Don't Touch Your Face! How to Help Our Kids In A Time of Anxiety
When a global concern touches home life, parents are put in an even more demanding position. In additional to containing all the typical parenting stresses, parents have to educate themselves about the changing medical concerns, find the equanimity to hold this information, and carefully determine what to tell their children. Medical experts are telling us to stop touching our faces, wash our hands, and, at the same time, to keep calm. In many ways this feels like asking for the impossible. It is similar to the skill of rubbing your belly in one direction and your head in the other; at some point the two hands line up and go in the same direction. When washing hands and trying to keep hands off of face, it is impossible not to think about germs and then, worry.
What is it that parents can strive for at this time of anxiety? Calmness, to have the ability to move away from the present worry and live life. Here is a trick that may help. STOP is a quick mindfulness technique that is brilliant in its simplicity. The acronym stands for:
Take a Breath
Observe your thoughts and feelings…
This practice helps to slow down reactivity, creating a space of time to check in with yourself allowing for a reflective stance. Everyone finds it easier at times of stress and worry to not be in the moment. It is habitual for many to move on automatic. However, it is when we are less present that we find ourselves doing everything we are being cautioned against including: touching your face, rushing into the house and plugging into the news. Children watch parents closely for signs of what is safe and where there is danger. Each time we are able to STOP, we are mindful and present and, just as importantly, we are showing our children that we are ok and allowing them to be ok.
We can learn to balance with our children by our side. The relationship that the child has with the parent creates the secure base from which the child explores the world. At the same time, the parent can use their tether to their child to ground them in the moment and break the habit of rushing and reacting. We can learn balance together because the relationship we have with our children is that important. We tell our children that the rule is that we wash our hands. What we learn from our children is that after hand washing, we play, engage in the moment, connect with others and allow ourselves, to not hold our worries so tightly.