We are born empaths, then conditioned to suppress this instinct in stages in life. Children, bless them, feel the stress of their parents. They have alot to teach us right now. Parents, too, have a golden opportunity to teach what those kids will never learn in school. If you are reading this blog, you might BE a parent but also you might HAVE parents that need your care at this time.
Your children mirror you. They will cope to the extent that they see and feel you coping. At a certain stage in Life, your parents may also regress to this empathic state (which is lovely), however often thi occurs in tandem with loss of life-long structure. You may feel caught in the middle of the 2 generations. This is the ideal time to bridge your children with their grandparents.
Parents may be far away and you are obligated to check-in on them much more frequently. Or they may be moving in with you, or visa-versa. The key is to notice just how much the generations have in common. They can take care of each other making lasting memories that will make this time feel like a blessing.
When you get that feeling of anxiety coming on, you must put on your proverbial oxygen mask first so that you can then tend to your family’s oxygen needs. Likewise covid-19 masks.
It is also a good time to introduce something ‘new’ – a new routine, as a proactive way to show you, as a family, are doing something about this crisis. Kids are home from school. Elder family members may have moved in with you temporarily or permanently due to the challenges of this time. You may be out of work. Creating new routines is crucial when the old routine has vanished. Here are some suggestions:
Agnihotra! A time to gather the family twice a day for a little focus time. If it isn’t already a part of your practice, it is easy to set yourself up. Get your initiation lesson with me alone or with family members. Once you have the proficiency to do it, share it with the whole family as a time to come together once or twice a day. Tending to the fire itself is a 10-15 minute commitment. But i strongly recommend doing Pranayama for 2-10 minutes and Meditation for 5-40 minutes, then closing with a Mantra or simply bow (pranam, a sign of respect) before leaving the circle.
Those of us without strong religious communities or rituals will find that this small eco-centered ritual fills the gap and provides a spiritual space free from dogma. This is a Vedic ritual from Sanantan Dharm (the Universal Laws of Nature) and this is backed by Science today. You can layer any type of spiritual or religious practice on top of it, as many Agnihotris use a socially conscious mission called the 5 Fold Path. I can teach you about this as a path to conscious living, but this even is not a requirement to just practice the Agnihotra for its remedial benefits.
You are in charge of the matches and keeping the kit, etc out of reach of small children. And keeping them seated at a 6 ft distance.
Fire is a natural gazing tool. Our eyes are drawn into it. We can feel calm instantly gazing at a fire. Along with the healing smoke, the brain chemistries of all nearby are getting a dose of relaxation.
You can start with ‘just the fire’ and the circle time of sitting together will draw in other healthy things as you feel more comfortable. By doing this as a family, you are getting the time to do healthy things for yourself at the same time as teaching your children by example. If you are looking for healthy family activities to do, this is infinitely expandable and starts with just one small simple Mantra with Fire. I offer many more e-tutorials and e-courses HERE, and some free and paid examples of how to visit the SwAr Ashram online portal at the bottom of this blog-post.
The very first ‘thing’ to bring to your first family Fire is to cultivate an attitude of Gratitude. Agnihotra itself is a thank you to the Sun. You can start with that. Ask everyone what they are grateful for.
With or without Agnihotra, Encourage Gratitude Journaling with the older kids and keep a journal yourself with and for your younger ones who do not read or write yet. Having this to look back on, and to pull out if they are feeling sad at times, is a powerful medicine. For the elder generation, memoirs are becoming an international hobby for a good reason, its a powerful healer of the past and it puts your days to good use, often evoking interesting dreams about the past which on some subconscious level, is where the healing is taking place.
Introduce them to Pranayama. If it isn’t already a part of your practice, learn it here first. These techniques will help calm nerves but also boost the auto-immune system. Immediately after Agnihotra is the perfect time to do these breathing exercises because the most nutritious smoke is in the air around you.
Set a time to Meditate as a family, according to the ages and abilities of your children. Likewise, if it isn’t part of your own practice, now is the perfect time. Agnihotra sets your brain chemistry to Theta state, an auto-meditate mode. This may be especially effective for those who do not have or wish to have a religious practice.
If your family already has a Faith practice, now is the time to join in prayer to preface meditation, reading scriptures or other inspirational material is wonderful at this time. If you already have a family scriptural study from any religion at all, consider shifting the time to Sandhya time with Agnihotra. The atmosphere created at that time is meant to be for meditation and reflection times like this. I invite you to join mine. I share Yoga Philosophy from SwAr Library in an e-Satsang weekly and livestream my sandhya time Agnihotra twice daily.
After your morning Agnihotra, if you have the extra time, do some Yoga together. More auto-immune support as well as general stress relief, release of endorphins to just ‘feel good’.
Supply healthy snacks & meals. Supplements may include extra Vitamin C, —- here i strongly recommend making Ash tabs with jaggery or simply adding it to water, if you are doing the routine above you will need little or nothing else.
Be kind to yourself at night. Set up a routine to relax and fall asleep at proper times, this is a major way to keep your auto-immunity healthy.
Once you are rested and calm, you can look around your community and see if there is anything you can do as a family to help others without putting yourselves at risk. This is especially needed with teens who need more social activity than they are getting these days. For everyone, it increases the consciousness of just how fortunate you are to have a roof over your head, a meal, the internet. Simple things.
In your own leadership role, you are likely going to feel stress first. Nip that in the bud before showing it to the family. Once they start mirroring your stress, then you have a full-blown crisis. It is always easier to take care of yourself first, yet few parents, especially women, remember this. Have a pre-planned stress-remedy list ready. Add to it anything you like, and try out my Techniques HERE: Use this moment to get some ‘me’ time. Taking a bath or shower, running water cleanses the soul. Take a walk, employ that binary system to process stress.
The sister-step to Gratitude is Forgiveness. Just these 2 things alone are all the tools you need in your toolbox IF you put them to work for yourself and the people you love. Temper tantrums, tears, missing their school or friends, angry outbursts and demands that can not be filled are all probably happening in your home. Ways to get past these quickly are needed. Forgive fast. Verbalize that.
More than ever, stay in touch with your support system, extended family and friends by phone or internet. Facetime on Skype, Whatsapp or any way you have available on a very regular and committed basis. For calls that require problem solving which you want out of the kids ears, make sure you have a private place to do this.
Budget your time on social media. While it is important to stay on top of the latest news, that can take a few minutes a day. Preferably AFTER the solid morning routine and you are in a good place OR you can check all the bad news just BEFORE the evening Agnihotra then meditate on solutions and surrender with the fire. Fitting your bad news into your routine puts you more in control of it and diminishes your feeling of helplessness.
There is a collective loss happening here. In that, we can SHARE the loss and bring alot of healing to that. Replacing that time with friends with phone or internet time is not always enough. Chances are, all members of the family were busy before with friends and work outside the home. Now is the time to replace that with re-building what was lost before the pandemic. Most of us already had lost a significant amount of time with family, guess what? now you have it. Acknowlege your children’s feelings of loss but quickly give them something to replace it. Misery loves company, and if they know that you feel the same, then there you go – Now you are bonding.
Routine, Routine. Routine. At a time that feels like ‘Groundhog Day’ (the movie). A variable daily plan is a valuable tool. At first you may need to go over the day at breakfast together as a family, but soon, everyone will get caught up in the new routines. There is alot of comfort in routine. But keep it interesting enough to not get boring. Days of the week are a good guide, keeping an eye out for special calendar days to get prepared for and celebrate…. Knowing what to expect is the next step in a time of chaos is powerful.
Learn new tricks. Most Schools have arranged for distance learning by a combination of computer and books / printed or printout materials to be done at home. Most children will need guidance with this. Parents may find this stressful at first. Imagine how the child feels? Search for even MORE to do online to support their play and fun as well as learning. Not just video games but off the screen. Tutorials, printouts, how-to’s can be found on the computer but are all good to get their eyes off the computer. Magic tricks you can do with kids, home-made science projects, recipes for kids, songs and even learning a new language all can be brought offline into life.
Learn & Play as a Unit. Now is the perfect time to learn new skills. How about a new language? Planning the next family vacation for when the coast is clear, they will have the local langauge already mastered. Working towards a future goal as a family. If you will not be travelling in the forseeable year or 2, plant a garden, grow food, this is a vast teaching in itself. If you dont have land, even a few small pots will do. Learn to play an instrument or a whole family band!
When and if you can get outdoors, think about the pastimes children had before the internet. Try building skills in game playing offline, backyard games, build something, circle games indoors, board games, puzzles, kareoke, crafts, music, dance, charades, creative writing, home-theatre, etc. We can also add to this blogging, vlogging a video diary especially of learning new skills, planting or building something. This is an historical time in history and family events – get it recorded!
Talk to your kids. Just check in every day. At the close of Agnihotra meditation is a good time for this. Train them to sit with their meditation first. This empowers them and they will surprise you that they can work things out alot on their own and share it with you afterwards. Most of all just ASK, how are you doing/ feeling? Get them to verbalize it. This is the beginning of releasing it.
Many of their new concerns and worries will be around the idea that they or a loved one will get sick or die. Let them express that. Ask them what they heard and where they got that information. Alot of scare-stories get passed through their friends. See to it that they get correctly informed about who is at risk and what is and isn’t risky – and how to reduce risk. They are probably in a much less risk situation than they believe. Assure them that they are safe.
Provide re-assurances. If they feel ill, they may even be afraid to tell you. Let them know that not every illness is life threatening. Not even Covid-19. Early attention to any illness is best.
Empower them with how to get well rather than only telling them with how to avoid this or that. Congratulate them that they are helping themselves stay well, the whole family and the entire community with their newly learned sanitizing & distancing skills. Praise them for learning this and for doing it..
Think Globally, Act Locally. Share some positive outcomes of social distancing. All the ways people are helping each other and that you may join in doing as a family. The global atmospheric health is improving. The water and air already show signs, soil will certainly improve though takes longer. Encourage your children to talk with their peers about these positive changes in the world. Help spread a pandemic of positivity and hope among their circles so that they stop focusing on the fears that are so commonly fed to them.
When and if you can get outdoors,
Children and adults can do volunteer work which is not only good for others, but a learning experience about people in need. Meals on Wheels, food banks and other grass roots charities are safely putting their work into high gear and need help. Hospitals are a prime place to focus volunteer efforts. Small children can draw or write thank-you notes to hospital workers or bake them some cookies. Even more close to home, the essential workers who they may see more often such as delivery personnel.
LAUGH alot. Keeping a sense of humor – even dark humor with teens – is a great stress reliever and boosts the immune system. Watch a comedy movie – dig into the classics on Netflix or your favorite TV show. Look for humor everywhere. Share these anecdotes with the children. Look for the funny songs about Covid-19 popping up on the internet. Sing along!
Look to the future – but not too much. Enjoy today. Look to the past. Remind them that this planet has seen alot and survived. Look for uplifting stories about people all over the world working together to help and support each other. This may inspire a place you and your family can fit into this global puzzle. Humankind is resilient as a whole.
As this goes on and on, re-assess your priorities. Spending more time with family is one thing that may have been forced upon us but isn’t it a blessing in disguise? With teens, get them involved in these global awarenesses that are bring speedy changes to reshape the future in more sustainable ways. Never underestimate the life-long skills and power of getting them into growing their own veggie garden and cooking with it!
Cherish these moments. Behind it all, is a gift.
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