During my adult life, I have twice lived on the southern Gulf Coast, once along the Florida Gulf Coast and once along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. During each of those periods of time, I had the interesting experience of being in the direct path of a hurricane. If you have ever experienced being in the direct path of a hurricane, you know that there are three phases of the experience. The front side of the hurricane, the eye of the hurricane and then the back side of the hurricane. In the early hours of a hurricane, as the front side approaches, you experience intense wind, sideways rain, and the unique experience of watching some items in your yard blow away and maybe, depending on the level of the hurricane, some property damage. After about 45 minutes to an hour, the wind subsides, the rain stops and the skies clear. A hurricane novice might think, “whew, I am glad that is over”. The reality is that it is not over. After about 45 minutes to an hour of calmness, the back side of the hurricane approaches, and the wind picks up, the rain starts again, and you are in for another 45 minutes to an hour of intense wind, sideways rain and watching things blow away.
Our experience of raising a grandchild at times, may feel like a natural disaster, maybe better termed, a “Unnatural Disaster”. Our experience can feel very intense and very chaotic at times. Just as in the experience of a hurricane, when the time frame of the eye of the storm moves over you, providing a time of respite from the intensity and chaos of the storm, we need times of “respite” from our stormy experiences of raising a grandchild. The storms that we may experience may be the aggressive and unpredictable behaviors exhibited by children, our grandchildren, who have experienced their own storms of chaos in their own lives. Their own unpredictable and aggressive behaviors are direct results of those chaotic experiences that were thrust upon them in their young lives unexpectedly and undeserved. Our times of storms may be the challenging experiences of dealing with our adult children, the parents of our grandchildren, who are still dealing with their addictions and chaotic choices that affect not only our grandchildren but our lives as well.
My encouragement is that during those times of storminess, we look for the respite of the “eye of the storm”. In the real-life experience of surviving a hurricane, you have no control over when and how long you will experience the eye of the hurricane. In our experience of raising our grandchildren, I believe that we do have some control and can “choose” to find the “Calm” during the storm.
So, how do you find calm during the storm? Here are my thoughts:
- Give yourself “permission” to seek the calm. We need to give ourselves permission to be human and to need a time of respite. We do not need to be and cannot be, “superhuman”. We have our limits, and it is wise to be able to be aware of them, recognize them and act when we reach them or are approaching those limits.
- Ask for help, when possible. I realize that for some, this can be challenging. If you are a single grandparent, help may not be as available, as it may be for those who have a partner. If you have a partner, let them know you need a break, and ask them to step in. If you don’t have a partner, it might be wise to make a list of people that you can call during stormy times. I would encourage your asking a few friends that you trust, if they would be willing to help from time to time, as far as maybe taking your grandchild for an afternoon or something like that, at least be willing to take a phone call from you when you need someone to talk to. It is worth a shot. This is also another reason to consider being involved in a support group of some kind.
- Schedule activities that provide you a sense of respite and enjoyment. You can consider taking regular walks, with a friend if possible, so you can express yourself as well as get good physical exercise. You can journal on a regular basis. You could write poetry or try your hand at art or some type of craft. You can pick a new book and schedule a time for reading that book. You can schedule time with friends to do the things you enjoy doing.
- Use your “Six Senses”. I believe that using our five senses plus breathing, making six, can be very helpful in bringing “calmness” into our lives. During the storm, sometimes simply stopping and taking a breath can allow us to refocus and react calmly, instead of acting emotionally or too intensely. Practice regular breathing exercises, such as counting your breaths, exaggerating your breathing, or extending your breathing. There are a lot of interesting breathing techniques you can try. We can also use our five senses to calm ourselves. Choose a sight that is calming by stepping outside to look at the trees or watch the birds, or even looking at a picture that we enjoy. We can listen to soothing music to calm ourselves. We can choose calming touch by hugging a pillow, wearing comfortable clothing or by asking for a real hug. We can use candles or diffusers to produce smells that help us experience calmness. We can also use taste, although we must be careful with this one, to give us moments of calmness. Take time to have a cup of coffee or tea or a favorite snack. The beauty of these six senses is that they are always available.
- Finally, although I have already mentioned it previously, seek connection. We do not and cannot do this by ourselves. Seek to invest in meaningful relationships with your partner, friends, and other family members. Research has clearly demonstrated that people who have significant and meaningful relationships live longer, literally. It is easy to become isolated in our venture of raising our grandchildren. Yes, our connection with our grandchildren does count, but it is not enough. You need adult connections that provide enjoyment and support, to have the energy that your role as a grandparent raising grandchildren requires of you. I would also encourage that you seek connection in your spiritual life and seek time of solitude and contemplation.
This list is not comprehensive and there are many other ways to find calmness. Be creative and discover your own. You deserve the respite and moments of calmness and you and your grandchildren will benefit from it!
Also, we need to be able to help our grandchildren learn calming techniques to help them during the times of “storminess”. I will do a Part II later, to discuss that topic.
Sharing the Journey,