Like every other parent, I’ve been following the news about school closures very closely…and like every other parent, I was horrified to hear that lengthy school closures (perhaps for the duration of the school year) are a real possibility.
Upon hearing this, my mind spun into the future. What would this mean? My son is in his last year at his elementary school. Will he even get to finish out the year there? What if he never returns again, which means he never gets to celebrate and commemorate his years there? And what happens with camp? Will there be camp? Will there be school during the summer? What does no school for three months mean for my work? And on and on and on.
Eventually I came to the realization that I’ve been doing something I talk to patients about all the time: catastrophizing. I’m considering all of the catastrophic outcomes that could ensue, without having enough information to determine whether these outcomes are likely. And what’s more, I’m tasking myself with thinking through solutions to these outcomes (“I mean, I guess my husband could run a makeshift summer camp in our backyard…do we still have that kiddie pool?”)
Here’s the thing: we don’t have enough information about anything surrounding the Coronavirus. Predictions about things like length of school closures are currently based on a very limited number of facts. At this point, it’s anybody’s guess how this pandemic is going to play out.
So what I’ve tasked myself with, and will task you with, is Corona-Momming Tip #4: Try to focus only on what you need for the day.
Each evening, ask yourself:
1. What will my day/my kid(s)’ day look like tomorrow?
2. Do I have everything I need to navigate my day/my kid(s)’ day tomorrow?
3. If not, what do I need to set up now that will enable me to navigate my day/my kid(s)’ day tomorrow?
Repeat those questions in the morning, before you start your day.
All we can control is what’s happening now. So that’s what we need to focus on. When you find your mind turning to April and May and June, try to gently turn it back to what you need for today (and if it’s the evening, what you need for tomorrow). Remind yourself that your questions about the future will be answered, but that there is not enough information to answer them now. Don’t hold yourself responsible for working through the details of a catastrophic outcome (e.g. a lengthy school closure), as you don’t have enough facts to work through these details effectively.
I know it’s very difficult to stop catastrophizing in the wake of all of this bad news. And sometimes you’re going to catastrophize, and it’s OK. But to the extent that you can, try to focus on what’s immediately in front of you.