Welcome back to our newsletter series addressing the question we’ve been hearing from our community of clients: Is my response to the abnormality, normal? Last time, we focused on your own thoughts and feelings. In this 3rd installment, we are focusing on what our community is noticing in their relationships with others.
Relating in Isolation
As depicted in the graphic above, our community is noticing that we are still very committed to our relationships, but there are shifts in our roles, or we may play multiple roles at once. You may also find yourself having to navigate how to absorb the reactions of others. As isolating as this situation is, our emotions are still occurring in relation to others. This can affect the entire system’s mood and mindset.
Our Personal Reflections
Last week, my 4 year-old son planted “magic beans” to take us to Giant Land, where he was pretty sure “the virus isn’t going around.” He watched the magic beans (we’re not allowed to just call them beans) vigilantly, watered them 27 times a day, packed for himself and his brother, including a pillow, and waited so we could climb the thing and get out of here. When that didn’t work (shocking, I know), this week he decided to build a spaceship with a seat for each of us so we can finally get off of this blasted planet. A life-size space ship. With plywood, screws, and Styrofoam. As a play therapist, I’m seeing a lot of themes in his play, or as he would call it “work.” However, I’m sure I don’t have to explain the meaning of it to you. We all want an escape plan and are fantasizing in one way or another of an alternate life. It’s been a good reminder that kids are dealing with the same stress as adults. Their symptoms are often the same, but the way it plays out (pun intended) is different. It’s been a reminder for me to appreciate his ingenuity and be compassionate about his struggles – and to do the same for myself and others.
I’ve noticed the different needs my family members have based on their developmental stages. The toddler seems to be okay with his blissful ignorance to what’s going on. The older kids have been dealing with it based on their developmental abilities, but their personality differences also come through. My kindergartner seems satisfied socially, but needs to be held, physically and emotionally, in her moments of rage that come through. My elementary schooler has engaged in magical thinking. He has this idea about turning the light switch off and COVID turns off too. He imagines everything we will do as soon as it ends, such as vacations and time off of school (because somehow he needs even more time off). I’ve found it’s been helpful to meet them in the moment- whether it’s imagining or holding space until they can regulate. I’ve noticed the parallel as an adult. We have these same emotions and need space for them as well.
Turning Relationships into Community
The sentiment of being in this together while distancing from each other is strange. But part of what’s helping us all survive right now is how we are consciously engaging with our community. Alicia Bailey, a KCC clinician, recognizes that we are experiencing an “intensified version of the pressure we feel every day as parents, which is forming these human beings, but we have nowhere to outsource.” Not to mention managing their mental health along with our own. And meanwhile, our partnerships might either be falling by the wayside so we can function, or riddled with tension at the moment. However, she notes that this situation is increasing our collective resiliency, because we have to get creative on how to outsource, such as enlisting grandparents or neighbors for childcare.
It’s amazing for us to see the resourceful ideas that many come up with to connect with others, such as creating “COVID families,” weekly video calls with friends and family, drive-by birthday wishes, sustaining the local economy, and normalizing the struggle so that your loved ones will not feel alone.
We are grateful to continue to be a part of your community. If someone you care about could use some help, please forward this on to them, or pass along our information.
Your support around the corner, or wherever there’s WiFi,
Some other articles we’ve been reading on the subject:
The New York Times: “Why Is My Big Kid Acting Like A Toddler?”