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Dr. MacNamara is a clinical counsellor and educator with more than 25 years' experience working with children, youth and adults. She is on the faculty at the Neufeld Institute and operates a counselling practice.

Over the last few weeks I have been delighted to welcome new families into my counselling practice and have been noticing the growing challenges of raising kids in uncertain and stressful times. As I often share in sessions, there are three keys to survival and resiliency that are worth mentioning whether we are facing health concerns, financial issues, war and violence, worry for our loved ones, or the regular transitions that life throws at us.

What should we focus on when it comes to getting through hard times?

  1. Togetherness

    None of us are truly safe. The feeling of security comes from feeling connected to others while facing hard times. We were never meant to go it alone, and especially when we are suffering. Separation from the things and people we are attached to is at the root of human distress. Being together is the cure. Togetherness is about conveying to someone a sense of delight, enjoyment, and warmth in being in their presence. It is about getting in each other’s face in a friendly way and collecting smiles, and engaging attention. It is about the invitation for connection that is unwavering despite things that come between us or differences. It requires faith that the relationship that offers an emotional shield won’t also be turned against you and used as a sword, as in, “I can’t be with you when you are like that.” Togetherness is the answer in hard times and we would be wise to prune out any separations that can be avoided while we find our way through.To read more on how to bring our kids to rest see this article.

  2. True Play

    What isn’t well understood is that when we are in play the brain is at rest from having to solve emotional problems. There is a sense of reprieve from the troubles that plague us, and a lift out of the heaviness of what weighs us down. In play emotions are still being expressed like frustration, fears, and desires, but because it isn’t for real the brain isn’t invested if these emotions are bringing about the change required. True play is not about outcomes, consequences, or work, and should be fuelled by emotions stemming from within the child, teen, or adult. We all need emotional playgrounds such as music, movement, art, poetry, writing, drama, and more so that the world within us (that often lacks words) can come into view. Play is not just for kids but for everyone. It softens the heart, moves emotions into consciousness, and provides expression that could otherwise lead to explosions of upset. Play is the therapist we need in times of distress. You can read more about true play here.

  3. Tears  

    I often joke with my friends that if they see me driving in my car singing along to music and crying it is best to leave me alone. When the tears fall I know I am on my way to recovery and repair from all the things that cannot be changed or seem unfair. Sometimes there is nothing left to do but vulnerably feel the profound disappointments, upsets, and losses that are part of life. Sadness is not there to hurt us but to help us sit in the void of what is missing and remind of us what we have lost. We needn’t run from our tears or feelings of disappointment but let them flow so as to make our hearts soft once again. When it comes to our kids we would be wise to invite these tears and sadness often, knowing it is the cleansing they also need to face hard times. To learn more on how to support tears in boys or whomever needs it read more here.

We don’t need to have the answers in such times but to remember that we are the answer our kids seek, and that our connection is the answer for all.

Wishing you and your families the best.