Today we’re excited to bring you some timely and practical parenting advice from a beloved figure in the Austin educational community, Sensei Jonathan Hewitt. As the founder of Life Ki-do Martial Arts, Parenting & Life Education, Sensei Jonathan has worked with countless children, teens, and adults to cultivate inner peace, confidence, and happiness. In this guest post, he explains an exceptionally effective technique for navigating these difficult times as parents, educators, and caregivers.
“Pandemic Parenting” is not a term any of us ever expected to hear, let alone experience! Yet here we are.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the relentless daily details of managing kids AND school AND work AND home while ALSO feeling the greater stress that comes along with all the unknowns of a world pandemic, you’re not alone. It’s a lot for all of us.
The thing is that there’s no way to fix or manage everything in our lives in a way that ever feels 100 percent resolved, especially now during a pandemic.
So, the #1 tool not only to help yourself but also to help everyone around you is to manage yourself first. How often have we heard “Put your oxygen mask on before helping anyone else”? If we think about it, our natural parenting instinct would always be to help our kids before ourselves. Wouldn’t we be terrible parents if we thought about ourselves first? How could we even think about giving ourselves oxygen before our kids, who are so small and so vulnerable and unable to take care of themselves? It seems so counterintuitive to fight this natural protective instinct.
However, in these moments of intense survival, data shows that parents do need to give themselves oxygen first to stabilize themselves BEFORE they can be helpful to their kids.
The biggest objection I hear from parents is “When”?! When can I find time to take care of myself? Especially in our current world, when kids are home and you are juggling a million details and schedules and emotions 24/7. It’s hard.
So, my #1 Pandemic Parenting tip is called Continuous Breathing. The reason it’s my #1 tip right now is that you practice it WHILE doing your everyday activities.
The goal of Continuous Breathing is to regulate our own nervous system. While we can’t completely control our outer world, whether that’s in our own home or in this greater world pandemic, we actually do have a way to directly impact our own nervous system, which in turn can have a big influence on our surroundings.
I first learned about this from my world-renowned martial arts teacher, Vladimir Vasiliev.
I figured that if he uses it successfully during full-on combat, it can also work for the triage we are doing in our own homes these days.
As you’ve probably experienced, when we are under stress, our breathing tends to be shallow and stuck. This puts our body and mind in survival, fight, flight, or freeze mode. Our bodies are hardwired to respond this way for moments of physical survival and emergency. But to be in this mode on a regular basis throughout the day creates havoc and chaos on our nervous system, which in turn feeds the havoc and chaos around us.
Continuous Breathing allows us to counterbalance the survival stressed-out mode by sending a powerful message to our nervous system to be calm, strong, and fluid. At Life Ki-do, we call this “being like a River.”