What can we do to help ourselves and our children?
We can take the time to understand what is happening to us all. With this knowledge we will feel more able to be gentle with ourselves and our children. We can try to be kind and sensitive to everyone’s needs right now, and allow everyone the space and time they need to process events and feelings. We can listen to each other and choose not to dismiss other’s concerns; everyone’s experience and feelings are valid. Acknowledging that the situation is traumatic in different ways reduces the expectations on everyone to function normally. It allows for everyone to be scared, and to be able to talk about it. Listening and accepting each other creates connection, which is a powerful tool for healing and survival; humans do better together than apart.
We can reach out to our local communities and find safe ways to provide emotional closeness as well as practical help.
Take social distancing seriously. We will all have to make hard choices. Better to be able to say in a month, well, that was more cautious than we needed to be, rather than wishing we had done it differently.
We can allow ourselves to rest: it is tiring processing constantly shifting information, trying to survive and trying to protect your loved ones.
We can occupy our thoughts with things other than the current crisis, such as activities with the children, cooking, writing, drawing, reading.
We can learn how to “ground” ourselves when we feel rising anxiety. This helps to dampen the effects of trauma on our brains and bodies, by making a conscious choice to reattach your body to the positive parts of your present reality, rather than things happening “out there” or in the future. One way to do this is to do something that your body recognises as familiar and calming. For many this may be running or climbing, for some of us it will be physical contact and cuddles that help to activate the calming parasympathetic system.
Babywearing is one way to do this: keeping children close and safe, feeling the trust in their warm bodies snuggled up.
The familiar rituals of putting the carrier on and going for a walk, the swaying motion of helping a child drift off to sleep, the release of calming oxytocin are all very grounding.
Right now, you and your child are together, building a relationship, and can provide each other with reassurance and focus.
Your baby may not realise what is happening and just need you. Your older child may need your reassurance in this strange situation, and the physical proximity will provide that.
You are each other’s anchors in the gathering storm that will soon roar about our ears.
As the mum of a 19 month old and a three-week-old baby, born just before the enormity of what we are facing hit, babywearing is helping me get through every day. Uncertainty on this scale does not help an anxious mind. But now every day I turn to carrying my children as a way to find something familiar and calm. I put my older child on my back and go for a walk at the end of each day. We avoid other people but nod to those we pass; this little bit of connection with the outside world is so important to keep me sane. This big moment of connection to him brings normality and love into my day. I of course also carry my newborn as much as possible. What’s better than having a newborn in a sling! The first time I wrapped him it seemed so normal, like something in the world made sense. Having him wrapped is so calming and grounding. Having him right there gives me something good to focus on. Having his nervous system, which knows nothing of the enormity of global problems, bound together with mine, helps keep my nervous system calm. Together we all get through each day, one day at a time.
Please take this global pandemic seriously.
Further reading about staying at home and protecting others: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection
Originally published here.
Rosie Knowles is a mum of two and a family doctor in the UK with a particular interest in holistic medicine as well as children and women’s health and mental health. She is a passionate advocate of building secure attachment relationships between children and their carers, due to the long lasting effects this has on future health. Her book, “Why Babywearing Matters“, was published by Pinter and Martin in May 2016 and she has written for a wide range of publications. She trains carrying advocates, peer supporters and health professionals. Visit her website Carrying Matters and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.