Being a clinical mental health therapist, I was thrilled when my kids’ school adopted the principles of the Growth Mindset for the 2019/2020 school year. It is a way to build resiliency, grit and perseverance. Our teachers at Eugene Field Elementary in Rock Island are brilliant and know this, which is why it became a part of the curriculum. Fast forward to now and we are faced with the stress of a worldwide pandemic for the first time in a hundred years. So what’s a Mama to do while surrounded by new stressors of COVID-19?
Easy….cheat off the teacher!
First, let’s take stock. What of this situation can we change? Can we snap our fingers and make COVID-19 go away? No. Can we alter the molecular nature of the virus so it’s less deadly and contagious for our fellow man? Not realistic for most of us. If we hoard enough supplies does the virus have the discernment to skip our house because we are obviously prepared? No. Can we control the choices of those in power in regards to school and business closures? No. Can we choose to move from surviving to thriving in the face of crisis? YES!
So let’s think about what the amazing teachers in our world would tell our kiddos if they had the gift of five minutes with them (which, they are yearning for in ways you cannot know!) What does the Growth Mindset say about how we get through COVID-19 and become more resilient adults in the process? I mean, can you imagine a more powerful life lesson played out in front of our littles?
Growth Mindset Lesson #1: Staying Stuck Is NOT actually ok. At some point you have to MOVE!
A fixed mindset says “this is who I am and it won’t change and that’s ok.” I’ve seen a lot of these sorts of affirmations over the last two weeks and while it sounds good, it’s clinically terrible advice in the long term. A (good, challenging) teacher would tell our kids that the Growth Mindset says, “No! You are always growing and always learning and you can always improve. Change is possible. I know you’re frustrated, but that’s ok. It’s ok if change is hard or takes some time, but don’t give up!”
Likewise, a (good, honest) therapist will tell you “No! This is hard and it’s stressful, but you can learn from this and you can use solid coping skills to conquer your feelings. Your feelings are not in charge. You are in charge! Acknowledge your feelings, but don’t stay there! Focus on moving past the feeling to deep, character growth! When you have a negative thought, confront it and change it to something rational and true and then rehearse it until you believe it! You can change your brain!”
Growth Mindset Lesson #2: The Facebook Memes are wrong–you CAN move past yucky feelings during COVID-19. You CAN do new, hard things!
A fixed mindset says “I don’t know how to do this and so I can’t do it” A good teacher would teach our kids that Growth Mindset says, “You just don’t know how to do this YET. But you will learn if you keep trying. It’s ok that you’re at the beginning of this, it’s new. Just keep working at it.”
In the same way, a good therapist will tell you “No one in a hundred years has dealt with this when it comes to health, parenting, work and more. You aren’t supposed to know immediately how to do this. But you are supposed to seek and learn and do the next right thing.
It’s normal that homeschooling and working from home and disinfecting groceries all feel weird. But in that weirdness, commit to staying hopeful, curious, open-minded and fight for your success. Don’t sit down!
Keep learning how to handle this in the healthiest way possible. You’ll know more in two weeks than you know today and that is ok–that is what growth is. Focus on the long game! We’ll reach the end of COVID-19, and you’ll know even more.”
Growth Mindset Lesson #3: Hard fought battles make us FIERCE warriors. No one gets those battle scars the easy way.
A fixed mindset says “If it isn’t easy or perfect right away, then it’s hopeless. Nothing good can come of it.” A good teacher would tell our kids, “Perfection is a fairy tale! Lots of good comes from things that aren’t perfect right away. Life is meant to be a series of mistakes–that’s why pencils have erasers! It’s ok when things are hard. If everything was easy all the time, how would we grow?”
Similarly, a good therapist will tell you “If you only had strength when things were easy, then you never really had strength. And the truth is, you DO have strength, friend…..you just forget sometimes how gritty you are. The darkness is hard and we can acknowledge that it is, but don’t stay down and don’t curse the lesson. Lots of good comes from struggle. Remember labor and childbirth? Don’t make much of the battle–make much of the conquering, in however many steps it takes for you to get there! ”
I don’t mean to make light of our current situation, because it is scary. And very serious. We are all handling it differently and at different paces. But remember that we aren’t the first generation of parents to live through a pandemic and we won’t be the last. The question is, will we lovingly encourage each other to thrive or will we crumble and wilt? Will our children siphon our strength and learn from our resiliency? Or will they inherit the idea that when the going gets tough, lay down and surrender because it’s all hopeless? No. We are built of tougher stuff than that.
Generations of mothers before us have parented during pandemics and we stand on their shoulders.
They did it and we can do it, we just don’t need to do it perfectly. Adjust your expectations. We don’t need to do all the things at all times, we just need to do the essential things. And we need to do it in an emotionally healthy way so that when this is all done, we have steel in our backbone and not putty. So do what you need to do to cope effectively during this time. That may be tele-therapy with your clinician, video chatting with a good friend, giving yourself a whole lot of grace, binge watching Tiger King on Netflix, serving someone who is in need (safely, of course) or enjoying a piece of Whitey’s ice cream pie.
But do something. Don’t. Stay. Stuck. Remember, during any difficult thing, perfection is not the goal–progress is. Follow the CDC guidelines about COVID-19 with wisdom, take deep breaths, be present, go easy on yourself, put down the things that are too heavy and expect to make mistakes along the way.
Like our own grade school teachers would softly tell us….it’s why pencils have erasers, dear child.
For resources during COVID-19, check out our Resource Guide
For an article on realistic expectations while suddenly homeschooling/E-learning, read this post.
Learn more about the difference between a Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset.
In need of tele-therapy during this stressful time? See Becky (Rebekah) Clark at South Park Psychology and find contact information for the practice.