Do What Works for You

news image

Different families have different needs. Respond to the needs of your own family.

In the coming weeks, CTN’s Neuropsychology Team will be sharing a series of posts to support the mental wellness of the children, youth and families we serve. We hope that these posts and additional resources will provide comfort and encouragement as we adjust to our new ways of working, interacting and going about our daily lives.

We could all use a little reassurance these days. It’s common to turn to friends, family and experts to tell us how we’re doing. But there are so many different messages in the world and it’s confusing. Some of the opinions we’re hearing don’t make us feel better. Should we be concerned if we’re not taking our kids on virtual field trips, having meaningful conversations or doing science experiments in our kitchens? It’s like that phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” which refers to how we compare ourselves to other people as a measure for how we’re doing. But what if we’re NOT keeping up with the Joneses in our home schooling or other activities? Before you start judging yourself and others consider the following.
If you ask a group of parents how they’re doing during physical distancing, you’ll hear a rainbow of emotions – calm, content, bored, tired, impatient, frustrated, overwhelmed, worried, panicked, etc. One thing is clear, parents are not all feeling or experiencing the same thing.   
The variety of emotions and reactions probably reflect differences in families’ circumstances and individual needs right now. There’s a famous theory called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that explains why certain needs tend to take priority over others. The most basic needs (i.e. food, shelter and safety) often need to be met before people can pursue higher needs (e.g. self-esteem, personal growth or education).

COVID-19 has affected families in different ways. Depending on their needs, their priorities and attitudes are going to be different. Families who are struggling with basic needs during this time are going to focus on meeting these needs before anything else. Their energy and mental resources are going to be consumed by ensuring safety, shelter, food, employment and health. The idea of home schooling may be overwhelming no matter how you look at it.
Some families may be stable in their basic needs, but the idea of baking from scratch or re-organizing their closets may seem ridiculous, because their energy is completely consumed with home schooling, laundry, cooking and working from home. 
People who can focus on higher needs are not better parents. Dr. Ross Greene, Psychologist and Author of “The Explosive Child,” described being a good parent as “playing the hand you’ve been dealt.” Some families have kids with learning or physical disabilities, coping with mental health challenges, have multiple generations living in the home and have only one income earner. If you’re doing the best job you can with the resources you have in the circumstances you’re facing, then you’re being a good parent. 

As parents, we share a universal desire for our families to be okay. But what it means to be okay is individual to each of our families depending on our priorities, needs and resources. We’re all different and that’s okay! When we’re setting our own goals and meeting our own expectations, we can feel good about how we’re doing during this time without worrying about others.
For more information on this topic, check out this video and article.

A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms.

- Zen Shin