledgement, humans feel a deep sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. We experience a full heart.
It can reduce our anxiety, put life in perspective and enable us to see the good in life. Good people, good hearts, creative ideas flowing with folks who have begun to replace all the scurrying about with taking time to slow down and think things through a bit.
We also know that during times of great trouble, when under great stress, feeling uncertainty and anxiety with kids at home all under one roof, coming up with random acts of kindness to spread a skitter of joy and optimism may not make even the bottom of your “To Do” list.
So, here are some things we that just might lift your spirits today.
People are reconnecting with family spread out all over the place. Virtual dance parties, zoom cooking lessons with Aunt Mabel, a free workshop on regulating the nervous system; people are donating their time for the greater good. Connecting with kindness. The time to Zoom call that cousin for a “gender reveal” of her in utero twins. Something you would have missed just a few months ago because you don’t live in Arkansas. But now, through Zoom, we can hop on a call, save the gas and flight money and be there in ways that, while not our ideal choice, is a good choice nevertheless. The long-distance laughter pulls us out of our funk and helps us to feel a bit better about our new reality.
Young children who are happier with less busy-ness and more time together. We are not dropping them off here and there. We are home more. We are having virtual parties to catch up with friends long past over iced tea. We are gathering in new, creative ways that used to require travel but now can be done from the comfort of our own home. A brain shift for sure. Through words of encouragement, kindness is spread by focusing on what is good, hopeful and helpful; generating feelings of happiness. This way of connection is a new skill set that allows for easier access to friendship. Without the pandemic, it is an opportunity we would not have fully experienced.
Kindness through Engagement
Maybe you can engage with the next drive by birthday party in your neighborhood for that 7 year old who was looking forward to a shindig with all her friends. It’s the little things, folks. Or, how about offering support or a meal to a homebound, vulnerable or ill neighbor. Send an inspirational quote to a friend or a motivational text to a family member who is struggling.
How about creating chalk quotes on the sidewalk. Little sayings to encourage folks as they walk by your home? Maybe you are sending a snail mail card to simply tell your loved one you are thankful for them and are proud of them. Words on paper are powerful and this pandemic has allowed us time to pick up the pen again. Another silver lining. Or maybe your children can create art to send to grandma. You can record them telling a funny joke and send it in a group text to family to cheer everyone up. Just simply lending an ear can help both you and the person on the other end of the line.
These acts of connection create deep engagement and help everyone involved feel less alone or scared or crazy. This pandemic above all else has made that glaringly obvious that we are all connected.
Kindness Through Service at Home
Getting creative with our time has become a necessity. So why not get creative with service at home? Mister Roger's mom told him to “look for the helpers” when things get scary and people are in trouble. You and your kids can be that helper. Here's how to make an impact in your community with a few tangible actions amid the pandemic.
- Do your kids love to draw? Check out Color a Smile, a website that distributes cheerful drawings to senior citizens and our troops overseas. You simply download printable pages from the website and let your kids have a coloring party. After the party is over, send your little works of art to Color a Smile. They have given out over a million smiles over the last 25 years.
- You can order an arts and crafts kit from Stars of Hope. Stars of Hope is an organization that grew out of the tragedy of 9/11 which empowers people to share messages of love and hope through hand-painted wooden stars. Each “Box of Hope” includes 15 wooden stars, paint, brushes and instructions. After your kids have painted the stars, you can box them up and send them to a community that is recovering from a natural disaster or other tragedy.
- Do you have some fleece fabric sitting around? Consider making no-sew blankets for Project Linus. They distribute your hand-made blankets to children in need. You could also just donate them to a local nursing home to be used as lap blankets.
- Get involved in Operation Gratitude, an organization that collect cards, letters, and hand-knit scarves for care packages that are shipped to our servicemen and women who are serving far from home as well as to the home-front families who miss them.
There are many ways we can create meaningful service projects at home to bless someone else. And we no longer have all those time-bound excuses about why we don’t have energy for simple acts of joy-spreading to incorporate into each day. Pick one. And feel the joy in your bones.
Stacy Jagger is a mother of four and a therapist to many. She is on a mission to restore wonder to childhood, connection to families, and intimacy to relationships. She is the architect of the 30 Day Blackout, a break from technology designed to bring parents and children closer together and unleash the natural creativity in all of us. A musician at heart, she designed Music with Mommie, a parent-child bonding class that utilizes instruments and play to facilitate connection. Stacy has spent the last several years of her career building Music City Family Therapy, her practice in Brentwood. She lives on a small farm outside the city with her husband of 20 years, a pony named Mister Rogers, a few dozen chickens and a gaggle of ducks.
James G. Wellborn, Ph.D.
Dr. James G. Wellborn is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Brentwood focusing on adolescents and families. He is an expert on motivation, coping in childhood and adolescence, academic engagement, parenting and adolescent development. An invited speaker to groups, agencies and churches on parenting and teenage issues, he conducts workshops for parents, teens, teachers and counselors on parenting teens, teenage issues, adolescent development, motivating teens, mental health issues and intervention strategies. Dr. Wellborn is the author of Raising Teens in the 21st Century: A Practical Guide to Effective Parenting. Dr. Wellborn and his wife live in Nashville, Tennessee and are the parents of two grown children and, now, of two adorable grandchildren. You can learn more about Dr. Wellborn by visiting his website at www.DrJamesWellborn.com.