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COVID-19 has most likely contributed to the longest ongoing uncertainty people have dealt with in, well, maybe ever.

Should I send my children to school?

Will I have a job tomorrow?

Is the economy going to make it?

Are we going to lose our home?

If I get COVID-19, will I survive?

Will things ever be normal again?

These are just a few of the questions we are wrestling with as we try to create some sense of normalcy for ourselves and those around us.

The hard truth that most of us don’t tend to think about is that even when we are living our best lives, there’s actually a great deal of uncertainty. Anything could happen in the next moment that could throw our lives into complete chaos. The difference is, it’s not as in your face as COVID-19.

So, short of throwing in the towel, how do you deal with the ongoing uncertainty?

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl describes being separated from his wife in the concentration camps. Everything he owned was taken from him, including the manuscript for his book. As he shared what it was like living one day to the next with no idea whether his wife was still alive or whether that day would be his last day, he says he realized that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances—to choose one’s own way.

Frankl says, “In order to live a meaningful life, we have to identify what is meaningful to us in every moment. There is a kind of mindfulness to meaning—a level of focused attention where we must focus on identifying what we find meaningful.” 

Straight out of the gates, it seems like this is a moment where we all have the opportunity to deal with uncertainty, starting with two things. We can decide what is most meaningful to us AND choose the attitude with which we will engage the days ahead. Making decisions about both of these things will anchor us in our journey and give us a mindset for everything else we need to do.

Other strategies for dealing with uncertainty include:

  • Making plans, but holding them loosely. Everybody would like to be able to make a decision about school and be done with it. In this particular moment though, that is probably not how things will roll. So, making a plan, but including a couple of alternatives can help decrease the out of control feelings uncertainty often brings. 
  • Doing what you will wish you had done. Sounds a bit crazy, but these are difficult times. Often when we look back on a time when we struggled, we will say, “I wish I had just gone with my gut and…” It is easy to second guess yourself, but seriously, looking back 10 years from now, what will you wish you had done?
  • Paying attention to your mental health and the mental health of those around you. Back to the attitude thing. Our brains have a natural tendency to go negative, especially when the going gets tough. You or the ones you love may really be struggling at the moment. Surround yourself with supportive people. Seek help if you just can’t seem to shake feeling down and depressed all the time.
  • Giving yourself permission to feel what you feel. Write down your emotions: frustrated, tired, irritable, abandoned, isolated, anxious, lonely, bored, confused, inadequate, jealous. None of these are bad in and of themselves. How you choose to respond to these feelings can either help you move forward or make your life more complicated. 
  • Making a list of all the things you actually have control over. Even if you did this early on, do it again. It’s a good and helpful brain exercise. Remember, your brain believes what you tell it. If you are constantly talking about everything being out of control, your brain believes you and acts accordingly. Feeling out of control creates fear, and our body responds to fear by creating adrenaline and cortisol. Research shows that the long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can disrupt almost all of your body’s processes. It affects your ability to think clearly, make decisions, sleep and  literally function on a daily basis.
  • Considering things you can do to create some consistency in your daily living. Routines, rituals, consistency and structure help us feel more secure, especially in times of extreme uncertainty. Little things like going to bed and getting up at the same time every day or planning your meals can make a major impact on your well-being.
  • Enlisting the help of others. Once you have given some thought to your mindset and the attitude with which you want to engage life right now, ask friends, family members and/or co-workers to encourage you in your efforts. Ask them to help you be accountable for how you have decided to embrace the uncertainty, too.
  • Showing yourself some grace. You can do all of the things above and still have some really hard days. Instead of beating yourself up, acknowledge how hard it is. Cry if you need to, journal, go for a run—whatever it takes to help you process through it. The good news is, you know the direction you want to head and you can get back on track putting one foot in front of the other.

When you are lost and using a compass to figure out where you are, the needle may shake a bit, but it always finds north. The road ahead may be shaky and full of twists and turns, but working through some of these strategies for dealing with uncertainty can help you find your north again. That way, you can keep on keeping on.

It’s nothing new to disagree with the ones you love, whether it’s about COVID-19, quarantine, religion, guns, racism, politics, football or something else. In fact, chances are pretty good that you completely disagree on certain topics with someone you care deeply about. The disagreements may be so intense you wonder how you can actually co-exist. 

The level of intensity might feel more so at this moment in time in our culture. In fact, many people can hardly believe that the people they love have such different perspectives from their own. The ongoing stress from trying to navigate these issues can take a massive toll on our relationships. FOR REAL.

What do you do when you strongly disagree with the ones you love?

Although you might be tempted to confront them and tell them they are just plain wrong, you might want to reconsider. That plan probably won’t go very well for you because it’s likely your loved one will feel attacked. Nobody wants to feel attacked, right?

Instead, start by asking yourself a few questions.

What is the goal of my conversation with this person?

Do I just want to share information?

Am I trying to understand their perspective?

Do I feel the need to convince them they are wrong?

Am I trying to prove that I have a valid point?

Do I have to WIN?

Taking the time to think about your ultimate goal can help you prepare to constructively engage with them.

It may help to remember that no matter how hard you try, you cannot change someone else or make them see something the very same way that you do. Yelling at them, belittling them, coming across as condescending, stomping out of the room or being sarcastic will only fuel the fire. And it will take you further away from your intended goal.

Plenty of married couples, extended family,, siblings and roommates have vehemently disagreed about things, yet their love and respect for each other was never in question. How you have the discussion matters.

Here are some tips you can use to make your conversations productive:

  1. Look for things you do agree on. It is likely that you agree on far more than you disagree about. 
  2. Kindness and respect goes a long way when trying to discuss difficult topics. Be aware of your tone of voice and body language.
  3. Avoid imagining how you think the conversation will go or how it has gone in the past. Playing negative scenarios in your head will actually increase your stress. It could also steer the conversation downhill straight out of the gates.
  4. Be prepared to genuinely listen to their perspective—even if you already believe you don’t agree with them and can’t fathom how they could believe what they believe. When people feel heard, you are more likely to keep the conversation going and avoid damaging your relationship. **PRO-TIP: Paraphrase what you hear and avoid using the word, “but.” Using “but” negates everything that the other person just said. Try using “and” instead.**
  5. If it feels like the conversation is becoming heated, remember that getting louder will escalate the situation for sure. Plus, it actually makes it harder to hear what is being said. If you are struggling to think clearly or keep your cool, take a break. Say you need to go to the bathroom or you need to get a drink of water—anything to take a break in the action and allow yourselves time to breathe. Pausing is powerful.
  6. Avoid using “You always, you never,” and “You should.” Instead, focus on yourself and share your perspective while using “I” statements (I feel, I believe, I want, I need, etc.).

These are particularly stressful times, and when you disagree with the ones you love, IT’S HARD.

This means that many of us are experiencing extended periods of heightened anxiety and are constantly in a fight or flight mode—which is totally not normal. Fuses are shorter and we are probably more easily irritated. And, we may react more quickly, especially if we’ve been thinking or dwelling on the topic at hand. Acknowledge this and think through the fact that how we handle difficult conversations can impact the quality of our relationships. 

It’s vital to remember that this is a process. If over time the conversation seems to go nowhere, you may need to set boundaries around this topic in an effort to keep from destroying the relationship. Keep in mind that if you choose to walk away from the relationship, you will no longer have the opportunity to present a different perspective.

Something shifted overnight for me. At first, I scoffed at how absurd people were being about a silly virus. Then I began to feel a looming sense of dread, realizing that this was not something to take lightly. It was 3 months into my third pregnancy. I started questioning if that meant I was an immunocompromised at-risk person who would be more susceptible to COVID-19. And although I suddenly went from an apathetic state to a concerned and informed citizen, I still had no clue what it all meant. Or how it would actually affect all of our lives in such a drastic way. If I’m being honest, I still didn’t worry too much about being pregnant during a pandemic. That’s because I thought it would blow over in a month, or, at the most, by the time I gave birth. 

But being in the middle of a pandemic rapidly changed the landscape in which I conducted my life and consequently my third pregnancy. Ya know, they say each pregnancy is different, but now that I’m 6 months pregnant and COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon… I’d say this one is taking the cake. But just because this pregnancy is DIFFERENT, doesn’t mean it has to be DISASTROUS. I am realizing that finding the positives in pregnancy during a pandemic is ALL about shifting my perspective.

My prenatal workout class went from an amazing escape every Monday night, connecting with other pregnant mamas and getting an hour break from all the responsibilities of having two kids and a full-time job to a virtual Zoom session from home. And it’s quite the struggle to find a quiet space to exercise without my kids literally jumping on my back or bumping into me. attempting to do the moves alongside me.

UPSIDE: The kids are kinda cute when they try to do the workout moves. I still get to check in with other mamas, and working up a sweat contributes to a healthy pregnancy! (Also having my girls see me working out models good healthy habits for them!) 

Prenatal doctor appointments (specifically the 20-week Anatomy Scan) changed drastically. It went from a much-anticipated appointment where my husband would attend and we’d find out the gender together to an extremely lonely experience. I wore a mask, sat in an almost empty waiting room, and saw a skeleton crew of healthcare employees. I recorded the ultrasound to show my husband when I got home since spouses were (and currently are) not allowed to attend any appointments.

UPSIDE: I have a video of the ultrasound, which would otherwise not be allowed. And really, I’m thankful for the healthcare workers taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of their patients… even if it means I had to be alone for such a significant moment. 

Big announcements like gender reveals changed, too (because yes, gender reveal parties are still a thing)! We went from all our friends and family gathering around a big box filled with balloons that we would let free at just the right moment to yet another virtual Zoom session. Among only our closest friends and family, I let Jackie, my 4-year-old daughter, do the honors of announcing we’d be adding ANOTHER girl to the mix! 

UPSIDE: Having a special intimate announcement that I was able to record was priceless. And I saved a ton of money on balloons, food, and decorations. Just sayin’.  

Documenting my pregnancy went from a variety of social events where we would naturally take photos to trying to remember what day of quarantine it was and finding a split-second where the stars aligned (aka the weather was good, makeup and outfit were put on and I had my fancy camera on hand) to get a good picture to document my growing baby bump. 

UPSIDE: The photos that I do get will be that much more precious. And, the captions I write with them will give tremendous insight into this unprecedented time in history for future generations.  

The pregnancy attention went from the normal socially appropriate, “You’re glowing!” or “You don’t even look pregnant from behind, it’s all belly!” to crickets. Honestly, some days I think people forget I’m pregnant. They usually only see me from my shoulders up on video calls or FaceTime. If not for my intentional picture-taking that gets posted on social media, I probably would surprise everyone when I resurface from this quarantine to reveal a brand new baby! 

UPSIDE: The socially inappropriate comments have stopped, too! I don’t have strangers trying to touch my belly. I don’t have awkward co-worker conversations about whether I will be breastfeeding, either. And people don’t exclaim, “Are you SURE you’re not having twins?!” (All these things have most definitely happened in previous pregnancies.) 

These are but a handful of ways this pandemic has reshaped this pregnancy. I could choose to dwell on the overarching climate of fear, anxiety, worry, and confusion that only increases my stress. OR, I can focus on finding the upside in every situation. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary for the health of me and my baby girl. So, today, I’m choosing to be thankful. Yes, I recognize the downsides, the difficulties, and the disasters happening around me. However, I’m choosing to be positive, no matter what. 

Staying calm in the face of a screaming or irrational child having a tantrum is no easy task. (Especially if it is in public or around friends & family. You feel like everyone is watching and judging. And they probably are. You just gotta get over that. It’s hard.) Let’s start with you.

We often find it hard to handle our emotions when our children have meltdowns. That often gives them power over us.

★ I’m gonna say one kinda harsh but true thing, give you a parenting principle that kept us sane, and then list a bunch of practical tips to help you hold on to your sanity.

The Kinda Harsh Thing

Your kids aren’t driving you crazy, you are. Don’t take offense. Someone had to tell me that same thing and it was a game changer for my wife and I. At one point we had 4 kids 5 and under. I get it. But kids are just busy being kids with their little kids’ brains. We have to be the adults. Sometimes kids act out to get our attention or affection, but sometimes they are feeling things they aren’t equipped to process. Sometimes they are just tired. You “lose it” or are driven “crazy” only as much as you allow. Let that sink in.

Here’s a little something about your (fully developed) parent brain. When you are stressed to the max, totally about to lose it, and highly emotionally triggered, your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that does all the higher-order important brain stuff– like logic, predicting outcomes of words and actions, decision-making, impulse control, focusing your attention, processing feelings of empathy, compassion, shame, and guilt –that part of the brain gets “flooded” with the same stress hormones that put us into “fight or flight” mode. 

At this point, your nervous system has kicked in and you are no longer the “normal” you. To your body, it’s the same as being charged by a bear. You will not think, act, or speak, like the “normal” you. It’s not your best self, it’s your biology. This is the “driving me crazy” feeling that you feel. Under stress, we regress. We either shut down or lash out. (Sometimes at our kids, sadly.) You will accomplish little to no parenting good in this state and you may do harm.

Parents need to recognize when they are being “flooded” and call a “Time-Out.” This might mean asking your partner to step in. This might mean getting the kids into the car and just going home. This might mean asking your kids to go sit on their beds. It takes about 20 minutes for our brain to recover from flooding. During this time, do what soothes you and calms you down.

Now think of a 4-year-old brain. They are not even close to fully developed. They can be flooded just by saying “no” to a piece of candy in the check-out line or simply being tired. When they are flooded, they throw tantrums, melt down, and act out. They need time for the floodwaters to recede from their little brains, too. Sometimes they can’t calm themselves down or soothe themselves. You might have to take an active part in that. That doesn’t mean condoning misbehavior. You can address it later after they have calmed down. It means they are not going to learn any “lesson” while flooded.

We have to be the adult, the grown-up, the parent, the one with a fully-developed brain.

The One Parenting Principle That Helped Us Keep Our Sanity

Kids need routines, rituals, structure, and boundaries.  This makes their young lives predictable, secure, and safe but it also provides them with the freedom to be kids. Oh, and these things can also help mom and dad to stay sane. It might take a little work upfront, but it will save you from so many tantrums, meltdowns, plus lots of time in the long run. You need a morning routine and a bedtime routine for sure, minimum. Post them at your kids’ eye-level. Use pictures if they can’t read yet. A structured day is a less stressful day.

Practical Tips! 

(Whether these are helpful may depend on you and your kids’ ages & maturity levels.)

  • Separate the child and the behavior. Be careful how you say things.
  • Sometimes kids need to go outside and burn off energy.
  • The Art of Redirection: “Instead of jumpin’ off the deck, why don’t you see who can run around the house the fastest?” (Notice: You didn’t say, “Don’t jump off the deck!”)
  • Sometimes we had to pretend we were watching other people’s kids. Seriously.
  • Enforce Quiet Time—Even if they’ve outgrown naps. Kids can sit on their bed and read or play for 30 minutes quietly (maybe longer) while you catch a breather.
  • Include them in what you are doing—cleaning, cooking, etc. Give them a little job to do.
  • Rotate toys. We would pack up some of their toys and put them in the attic. Less clutter, and when you bring those toys back, it’s like Christmas. Rotate out some other toys.
  • Read to them. Seriously, this should be a top priority at any age.
  • Try to do something new every week or so—puppet show, art exhibition, dance-off.
  • Have one of their friends over. (Take turns with another parent.) 1 Kid + 1 Friend = 0 Kids. I don’t know how that math works, but it does.
  • Take advantage of reading days at the library or bookstores or a “Parent’s Night Out” at your church or YMCA. [When things open back up.]
  • Get up before they do and you are ahead of the game. Don’t play “catch-up” all day. Have your own morning and bedtime routines. Take care of yourself.
  • Structured playtime— “It’s 1:30! That’s Lego Time!” Unstructured playtime—“It’s 1:30! Time to play whatever you want in your room!” (Or outside, if that is a safe option.)
  • Teach kids not to tattle-tale on each other and learn to work out their own differences. (Tattle-tales got in trouble at our house unless there was blood involved.)
  • Have some “special things” they don’t always have access to. Then when you break it out, it is an INCENTIVE & EVENT. “Play-Doh! Just after we clean up lunch!
  • Break bigger tasks down into smaller tasks—“Clean your room” = “Put the books back on the bookshelf, then report back!” “Okay, now put your stuffed animals up.” And so on.
  • We learned that each of our kids had what we called “Pressure Points.” Learn them. One child hated standing in the corner for “Time-Out.” Another kid loved it, but hated being sent to his room. Yet another child loved being sent to their room, but hated chores. They are all unique individuals. What gets one’s attention may not get another’s.
  • Use a hula-hoop for cleaning their room—“Clean up the part of the floor in the hula-hoop!” Then move the hoop to the next area.
  • Time chores—make them a race, game-ify things. “Let’s see if you can get ready for bed before the timer goes off!” See if they can top their best time.
  • Don’t just say, “Time to get out of PJs. Get dressed!” Give them choices: “You can choose between this outfit or this one.” Trust me, this solves a bunch of problems before they become problems.
  • Charts on the fridge are your friend (but only if you are consistent with it).
  • If any behavior gets a “big reaction” from you, you will see it again. And again. And again. Choose wisely what you react to…
  • Have older kids help with younger kids. (But be careful not to put adult responsibilities on them. That can breed resentment.)
  • Sometimes you just have to put a kids’ movie on and chill for 90 minutes. It’s okay.
  • If you have more than one child, try to get some one-on-one time with each of them doing what they like to do. It can be 10-15 minutes twice a day.
  • SNACK TIME!” Diffuses many chaotic situations. Ah, the power of some fruit, cheese and crackers!
  • Do some exercises with your kids. It lets you blow off some steam and gets them moving and sets a good example. Plus, it’s just fun.
  • Try to see situations through their eyes. Cultivate empathy.
  • Know your triggers. Be prepared for them and prepare your children for them.“We are going grocery shopping. Please do not ask for any candy. The answer is already ‘no’ so remember not to ask.
  • Love your child unconditionally. Let them know that you like and enjoy them too.

What is that saying about parenting? “The days are long, but the years fly by.” It’s so true. My kids are basically grown up now. Somewhere, deep down inside of me, I miss the insanity.

Trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. And when it comes to COVID-19 and quarantine, most of us have experienced some sort of trauma around the situation. Actually acknowledging that is part of our healing process as people seek to get on with their lives.

As we all mentally prepare for life after quarantine, it will be helpful to consider what we have been through. It will also help us if we are intentional about creating a path forward. Many have said they don’t want to go back to the way things were.

Consider these things as you prepare for life after quarantine.

When we entered into quarantine, quite a few adults and children were exhausted from the chaotic pace we kept. Now, it is totally possible that you are dealing with exhaustion because of the intensity of what you’ve been through. Being mentally and physically tired can cause us to not think clearly. It can also cause us to make irrational decisions that we normally wouldn’t make and behave in ways that are unlike our typical selves.

Perhaps the first order of business is to take a few minutes and assess how you are feeling. Many of us, out of necessity, have had to keep our guard up throughout these last 40-plus days. Unfortunately, that may have kept us from actually ever acknowledging how we were really doing. As we prepare to come out on the other side of quarantine, now is a good time to consider that.

What are you physically and emotionally ready to jump back into? Although many say they would never have stopped all their family activities, the break has been nice for some. As things ramp back up, do you have the bandwidth or even the desire to go back to that level of busyness? Or do you want to use this as an opportunity to eliminate some things from the schedule? This could be a great exercise for the whole family.

What if we’re not feeling okay?

Some of us might feel like we are not okay—whether due to job loss, money tension, intense anxiety about getting COVID-19 or dealing with family members. There are many who may need the help of a third party to help us process everything, acknowledge emotions around the experience and create a game plan for being able to move forward. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t know a good counselor, you probably have friends who do. Keep in mind that selecting a counselor is a lot like choosing a doctor. Having good chemistry with your counselor can help you accomplish the work you need to do to feel better.

Don’t underestimate the importance of good self-care as you move into life after quarantine. I know we’ve all been hearing it throughout the time we have been sequestered. However, it really does make a difference in our ability to think straight, make healthy decisions, problem solve and interact with difficult people. Exercise, get good rest, eat well and be intentional about having conversations with people who make your heart happy.

Keep in mind that while your children may not have been under the same types of stress that you have, they have still experienced something traumatic. As you develop your plan for re-entry, talk with them about what you have in mind. Seeking their input will help ease anxiety and give them a level of comfort about adjusting to a new routine.

And, let’s just not forget the power of unspoken expectations. You may have ideas about how things will go for you and your family when it comes to re-entry. For example, you may say you are for sure not going to be involved in so many activities. You might even say you are going to take it very slow when it comes to putting yourselves back out there. However, if everybody is not clear about your expectations and what moving forward looks like, it could lead to some unnecessary drama… and can we all agree that we’ve had enough of that?

Before we wrap up, just want to put this out there: It is possible and probable that you will have friends or family members who don’t agree with your plan. They may think you’re not being cautious enough or you are being too cautious. In the words of a 4-year-old to her father as she was trying to buckle herself in her carseat: “You worry about yourself!” There is no one right way to navigate through life after quarantine. Figure out what works for your family and encourage others to worry about themselves. Respect and kindness toward everybody, even those we don’t agree with, goes a long way. 

So, it is important to make a plan for life after quarantine, but it may be best to hold the plan loosely because we have no idea what lies ahead. Being willing to adapt and adjust over time will probably serve all of us well as we move forward. 

If one of the top issues couples fight about is money, then a worldwide pandemic where uncertainty fills the air is certain to magnify financial disagreements. It’s to be expected.

Stimulus checks

Job uncertainty

Job layoffs and unemployment

Food and grocery shortages

Kids at home 24/7

Whether you were in a financial rhythm or not, the changes or potential changes can cause significant conflict. And it’s not because there’s too much or not enough money. It’s because you both have an opinion on what should or shouldn’t be done with the money. And there’s a good chance that you’re both certain that you’re right. 

There’s some frivolous things that people can spend money on that are not helpful for the current situation. However, that’s not what I’m trying to address. The question is: How can we come together and make financial decisions for our family in the midst of the changes brought on by COVID-19?

Have Priorities Changed?

There’s an old saying, “If you want to know what’s important to someone, look at their bank statement.” It may be time for a discussion between the two of you regarding what is most important during this time of change and uncertainty. Prior to this quarantine, education, being debt-free, creating memorable experiences and family togetherness were tops on our list. We often tried to take advantage of several educational opportunities, feverishly paid down debts and would go all out to celebrate birthdays and holidays to create memorable experiences.

That’s changed—at least temporarily. Financial security, home improvement and family togetherness are top priorities now. We’re saving as much as possible and working on repairs as if we’re preparing to sell our home. 

Family togetherness is in both lists, but it’s interesting how they look different when you are trying to save money instead of focusing on creating memorable experiences. 

Couples that can come to an agreement on the current priorities take a huge step into making financial decisions together. Before deciding what to do with money, first agree with what’s important to the family.

As a Team, Assess Where You Are. 

Basic questions to answer: 

  • Do we have enough money for all of our current and necessary expenses? 
  • Do we need to cut spending? 
  • Is it possible to increase our income? 

The ability to answer these questions together helps couples lay a framework for working together. Notice, we haven’t made any financial decisions or judgments yet about what those changes should be. We’ve simply identified our priorities and our current situation.

We’re Not Making Enough Money. What Needs to Change?

First, look at each other and agree that you’re going to make it through this together. There may not be enough money because of a pay cut, a layoff, increased medical expenses or you’re subjected to a natural disaster. This may be the first time that one or both of you has ever been in this situation. Fear, panic and anxiety can begin to grab hold. Being in a marriage means being on the same TEAM. Not having to face new challenges alone. Hugs, Kisses, and Affirmation are priceless when the money is tight. Turn toward one another, not away from one another.

Looking at your bank statement and financial decisions for the last month or two is really helpful in knowing where the money went—especially when trying to eliminate spending on things that aren’t priorities. Discussing payment options and deferments is something that many companies are willing to do during this time of quarantine. Check out this great blog my colleague wrote about getting help when the money isn’t there.

The key is to look at all options with an open mind and be creative. It’s easy to be attached to certain practices. We can get trapped in the mentality that if we don’t do this thing we do every year, then we’ll ruin little Johnny’s life. Is that really true?

Phrases to Avoid When Working Together to Cut Spending

  • We can’t cut that. This statement stifles creativity. You may ultimately land on some things that can’t be cut, but before using this phrase, you must exhaust all options.
  • That’ll make them so mad. Changes often evoke emotional responses that we must learn to deal with.
  • There’s nowhere to cut. This statement also stifles creativity. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. 

Have an Open Mind. Be Creative. Work Together. Be Willing to Compromise. 

Your preferences can’t always be more important than your partner’s preferences. If you’re constantly fighting about what to cut, you may choose to focus on increasing your income. You also may develop a system to alternate who chooses what to cut. This is probably going to be painful for all involved. But that’s OK, you’re doing it together.

Is Increasing Income an Option?

You may be surprised at all the industries that are hiring during this season: cleaning services, delivery services (both food and packages), grocery stores, and landscaping, just to name a few. You may be good at tutoring or making specialty items of value. This may be the time to market your services. They may not fully replace your income. However, it may be better than nothing. 

Agreeing on the Assistance You Receive

Whether it’s the stimulus check, unemployment or any other infusion of cash, it’s important that the two of you agree about it before you spend it. You may likely have two different opinions on what to do with the money. Do we catch up on bills? Save it? Fix the car? Resubscribe to Netflix? 

Don’t feel like you have to make the decision the moment you get the money. Just be sure to work together. My wife and I have made an agreement that any infusion of cash cannot be spent until we come to an agreement together. Look at your necessities and priorities and work from there. 

Work Together—Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.

This can be an anxious time. We can be susceptible to scams, quick fix payday loans, predatory loan sharks, and addictions. Committing to connect with one another to talk about money, to talk about life and to talk about your emotions can heighten your emotional security and peace when you’re not sure if you can pay the light bill this month. 

However, with the right attitude toward one another and a commitment to working together as a team, the two of you can navigate through anything and be stronger for it.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Let me set the scene for you. I’m working from home because of COVID-19 and sitting in quarantine at my computer trying to crank out a report and meet a deadline in an hour. 

The following sequence of events happens:

  • My 9-year-old son goes running down the hall and slides on the floor into the door as if he is sliding into 2nd base. (I guess he misses baseball.)
  • I calmly stand up and say, “Are you crazy? Don’t do that anymore.” (50– Nice and cool.)
  • Next, my 11-year-old son breaks a glass bowl in the kitchen.
  • I, truly irritated, go to the kitchen to investigate and help clean up the mess. (100– Hot, but bearable.)
  • Then my 2-year-old is yelling at my 4-year-old, “Let me have it. It’s mine. Let me have it!” as tears are flowing down his face. Of course, he gets louder and louder each time.
  • I put my referee suit on and very frustratingly resolve the issue. (150– Feels like I’m in the desert with no water.)
  • And then my 13-year-old daughter innocently enough walks in and asks me to set up Zoom on the iPad so she can get on a video with her friends.
  • And now, I’m ready to lose it. My very first thought, (picture blood vessels bursting out my forehead, “Leave me the -beep- alone!(212– Water’s boiling point.)

I’ve gone from calm, to irritated, to frustrated, to downright angry because no one will let me get my work done. Don’t they know the pressures that we are under right now?! Don’t they know that if I don’t get these reports completed, I could be the next one to be laid off or have his salary reduced?!

There are 2 distinct doors to choose at this moment: 

  • Behind Door #1: Blow up and let my 13-year-old and all the other kids have it. Check out the blog, What’s at Stake to learn more about what else is potentially behind door #1.
  • Behind Door #2: Take a timeout.

The timeout is an extremely useful tool that has helped me with my own children. It is so important because when I reached the boiling point, my body had literally undergone a chemical transformation as adrenaline and cortisol was now rushing to my defense. I was not capable of thinking rationally because my brain was out of balance at that moment.

The timeout becomes vital to provide an opportunity to literally calm your nerves. It can be made to be real dramatic which helps to get the focus onto the issue and off the person. 

Some creative ways to take a timeout and get everyone to take a timeout.

  1. Throw a flag. (Stole this one from the NFL) When a team commits a foul. One referee throws a flag. Then all the referees huddle to discuss the foul and make sure there’s agreement on the consequences (e.g. 15 yard penalty). Play doesn’t resume until the foul was acknowledged by the referee and the consequence was administered. And then it’s on to the next play. (The referees are always calm, direct and clear when they discuss the foul that was committed and the penalty.)  If your kids have committed a foul that’s about to cause you to blow up, have a makeshift flag (i.e. bandana, handkerchief, napkin, old rag) and throw it to the spot of the foul. And if your spouse is available, discuss the foul with them. Sometimes the referee picks up the flag and says that no foul was committed. Sometimes your kids didn’t do anything wrong, the stress of life just got to you. Don’t be too proud to pick up your flag and say no foul was committed.
  2. Hit the Pause Button. (Thank Hal Runkel, marriage and family therapist and author of ScreamFree Parenting for this one.) When we pause, everything freezes. Time stops. We don’t yet act on the next thought that comes to mind. We are giving ourselves time for the adrenaline to settle down. Hal Runkel says, “Kids don’t want cool parents. They want parents that keep their cool.” Hitting the pause button helps you to keep your cool. Make your pause button noisy. It can be a buzzer like the one that comes with board games like Taboo or a little wheezy toy. This draws attention to the fact that there is an issue that makes me want to explode and we need to deal. These are drastic times which call for drastic measures. Let your drastic measure be hitting the pause button.
  3. Set a 90-second timer. Use your phone, microwave timer, watch, or just count. Did you know that we only stay mad (chemically) for 90 seconds? According to Jill Bolte Taylor, brain researcher and author of A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, anger triggers a chemical reaction within the brain that lasts for 90 seconds. After that, we either turn our attention elsewhere or replay the story and reignite the anger.  You’re about to lose your mind at the expense of your kids. You can often sense when that 90-second count starts. Stop, take a deep breath and set a timer. 
  4. Simply call a timeout. Form a ‘T’ with your hands and say, “Timeout.” Doesn’t get more straightforward than that.

If you start to blow up or even get a few moments into your blow-up and then catch yourself and recognize the need for a timeout (this happens to me a lot), that’s ok. All isn’t lost. Take a timeout the moment you recognize you need it. Take it from my experience — Don’t start to blow up, realize that you’re blowing up, know that you should take a timeout, but since you’ve already started, choose to keep blowing up. 

You’re essentially saying that I know that I’m not thinking rationally, that my adrenaline has thrown off my thought process, and that I’m in the middle of reacting, but I’m going to stay on that path anyway. Pride or stubbornness should not get in the way of a timeout.

The best time to come up with a plan is before you need it. Have an age-appropriate conversation with your kids. Discuss the timeout, its purpose and implementation. Then use it

Not only are you protecting your children and yourself, you’re also modeling self-control and teaching them how to regulate their emotions. And in the process, you’ve put yourself in a better position to get the results you really want — A family that is considerate, loving and respectful of one another. That beats less broken dishes any day.