Even for people fortunate enough to be able to stay safely at home, the pandemic has created a lot of new challenges.
Many parents are feeling the strain as they try to homeschool, work from home, keep the house together, and plan activities for increasingly cooped up children.
So in the video below, Bonnie Goldstein, PhD, shares how she helped an overwhelmed parent find a way to focus on her online sessions without distraction – despite being in a busy home.
She hadn’t taken the time, until we started looking at this, to check in with herself. The words “pity-party” come to mind – her words. She said, “I have no reason to pity, I’m lucky, I have a house, I have food. There are so many people who are ill, there’s so many people who are struggling, this is horrible that I am presenting this in therapy.” We wanted to together collaborate and find a way to look at that sense of what was really shameful. She was feeling shame that she had any feelings other than gratitude. Of course, we can look at the gratitude piece, but right at this moment, our entree was to look at that shame that she felt that she couldn’t count on herself, that she couldn’t be there and present for herself, that she was feeling physically exhausted. Again, she said, “I’m not sick, I know I don’t have the virus, so I should be grateful. But I just have headaches, I’m tired and always lethargic and I know I’m not sick.” So there was that duality of not giving herself even the tiniest window.
So, I would play with her with, “Is there any part of you, even like a sliver of a moon, using the poet David White’s nomenclature, just a sliver of self-compassion for all that you have been caring for and doing?” Maybe even embracing – in her words – the pity party. “Let’s together erase the pity party, let’s embrace that part of you that really has never lent itself to being embraced,” and even as I spoke giving back her words and I slowed down my tone, as I am right now, the emotion crawled in. She was able to experience the deep, deep sadness and the sense of aloneness that she felt nobody was able to take care of her and that she was unable to take care of herself and she wasn’t doing an adequate enough job taking care of her kids. She had forgotten to take over her own needs, even the therapy session was interfered with kids running through and distractions and she didn’t have the containment that she had in our office.
So that was one really important thing you had to do is say, “How do we carve out a time for us to have a session where you don’t feel pulled in a million directions, where you were able to just be with me in the session and therefore just be with yourself in this?” For her, she set up our session in the bathroom, she said that’s the place she could lock the door. There was nowhere else in her house that she felt she could go where she could truly be on her own, in the quiet, in the containment. In her family, that was the respect, people respected locked doors, so there she found a space, but we decided together to make it not the space for elimination, but the space for her to embrace. She brought in her glass of champagne because she said she wanted to be able to feel the joy the bubbly brought as associations from better times. She also lit a candle, and for her, it was an aroma therapy candle. I, too, lit one of my candles – we have candles all over the offices – so that I was able to join with her in that. We joked about how my glass of champagne wouldn’t be champagne, but it didn’t matter, my cup of tea was what worked for me. And so together, we were able to bond, we were able to joke, we were able to share that human offering.
How have you helped parents who are feeling overwhelmed during quarantine? What has been the most effective strategy you’ve found to help them?
Please share your experience in the comment section below.
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