My Family Depends on Me Emotionally:10 Ways I Can Stay Strong for Them

I have always accepted my role as the emotional head of household. I am the steward of the secrets, the shoulder to lean on and the back upon which the weight of my family rested.

With three children, it was unlikely that more than one would need true counsel at any given time. The needs ebbed and flowed and I stood steady at the shoreline and kept everyone afloat.

I’ve always kept everyone afloat. (Maureen Stiles)

Responding to everyone’s needs was easy until now

This was all very manageable until the outbreak. Suddenly, each family member needed attention simultaneously with life-altering issues. No one was in immediate danger, of course, but big topics like jobs, school and finances needed to be addressed.

And in that moment, the burden of being caretaker was a tsunami barreling toward me; seemingly with no retreat.

I stared at the murky horizon and had no answers. We were all bobbing along in the same uncertain seas without sure footing. I found myself uncharacteristically impatient and tense and no matter how much I paddled, I was still caught in the undertow.

After a week or so in a house full of change, uncertainty and extra bodies, I knew I had to throw myself a life preserver before I could extend one to anyone else.

10 ways I found my footing during these uncertain times

A few simple steps changed my perspective and gave me the anchor I needed:

  1. Find your own space. I got up early before anyone in the house was awake. I sacrificed a little sleep to gain clarity. I puttered around, drank my coffee and enjoyed the quiet with no one making demands on me. I carved out a sacred time and space that was just mine.
  2. Empower your children. I found that it was harder to support them in the big issues when I was annoyed with them for the small stuff. No matter the ages of your kids, they are looking for structure of some kind. This is crucial for kids returning home, they have forgotten their role in the household. Even a modicum of structure is a gift to all.
  3. Go outside. Fortunately, mother nature is illness agnostic and is chugging right along. It was refreshing to see something thriving that I was not responsible for. The birds, flowers and fresh air gave me hope and a feeling of renewal I desperately needed
  4. Pick your battles. We had two kids return home from college with bags full of clothes and hearts full of disappointment. I relaxed the rules inside because there were so many rules outside. With so much out of our control, I knew I could control our stress. I decided what qualified as deal breakers and let everything else slide.
  5. Talk to someone. Find someone outside the family to talk about world events with. I would chew the latest updates over with my friends and it eased my stress tremendously. My husband and I made sure to connect every day at some point without the kids.
  6. Do something positive. I found ways that we could make a difference. I had my kids write letters to their grandparents so they would get something fun in the mail. We checked into a local blood drive. If you are helping, you don’t feel so helpless.
  7. Listen. Sometimes kids just ramble and they don’t want you to solve problems or judge. Just saying things out loud relieves the pressure. If there was something that needed addressing, I circled back around to it in a more quiet moment.
  8. Remember your teen years. By thinking like a teen, I found more patience and understanding. Expectations and assumptions ruled my life as a teen. School, graduations, driver’s licenses and sports are just a sampling of the things my kids have lost in the last month. How would I have felt as a teen if everything that was certain was uncertain? I resolved to be their sure thing.
  9. Extend grace. Global panic is a reality right now. So, I chose not to be quick to judge the world at large. Maybe that person with five packs of paper towels is shopping for someone else. Maybe the bad driver in front of you has a sick loved one they can’t see. I can only control me and my reactions to others and lessen the negative in my life.
  10. Find your groove. There is no right way to weather this storm. For me, not showering or getting out of pajamas or exercise clothes worked. For others, showering and dressing is a comfort. Go to bed late, nap, take meetings outside—whatever works is the right way.

Above all else, love.

Love yourself enough to be honest about what you need and then find ways to get it. Love your floundering kids who don’t yet have the maturity to see beyond today. And love your spouse who may not say it, but is grateful for the burdens you carry and wouldn’t choose to ride this wave with anyone else.

You Might Also Enjoy:

What I Really Mean When I Say, “Enjoy Every Moment”

Grown and Flown: The Book

About Maureen Stiles

Maureen Stiles is a Washington DC based freelance journalist, columnist and editor. With over a decade of published work in the parenting and humor sector, Maureen has reached audiences around the globe. In addition to published works, she has been quoted in the Washington Post and The New York Times on topics surrounding parenting and family life. Maureen is the author of The Driving Book for Teens and a contributor to the book Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults as well as regularly featured on Today's Parenting Community and Grown and Flown.

Read more posts by Maureen

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