a special feature from Terri O’Grady Herschman*, Ph.D., LCSW
As a grandmother of 10 and mother of 4 grown adult children, I can honestly say that it has been so very upsetting to see all of my family so fatigued, stressed out, and stretched to the limits due to this environment of Covid. What we have all experienced will undoubtedly resonate for years to come; regardless of age, each one of them (adults and children alike), may remember all too well what it felt like to be isolated and living with such restrictions. What we all have experienced and witnessed will create a story that will forever be part of our future.
The different levels of stress manifested in each of my grandchildren have been so very different for many various reasons, obviously due to age. And, the effects of the pandemic have impacted each child in multiple ways. From the littlest to the oldest grandchild of 17, I can see their suffering and frustrations. Perhaps as a psychologist, I may delve a little deeper in my observations due to intuition and sensitized approach that comes with my profession. But mind you, I only point this out merely to say what we have all been through and seen for our families and friends, did not require an advanced educational degree to acknowledge what a horrific situation this all panned out to be.
While each child has experienced their own particular level of stress, the one common key emotion is fear. We all know, fear creates anxiety, and all of this is not a healthy situation. The number one complaint is loneliness – the kids miss their friends and everything that goes with that from play dates, to proms, to graduations. My oldest grandson,17, already had received early acceptance to several colleges but several months prior, he was absolutely panicked and losing sleep because his SAT’s were cancelled four times. My 12-year-old grandson, who lives and breathes for his water polo teammates, is actually grieving at the loss of these relationships and structure. My beautiful 17-year-old granddaughter bemoans not having any friends, and the impact of isolation socially. While I could rattle on how each and every one is feeling, I am certain that you can relate as to how you have felt the shift in your mood, routine, and relationships.
Having training and practicing not only as a psychologist, but as a ‘mindful meditator,’ I have incorporated teaching my grandchildren (those of grammar and high school age) how to gain a better understanding of the personal stress, by first identifying where this exists in their body, and then to take a time out, if you will, and ‘hold – it’. This exercise enables children to locate where their feelings are emanating from, and as a result, acknowledge where the feeling is rooted.
When children have this opportunity to locate their feelings, they are better equipped to deal with a feeling or troubling emotion. The most important, and by far the hardest lesson, is for them to understand that nothing is permanent, and everything changes. As an example, you might show them pictures of themselves as they grew up and changed – they didn’t stay 6 years old forever. This is teaching them the concept of impermanence.
With permission from my grandchildren’s parents, I have held mini-classes in mindful meditation when I visit. First, I create the mood by establishing a quiet space, and have them share out loud what they are thinking about, while they lie down and get comfortable. At this juncture, I guide them through a self-scan to ask them to focus on their body parts and begin to relax. In yoga this is called Shavasana. Then I ask them to take three deep breaths – in through the nose and out through the mouth and then to take notice of what thoughts are now occupying their mind. They notice immediately that their minds and thinking are taking them into the present of here and now, without worrying and thinking about other thoughts. In essence, I bring the children into their own peaceful and mindful moment.
For a reference point on mindfulness and meditations, you can find an abundance of books and videos for children; there are many resources out there and easily available. Also, YouTube has many wonderful teachers and tutorials leading guided meditations.
Yes, there is a light at the end of the tunnel This situation will not be permanent, but there will be other situations – some worse, some not as horrific. Grandparents, take a moment and really look at your grandchildren – understand what they have experienced, what they are going through or what anxiety they may be carrying as baggage. Most of all, talk to their parents – your observations are important, because they are ever changing and growing and evolving human beings we need to protect and nuture. Remind the children and grandchildren they are NOT alone. It’s not just your family and immediate community in turmoil, but the whole world, and soon we will find that the world will indeed heal itself.
*What We See with Our Own Eyes, is an exclusive feature from Terri O’Grady Herschman, Ph.D. As a psychologist, Terri was in private practice for over 25 years and was on the consultation board of the Dr. Phil show. She is a long-time meditator having been trained by teachers such as Pema Chodron, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield, Rick Hanson, Sharon Salzberg and many other master teachers. The benefits of meditation for Terri have helped to keep her personal priorities of loving kindness in perspective. Now retired in Southern California, Terri enjoys the blessings of her 4 adult children, 10 wonderful grandchildren, and the loving relationship of her husband as well. Please feel free to contact Terri: firstname.lastname@example.org.