Summer Rhythms & Uncertainty
By: James Freeman, Casa Pacifica Director of Training
It’s mid-summer and even kids in extended school year are wrapping up their online classes. It’s been a different summer than any of us had planned or expected. Not since the world wars or the flu pandemic in 1917 has life been so unexpectedly and deeply disrupted around the world.
In each of our homes, family life takes on its own rhythms and routines. The coming and going to school and work. The gathering and conversations in the kitchen and at the meal table. Bedtimes and morning routines. Whether they seem fluid or rough, these rhythms form and shape the experiences of our daily lives.
Even the anchoring events we look forward to in summer have been lost – summertime movie releases, ballgames, youth sport leagues, religious gatherings, and even just hanging out at the mall or neighborhood park.
We’re also dealing with a level of uncertainty for the future. What will school look like in the fall? Will my job continue? Can we gather with extended family and friends? How long will all of this last? As we look around now at what is happening, it doesn’t seem like this will go away very soon. And at best our return to life as we knew it will be a slow on.
Dealing with this uncertainty is a skill that’s being demanded of us all. And beyond just ‘coping’ we want to aim at thriving in the midst of this challenge. There are a few things that can help us toward that goal.
First, notice the impact of our unknown future on yourself. We all have physical and emotional responses to this. For me it brings a bit of physical shortness of breath when I feel the overwhelmed. Maybe it’s different for you – distractedness, headaches, feelings of fear, tiredness, or being quick to anger. Whatever your personal response is in your body and mind, noticing it is the first step in moving forward.
Second, breathe and take your next step in a positive direction. The problem with uncertainty in these times is that we want to solve the problem, we want to see resolution and find answers. But focusing on what we can control in the immediate present is one way to stay grounded. It takes just seconds to close your eyes and take a deep breath. When we focus on our next step or decision rather than the end goal it’s sometimes easier to take action.
Third, create some routines and rhythms in your daily life that will help you and those in your home feel grounded and steady. There’s a lot of things we can do to take care of ourselves and naturally build rhythms into our lives:
- Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea (and sit down to enjoy it) before rushing off to the next demand of the day
- Plan a family movie night at home for the weekend and talk about it with your kids during the week
- Make sure chores around the house are delegated well so that no one is overwhelmed with more than their share
- Take walks around the neighborhood – together or alone as needed
- Enjoy the perks of TV screens and media but keep healthy boundaries around their use
- Plan a time of day to read a book together taking turns reading aloud
- Join in a sports event from the living room with decorations and foods you might enjoy if you were at the stadium
- Pay attention to sleep routines and make sure everyone in the family is getting enough
We can also give special attention to the way we balance structure and freedom for our kids. Personal agency – a child’s ability to act independently and make their own choices – is an important area of development especially for pre-teens and teenagers. What that looks like varies within the culture and makeup of every family. A guiding principle is to (1) provide enough structure to maintain safety and communicate love and caring and (2) provide choices whenever possible to nurture growth – including learning from both successes and mistakes.
One thing to remember is that we are all in this together. All of our efforts to stay safe (hand hygiene, physical distancing, staying home, wearing masks) contribute to keeping our community as healthy and safe as possible. As uncertain as the broader future is, we know that we are in this together.