Mantras help us remember and reinforce truths, especially in times of stress. A good mantra never promises something it can’t keep. It encourages us to be more hopeful, flexible, or compassionate, but it doesn’t guarantee that a positive change or an outside event will occur. This allows our brain to absorb the mantra without going . . . “well but what if . . ?”
The following mantras are for my fellow parents out there who were already navigating the uncertain terrain of parenting and now are trying to hold it all together as during a pandemic. I encourage you to read through these and write down the ones you need to hear the most right now.
I can make the best choices with the information I have to keep my family safe
I can be in reasonable control of what I can be in control of
My protective instincts as a parent have evolved and adjusted to the situation
This pandemic, just like early parenthood, is just one season of my life
I can create structure for myself/my family AND honor my/my family’s need for flexibility
My self-care is essential to the wellbeing of my family
I can find moments of joy during this pandemic AND create moments to feel my difficult feelings
I can find options for stepping away from factors that make me feel trapped in parenthood right now
Under the circumstances, I am giving my family what they need during this pandemic
My best is good enough for my family, even when it feels like my best is falling short
I can be grateful for what we have AND feel distressed over what has been lost
I can be a good parent AND be overwhelmed sometimes
My family is resilient and our attachment to one another is resilient
Now that you have a list, be creative about how you want to display these mantras. You could make post-it’s and stick them in places that you know you will see each morning or evening. You could record yourself saying the mantras and listen to it while doing some deep breathing or listening to relaxing music.
You might sense there are certain phrases missing from your list. For most parents right now, our distress falls into categories such as helplessness/loss of control, responsibility/guilt, and inadequacy/failure. Now think about which of these categories are being triggered the most for you. What statements would give you comfort if you heard them from a supportive friend after you admitted to struggling emotionally? This can be the framework for finding the mantras that fit best for you.
Reciting mantras can be a ritual affirming that we are working to believe important truths about worth/power/competence, even though those beliefs often feel untrue. Mantras aren’t a solution to the stressors we are currently facing, but they can help us hold more flexible expectations of ourselves as parents during such unprecedented times.