Archive of ‘Priorities’ category

Pregnant During a Pandemic

My dear friend, a Mom of an adorably-perfect-two-year-old, recently asked: “What is it like to be pregnant during a pandemic?” My friend is contemplating jumping back into the world of pregnancy tests, OB/midwife visits, ultrasounds, belly kicks, weird pregnancy symptoms, and of course, newborn life. My actual first words to her question were “NO. Don’t do it!”. But, as a therapist, and Mom of two little children (a two year old and a three year old), I figured I should stop and actually contemplate her question. Here is what I have come up with… 

What is pregnancy during a pandemic like?

To start: wanting to be pregnant and then becoming pregnant is a freaking MIRACLE. My husband and I were lucky enough to have access to fertility resources and physicians for babies #1 and #3. We are blessed beyond measure to have healthy bodies and access to healthcare to make our dreams of a family of five possible. 

With that being said, here is where I begin my rant on PREGNANCY DURING A PANDEMIC! It’s hard. It’s no joke. It’s weird. It’s isolating. My husband and I found out we were pregnant on March 18th, 2020, the same week our Mayor issued a city-wide Stay at Home Order. Every step of this pregnancy has been under the umbrella of COVID-19 and the scary unknowns that come with that. 

Moms are superheroes!

I think whether you’re a first time Mom or a second, third, fourth…time Mom, it’s hard. However, it’s my opinion that first time Moms have it the hardest out of all of us. The first time I was pregnant was the scariest pregnancy of all of mine (so far). You question every weird pregnancy symptom and constantly worry about the health of yourself and the health of your baby. Plus, now with the pandemic, the fun things that you were joyously looking forward to have been stripped away: no ultrasound visits with your partner or family, no baby showers, and not a lot of opportunities to show off your miraculous baby belly… 

Yet, then again, second, third, fourth.. time Moms know exactly what a pregnancy “could” or “should” look like and how, like me, our plans for self care and survival (child care for our older children, prenatal massages, Mom night outs, working out at the gym…) may have been washed away completely. 

But, the good news is that we are MOTHERS. And nobody knows better than us that we can shift and move on. During a time that is very inflexible, we know how to be flexible. Mothers, after all, are superheroes. But, now more than ever, pregnant women must ask for what they need, take time for themselves, and nourish their bodies with self love and self care. 

A few tips for surviving pregnancy during a pandemic: 

  • Facetime your partner, family members, or best friend during every OB or ultrasound visit. Include them. Your tribe wants to support you and this will lessen the feelings of isolation. 
  • Move your body and I don’t mean chase around your older children. Exercise however and whenever you can. If it’s not 102 degrees outside, like it is in Austin, go on a walk. Do an at-home workout or zoom class. Your body deserves to be taken care of, now and always. 
  • Find COMFORTABLE maternity clothes. Beg, borrow, or steal, I mean, buy whatever will make your body feel a smidge more comfortable as it grows bigger (and stronger) every single day. I can’t say enough good things about these leggings
  • Find a friend that is also pregnant. A preggo buddy will offer support and validation as you grapple with the ups and downs of creating life… and bonus: you can support one another during the newborn stage too! 

So, what is my final answer? I told my friend to DO IT. Life (quite literally) must go on. Again, mothers are superheroes… And, whether it is your first or fifth time with pregnancy, put your mind and your body first, and everything else will fall into place. 

Stay tuned for my thoughts on how to stay sane (and contribute safely) during a Civil Rights Movement and an American Presidential Election. 

Written by: Sumati Morris, LPC


Your Child’s Misbehavior May be a Clue That They Need A Routine

I’m writing this blog 6 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, however, I think this topic is helpful during any time of change, transition, and stress.  When things become unpredictable in our lives, adults and children alike experience a desire to have more control and autonomy.  For children, their brains are still rapidly developing, and they lack the years of experience that adults have to weather times of change. Children and teens are being dramatically impacted during this global pandemic, and at Austin Family Counseling (and in our own homes) we are noticing increased worry, anxiety, withdrawal, acting out behavior, and more clues that children need extra support. 

One strategy parents and caregivers can teach is the practice of creating routines. Side note: I’m a BIG FAN of routines, and have actually made a routine out of Back to School Routines (see my  blog from 2014 when my kids were 4 and 2 – now they are 10 and 8! https://austinfamilycounseling.com/back-school-morning-hustle/)

 When students go into a new classroom, there are daily tasks, activities, and rules they engage in under their teacher’s guidance. With practice, these become their new routines at school. Kids as young as age 3 can tell you their school routine – this is when we have outside time, eat lunch, etc.  With preparation and practice, parents can help children develop routines for daily living at home.  

Regardless of whether you are homeschooling, attending school virtually, going back in person, or a hybrid model, with the start of our first pandemic school year here in Texas (and all over the world), consider the following reasons that routines might be just what your child needs. 

Routines provide comfort and structure.

While plans for school, the health of our families, parent job stress, and so many other things around us are spinning, a plan for the day that guides children – “First, I do this. Now, I do this” – allows children to relax and focus on the tasks at hand.  This is a place where they have some control.  Inviting them to co-create their routine with you is so important – use the blank chart below or create one of your own to plan together.  Give choices like “would you like to get dressed before you come down for breakfast or after?” or “What are the 3 things you want to do before you come downstairs in the morning?” or “Would you like to schedule your outside time in the morning or in the afternoon?” 

Routines become the “boss” instead of the parents and caregivers.

When you co-create your routine together, you are making an agreement with your child that this will be how the day goes (consequently, if you dictate their routine or lack of routine, you are making an agreement with your child that you will be on standby to entertain them or keep them busy).  Be sure to build in things they look forward to.  At my house, we have agreed that screen time is from 3pm to 5pm each day.  Because this hasn’t changed it has become predictable, and we can check the clock together so see “how much longer” until they can get on, or my kids can see what they need to get done before being allowed to have their devices. Because we’ve agreed in advance,  I can say “what’s next in your routine?” or “What did we agree we would do from 11-12 today?” pointing to the routine as the “boss” rather than me. 

Routines that are developed by the child give them a sense of autonomy and promote confidence and responsibility. 

 If you start using routines today with your children, how proficient and confident do you think they will be after practicing for 2 years? Or 6 years? Or 8 years? My oldest will likely be moving away to college or to a work study in 8 years – I can’t wait to see how his sense of autonomy and responsibility will have grown! 

Here are some resources for ROUTINES:

Check out this article from the CDC with tips and info about the routines: https://www.cdc.gov/parents/essentials/structure/index.html

Positive Discipline Resources & Video about routines:

https://www.positivediscipline.com/articles/routines-tool-card

“The challenge of parenting lies in finding the balance between nurturing, protecting, and guiding, on one hand, and allowing your child to explore, experiment, and become an independent, unique person, on the other.”

Jane Nelsen (Positive Discipline for Preschoolers: For Their Early Years)

Written By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S, AFC Founder & Co-Director


Household Chores and Why They Matter for Children and Teens

What characteristics and life skills do you hope your children develop?  These are some that I often hear from parents in our workshops and parenting sessions:

  • Responsibility                        
  • Self-discipline
  • Empathy/Caring
  • Adaptability
  • Accountability
  • Respect for self and others
  • Creativity

Believe it or not, one way that you can begin (or continue) to help these characteristics develop in your children is by involving them in household chores. It is never too early or too late.  Kids need to know they are important, useful, contributing members of your family. Helping with chores builds the skills above and many more.

Many families I work with feel like kids have “too much on their plate” or say that “school is their job” and they don’t want them to be overwhelmed with responsibilities at home.  So instead, parents carry the heavy load of household chores on their own, missing an amazing opportunity to instill contribution.

Another barrier is that parents don’t realize that it is normal and expected for children and teens to lose interest in chores and get distracted by other things, such as friends, their phone, and school (much like we do).  Children are born with the desire to help and contribute (see video below), but they are not born with the skills needed to do so perfectly.  Parents have to teach, model, and reinforce household chore expectations again and again in order for them to stick.

Get started today involving your kids in household chores:

  1. Brainstorm a list of daily and weekly chores that happen in the home with the whole family.
  2. Choose a few important chores to rotate – one per family member- and make a list or chart to post the chores on.  Here is an example of the one we have at my house.
  • Take time for training – spend the first week doing the chores together so that you can teach skills such as spraying the dust spray, how much to feed the dog, how long to water the grass in the front yard, and so on.  Be collaborative and have fun with it! 
  • Decide upon frequency and what time it should be done based on the chore.  If your child (or partner 🙂 ) forgets, gently remind them with a kind smile and friendly body language, and a point at the chore chart to job their memory.
  • Resistance is NORMAL!  Don’t expect your kids to cheer and thank you when you remind them of their chore, but no matter how much they grumble, be KIND and FIRM – “I know you would rather play your guitar, AND it’s time to do your chore.” 
  • Use the Chore Chart below, a resource adapted from Positive Discipline, to determine the chores that are age-appropriate for your child. 

Check out this video that shows very young children (and chimps) demonstrating a desire to help!

By: Lora Ferguson, LPC-S, CPDT

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