The world has certainly changed since January 2020. There is much to talk about.
For clients and colleagues who thrive on structure being uncertain about the unknown is difficult.
This month it felt like a good time to look at some of the positives that come from having a hard reset from routine and the familiar:
While these impacts may or may not translate into long term environment improvement, they do illustrate that while there are situations that are largely beyond our control, the ability to focus of the positive is a good strategy in a world where click bait headlines and dire predictions flood social media.
“while there are situations that are largely beyond our control, the ability to focus of the positive is a good strategy in a world where click bait headlines and dire predictions flood social media”
There is a line between being an informed, responsible citizen and being obsessed with things you can’t control. In our current environment this means that knowing World Health Organization and country specific guidelines for protecting yourself, your family and your community while not catastrophizing that which you cannot change.
One of the things that I have noticed in my clients in an increased desire to have social connections even in the light of physical distancing recommendations. When scared or faced with uncertain outcomes, being able to share the process with someone and feel supported (even if it doesn’t solve the problem) can be highly beneficial.
Given the absence of physical closeness, the need to feel a sense of belonging emotional becomes increasingly important. This can be especially true of the neurodivergent community.
Physical distancing makes good medical sense, but social connections remain important as together works better than what the Germans would call “einsam” or alone.
Current events also bring hope that recent trends of declining social connections will be reversed as we together understand that reality of interconnectedness and the benefits that it can bring. Interested in more research on social isolation? Check out this article published by Oxford University Press.
I know that I am not alone in receiving and crafting calls, emails, video chats and even postal letters come from an extended network of friends and colleagues who might have slipped off the radar in the busy routines of normal. In these unusual times, it is important to connect with your community.
Reflection about who, what and why things are truly important can have therapeutic benefits.
For example, two of my friends were forced to postpone a wedding. This doesn’t change their love for each other or the desire for their community to support them. It did however give an opportunity to reflect that the love was what was important, not the trappings of the ceremony.
This month there are a couple of round number birthday parties (30 years old?, 40?, 60?– all I can say it that they are round numbers) that I would like to have attended, but again putting things in perspective can help all of us, adults and children alike, focus on appreciating the things that truly matter.
Our team, working remotely, has seen increased community interest in several things:
Again, these activities that serve to provide structure, purpose and meaning to a situation with a myriad of variables and unknowns are the most impactful.
We’ve seen clients and colleagues use this opportunity for self-betterment and to assist others. Johns Hopkins has adapted their psychological first aid course to a free online format for example. Finding something that has productive outcomes has not only individual but greater community benefits.
We’ve seen neighbors introducing themselves for the first time and volunteers to do essential errands for high risk populations in our community.
We’ve seen a return to nature and a reawakening of the value of a walk around the neighborhood (separated by the requisite two meters of course).
The uncertainty of a less stable routine can increase the anxiety and stress levels about the unusual school year for both parents and children.
Spending hours in front of a screen or a tablet isn’t a great coping device, as excessive screen time can disrupt the production of melatonin, a sleep-regulator. Physical activity outdoors in a natural setting can reduce stress and restore attention.
I recommend creating coping strategies and boundaries that help you and your child stay focused and energized throughout the day.
ex. Use a prize wheel of decision-making. These prize wheels are customizable and can be made at home or found in a variety of online marketplaces. Each decision is allocated a space (again a collaborative conversation to provide meaningful input) on what would be included. Examples might include bike riding, gaming, family game night, charades, building time (Lego, K’nex, Keva Planks), meditation or dedicated time 1:1 with a pet doing a fun activity (brushing fluffy for example).
While many families have their children home from school, this is an opportunity for families to reframe priorities. Elementary Science, High School Statistics and Intro to Business Law aren’t the most important priorities right now.
“I know there is a natural inclination to try to provide a best fit solution to unusual circumstances. Sometimes, there isn’t a best fit.”
Understandably, our children have anxiety about the unknown (as we all do). Ultimately, in the big scheme of things, while following the above tips about structure and perspective taking, one semester of academic time missed should be placed in context.
As a licensed educator with over two decades working with ADHD and 2e children from elementary to graduate school, I know there is a natural inclination to try to provide a best fit solution to unusual circumstances. Sometimes, there isn’t a best fit. Sometimes that is ok. This means ok for teachers, parents and students. If a child reads Song of the Dodo instead of finishing high school ecology or is encouraged to explore a new interest during this time that is OK.
Together, we can do this. With patience, structure, creativity and assuming good intentions, we can support ourselves and our children during these unusual times.
Brian Lux, MAT is the Director of Camp Sequoia. Camp Sequoia is the first research based social skills summer camp for neurodivergent minds (including those formerly diagnosed with Aspergers) in America and serves kids from around the globe. His work in social skills development has been presented at the World Gifted Conference.