It’s time to dig in with self care. I think most of us are out of the shock phase and are realizing that this is the next four years and we have to prioritize our emotional and physical health to be able to get through this and keep resisting. And that we have to ask for help from others and give others help, too. So I’m going to talk about figuring out what best to do for yourself tomorrow, but first we need to talk about the children.
It is absolutely crucial that we keep caring for the kids in our lives. (You can define “kids” how you want to.) They are so vulnerable to stress and trauma right now (and kids 14 and older were either in utero or little when 9/11 happened, so they’re getting another major national trauma dropped on them, and that’s a big deal for their young systems). We need to do everything we can to protect them from stress and fear and trauma, because the more hurt that happens to them now the more their systems will be set on high for the rest of their lives, and they’ll have emotional connection problems, attention and focus problems, and health issues.
To frame how to respond to your kids: They need to know that the world is an inherently safe place for them and that you will keep them safe. And that bad things happen, but they can be the helpers and other helpers will show up, too. They have a right and obligation to defend their own boundaries and health. Life goes on AND we keep working to make things better for others.
A list of what to do:
1. If they’re already in an unsafe or unstable situation, accelerate your plan to get them out of it. Unhealthy family dynamics, school that’s written them off, lack of physical safety–all these are rough on kids and you need to figure out how to protect them and get them out. If you can’t get them out, stay as close as possible and keep validating them.
2. If everything’s normally ok in their lives, keep everything as even and boring and normal as possible. Even if you’re not sleeping and feel like you’re in crisis mode, keep it together for your kids and keep interacting with them with humor and warmth.
3. Don’t let them see you worrying, and don’t rant about what could (is probably going to) happen in the next four years, or about what horrible people are coming into power.
4. Do let them see you pushing back on elected officials by calling their offices, going to protests, organizing. Talk to them about running for office (I’ve heard a few people saying you’d love to run for something but don’t want to take time from your kids–your kids need to see you working for the world, so float it to them and see what they say and I bet they’ll be in favor). Talk to them a lot about helping other people who are vulnerable and making connections with people who aren’t like you. Bring them along when you organize bridge-building groups in your house of worship or community groups. Talk about institutionalized racism and for-profit prisons and the school-to-prison pipeline and how they can refuse to be part of punitive systems that hurt other people. Talk specifically about race to help them build correct models in their heads instead of filling in gaps with what they pick up from the culture.
5. Ease up about their grades and behavior at school. They are worth so much more than those things.
6. Model and practice being helpers, so they see themselves as people who act, not people who are going to be hurt. You may already do some form of talking about and rehearsing what to do if there’s a fire in your living space and maybe about what to do if you encounter a car accident or some other kind of accident. Keep going with that but add in what to do if you see someone being attacked or harassed. We know that if you rehearse what you want to happen, you’ll be able to do it when it’s time to.
7. Model and talk about talking kindly about other kids AND standing up for kids who are being spoken to unkindly. So many of the parents I know are hurting because their children are scared for their friends at school, not themselves, so learning to defend friends effectively and consistently is important to empower them.
8. Hugs and hugs and hugs. Go run around outside until they’re sweaty and out of breath, if they can do that. Then more hugs.
Here’s a bonus assignment that is actually a little bit of self-care: Write a thank-you (note, email, Tweet, text) to someone who’s helped you in all of this. I just wrote one to my middle schooler’s teacher who said some really validating and calming stuff to her classes the day after the election.
Ok, tomorrow we’re going to talk about how different people need to process and care for themselves differently and how to figure out how to help yourself AND also how to help the other people you live with by figuring out what they need AND how to not butt heads and make things even worse with conflicting needs and expectations.
We can all do this.
All my love,