Tips for Parenting and Stress During the Pandemic

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Morning walks help keep me grounded.

I found my self getting anxious a few weeks ago. It’s a weird fluttery feeling in my chest with my heart beating wildly, my breath getting short and my palms sweating. Why does it come on like that out of the blue? I think it’s all the uncertainty around us. Will my husband ever go back to his office to work? Will we ever get to go to the movies again? Will I have swim practice with my friends? When will this end? Right when we think it’s getting better, it gets worse. The number of cases are going up. We don’t know what will happen with the economy. I have three of my closest friends diagnosed with breast cancer during COVID-19. Yes, there’s lots to be anxious about.

We were fortunate to have our daughter come home to work remotely. She had just moved into a new apartment and didn’t really know her two new roommates. They had a 24-hour notice to shelter in place, so she headed home. I remember her deciding to go to the hardware store to purchase lumber for a bed frame she was making. The very first day she was with us, she was intent on getting supplies. “We could shut down here tomorrow,” she said. She was correct. The next day we were told to shelter in place.

I work in my son’s room and my husband works in our master bedroom. Our daughter took over the guest room. We were a busy bunch until she got laid off due to COVID-19. That was stressful in itself. Also, having a grown up adult in the house took time for us to get used to. We managed to get along most of the time and it’s a three-month period I’ll treasure. Without the pandemic, she wouldn’t have come home and spent time as a young adult. She’s back to building her life away from us, interviewing for jobs.

I read an interesting article called Parenting, stress and COVID-19 by Annie Keeling in The Union, a website with news for Nevada County, Calif.

Here’s an excerpt:

THE EFFECTS OF STRESS

Despite feeling close to their children during the COVID-19 pandemic, 61% of parents say they have shouted, yelled, or screamed at them at least once over the past two weeks, according to a new report from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. (https://www.psychcongress.com/article/covid-19-stress-taking-toll-parent-child-relationships)

“For a large number of parents, financial concerns, other worries, social isolation, loneliness, and sadness are getting in the way of parenting,” said lead author Shawna J. Lee, PhD, an associate professor of social work, who compiled the report with coauthor Kaitlin Ward, a doctoral student.

This uncertain experience is asking a lot of parents: full-time playmate, teacher and caregiver can take its toll. What can you do to help yourself? The first step is recognizing that this is a challenging time and that there are ways to ease the effects of uncertainty and stress.

CALMING TECHNIQUES FOR THE PARENT

Take care of yourself. Parents know that they must do this so they can be a good parent, but it’s often easier said than done. The Power of Three is essential: eat well, exercise, get sleep. Put a post-it reminder on your mirror, by the stove, by the screens in your home. Check in with yourself each evening. How did you do with your Power of Three today?

Take a breath. Or five. Research shows that it takes more than one deep breath to really affect the parasympathetic nervous system. Five deep breaths can change your state.

Reach out to others. Phone calls, Zoom, and yard dates with other adults- physically distanced on lawn chairs — are a few ways.

Take (even a tiny) break. Try splashing cold water on your face, stepping outside or planning a parenting partner hand-off. Identify what you might do to take a break before the day starts. This helps our psyche to anticipate the relief that is coming.

List healthy coping skills for yourself and your family. Avoid behaviors such as excessive alcohol drinking, online gambling or taking drugs. Negative coping mechanisms further compound your stress levels and can make your situation worse in the long run.

The article goes on to describe tips to calm the entire family with lots of fun things to do. Keeling also discusses talking about the pandemic and how that can lead to less stress as well.

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My daughter bungee swimming in our backyard. It’s hard but it does help with stress.

Have you had stress or anxiety during the pandemic and what are you doing to fight it?

 

What to tell your daughter on graduation night

Graduation has been difficult this year with COVID-19. Instead of the normal ceremonies and all-night Disneyland celebrations in Southern California, we’ve had drive-through ceremonies and grad signs posted in yards. I wrote the following story during my daughter’s celebration of graduating from high school. I believe this message resonates for parents and graduates today. 
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Today my little girl graduates high school. What a joy she has been to raise, teach and hang out with. I remember her kindergarten interview where she had to be tested for one of the coveted spots at St. Theresa’s. She had fun buns on her head and ankle high “Britney Boots,” marketed for little girls dreaming of becoming Britney Spears. She boldly entered the kindergarten class and announced to the world that she was “Robert’s little sister.”

IMG_4888Today, I have a tall, wise-cracking young lady with a big smile and sparkle in her eye. If I could tell my daughter three things she needs to know for her next adventure called college, what would it be? 

katpromharryFirst…

“To thine own self be true.” Don’t worry about what other people think. Do what you know is right. This famous quote is from Polonius to his son Laertes, before Laertes boards a boat to Paris in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Even though it’s pretty old, it still resonates today.

katsurfSecond…

Happiness is not having a boyfriend or being thin. My mom would tell me the worst things when I was my daughter’s age — mainly focused on the need to “have a man” — or that “a man would make me happy.” This must be a throwback to my mother’s generation, where a woman’s identity and self-worth were wrapped up in a spouse. Instead, I will tell my daughter that happiness is found within yourself — by doing something that you love. Once you find happiness in yourself, only then can you share it with others.

swimmer4Last…

Don’t worry about what your career or major will be. You will figure it out. Don’t feel pressure about it. Most people going into college that have a major, change their minds anyway. Get your basic requirements out of the way and then after taking different classes you will discover what you don’t like and what you do like.katandrobert

 

And most importantly, not even on the list — I love you.

 

Utah Swimming and Dive  Kat WickhamWhat three things would you tell your daughter on graduation night?

How to Keep Calm in a Topsy Turvy World

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Our cool as a cucumber cat is helping to keep me calm.

I was doing okay, but yesterday when my kids called me and said they were under mandatory “shelter in place,” I started to panic. I’m wondering if the world will ever get back to normal? They were working remotely in my son’s house in the Bay Area.

The mandatory shelter in place started today. Yesterday they were told to prepare to be home for at least two weeks. My daughter is working remotely and decided to get out of the city and drove home last night. It’s so nice to have her home! I wonder how long she will be here?

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Waffles the pug came home, too.

My dad agreed to let me grocery shop for him and I found everything he needed except for toilet paper, of course! While I was driving from his home, my daughter called and Waffles, her pug, ate something and was trying to throw up, but nothing was coming up. I told her to call a vet and I got really stressed out again! She called back in tears and said that the vets she called would NOT take new patients in their practice due to the Coronavirus! I was in the car and while she was talking to me and I noticed a big white pick up truck on my tail! Then he swerved in the lane next to me, and started yelling and screaming, giving me the finger. He threw a milkshake at me! It hit my windshield and the car was covered. I’m still shaking.

What in the h*ck is going on, folks? Is this really the time to become completely unhinged?

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This is the guy in a white pick up truck with a Home Depot trailer that threw a milkshake at me.

Let’s take a moment to breathe some fresh air, calm down, take a walk an enjoy your families. And love up our dogs and cats, too!

7 Thing I Miss About My Daughter

I wrote this when we dropped our daughter off at school. Now that she’s living in the adult world — I definitely still miss these things about her. She spent a few days at the beach with us last week (same beach pictured below when she was a kid) and she left me again. Funny, how that keeps happening! I guess we’re lucky for the few days together.

Kat at Carpinteria State Beach

Kat at Carpinteria State Beach

We took our daughter to college two weeks ago. She looks really happy in the photos posted on FB and Instagram. She’s made new friends, is enjoying her team and coaches -and likes her classes.

My life is busy with new and old projects. But, I notice a quiet, a sort of waiting sense, that I didn’t feel before. It’s the little things about her that I miss.

Kat swmming

Kat swimming

I miss her cracking my back. She could give me a hug, tell me to relax and say, “One, two..” and lift me up in the air before she said three. The result was cracking, popping relief.

I miss her making me laugh. Kat is funny. I love her little half smile when she knows she’s especially clever. And the crinkles around her eyes when she laughs out loud.

I miss her cleaning out my wallet and organizing it for me. She’d say, “Mom your purse is gateway hoarding.”

I miss her walking through the kitchen door after her morning workout asking me to make her eggs. I don’t have anyone to make eggs for right now — except my husband and I — and we rarely eat them.

I miss her cat Olive walking on the skinny end of her four poster bed while she watched Netflix on my laptop.

Baby Olive Bear

Baby Olive

I miss when she was very young and called yellow “lallo.”  And when we’d go to the beach and she’d strip naked as soon as her suit got wet. I used to bring a bag full of swimsuits for her.

Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.

Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.

I miss going to the pool and watching practice, chatting with the other swim parents. That was a luxury that I took for granted.

Yes, I miss her.

Kat making an entrance into the room.

Kat making an entrance into the room.

What do you miss most about your kids once they leave the nest?

How to improve happiness in 10 minutes a day

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A view from our “Wellness Park” in Palm Springs.

Is it possible to make yourself feel better and happier by doing a simple 10-minute exercise daily? In a book I’m reading called Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, I learned about a simple practice called What-Went-Well Exercise or Three Blessings:

“Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance. (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

“Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?” For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” you might pick as the cause “God was looking out for her” or “She did everything right during her pregnancy.”

“Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.”

The book Flourish is written by Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D. bestselling author of Authentic Happiness. He’s world renowned for his work on Positive Psychology and is the Zellerbach Family Professor Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. I heard about the book from David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life, who is used as a consultant by USA Swimming, and holds monthly webinars about Sports Parenting.

Here’s why Seligman says this Three Blessings exercise works:

“We think too much about what goes wrong and not enough about what goes right in our lives. Of course, sometimes it makes sense to analyze bad events so that we can learn from and avoid them in the future. However, people tend to spend more time thinking about what is bad in life than is helpful. Worse, this focus on negative events sets us up for anxiety and depression. One way to keep this from happening is to get better at thinking about and savoring what went well.”

I’ve only begun reading the book, but this simple exercise seems like something not too difficult to do. If it increases a sense of well-being then why not give it a try? Yesterday, I was thankful for more than three things. They included having a pedicure and glancing at my daughter in the seat next to me–because it’s a mother-daughter tradition we’ve done for years and I cherish our time together. Second, was working on a book proposal. The reason why is because I’m making progress and accomplishment is satisfying. Third was a phone call with a friend I’ve had since my oldest was in kindergarten. We met in the women’s restroom after dropping our oldest kids off on their first day of school! It’s so nice to know I have supportive friends in my life that will come to my aid when I need them.

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What are your thoughts about what you’re thankful for today? Do you think you’ll give the Three Blessings exercise a try? If you do, please let me know if you notice any changes in your sense of happiness and well-being.

Two Teens KickStart “Wotter”–A Girls’ Swim Parka

 

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  Becca and Niki, swim entrepreneurs

If you’re not a swimmer or a swim parent, you may not know about the swim parka. It’s a big, warm comfy thing that swimmers wear when it’s cold outside. In the swimming world, swimmers wear parkas to meets and practice so that when they jump out of the pool they can be covered up from head to ankle.

I spoke with two high school girls, Niki and Becca who entered a school entrepreneurial competition and won $250 with their girl’s empowerment parka. The idea behind the parka is that it’s more fashionable than the current unisex parka, it’s lightweight and has special details that girls will like. Here’s a photo:WotterSwimParka

 

The girls were smart, articulate and have a KickStarter campaign to get their project off the ground. They attend a private school in North Carolina called the Cary Academy and swim for the school’s team. I was very impressed with both girls and how far they’ve taken this project. To date, they have raised close to $12,000 and have endorsements from three Olympic swimmers, Kara Lynn Joyce, Annamay Pierse and JR DeSouza.

The name of their company is Wotter, based on the sleek and fast otter, plus water. Nicki’s mom is CEO of their company and they thanked her for all her hard work. Her background is in marketing, and she’s been instrumental in getting a prototype developed and getting the word out through newspapers, blogs and TV.

On their KickStarter page, you’ll find their motto: “Designed BY girl swimmers FOR girl swimmers Wotter Girl’s Swim Parka is a cloak of confidence and comfort for the female swim athlete.”

“We set out to create Wotter to empower girls like us (and you!) to stay in swimming AND to raise awareness that more female swim coaches are needed to create strong role models for young girls. Hopefully, we will also inspire more girl entrepreneurs to make their ideas a reality – creating this company and going through the KickStarter process has been an AMAZING experience for both of us!”

I hope they succeed, but I do have a couple questions after talking to several D1 scholarship swimmers about the girl empowerment parka. First, swim parkas are a small niche market and no one I talked with had a problem with the existing parkas. Then, by targeting only women, the parka market is sliced in half.

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My daughter and friends in their team parkas.

 

According to Becca and Niki, their parka has the following features:

“We added things that the current models don’t have:

  • Oversized hood for ponies and top knots
  • Big zipper pulls easier for smaller, wet hands to grab
  • Less bulk, easier to wear
  • A wrap and snap feature to make it easy to put into a swimbag
  • Feminine lines and styling
  • Lots of other considerations, like secret pockets for iphones and headphones, big, deep pockets to warm your hands, venting and breathable fabrics…”Parka

Niki and Becca mentioned Jolyn to me and how that swimsuit company took off and became literally an overnight success. The difference I see with Jolyn, is that it solved a problem, namely it’s a So Cal company and it addressed the need to have a suit that stayed on in ocean waves. Traditional bikinis have bottoms or tops that can come off, and the crotch fills up with sand. Jolyn came up with a product that was attractive, comfortable and secure. Also, in Southern California, most pools are outside and swimmers practice in one piece suits. They are embarrassed about their suit tans and “white tummies” when they put on a bikini and head to the beach. Jolyn suits are worn at practice so swimmers can tan at practice.

Here’s the Jolyn motto:

WHO WE ARE

At Jolyn we specialize in making good lookin’ athletic gear for the things we like to do. We like the water, we like being active, and we like having fun! Each and every product we create is brought to life with those ideas at their core. Oh and one more big one… We make stuff for the women who inspire us.

Whether you’re an Olympian or an Olympic caliber sunbather, our stuff is the stuff for you.

The Wotter parka is attractive and I especially like that it is lighter weight and can fit into a swim bag. I don’t know what coaches will think about the parka, though. Most parkas are purchased in team colors with the team’s name displayed. It’s a one-time, more than $100 purchase, which lasts literally forever. We still have the swim parkas my kids wore when they were in elementary school and now I wear them to practice. My kids never outgrew them and now my daughter wears her college-provided parka. Will parents buy an optional parka for their girls, because they’re cute? I think they will if their daughters want them enough and they become popular. I also see adult women wanting the parkas because of the style. They wouldn’t be restricted with team colors or a coach telling them what to wear. Niki and Becca said the parka is the first product they’re introducing and they hope to add more athletic wear targeted to girls.

Swim ParkaGood luck to Nicki and Becca! It will be fun to track their progress and see how far Wotter goes.

What’s your opinion of swim parkas designed by girls for girls?

7 Things I Miss About My Daughter Now that She’s in College

Kat at Carpinteria State Beach

Kat at Carpinteria State Beach

Here’s a story I wrote after moving our daughter out of the house into her college dorm. As she begins her senior of college, I enjoyed re-reading my thoughts about the empty nest.

We took our daughter to college two weeks ago. She looks really happy in the photos posted on FB and Instagram. She’s made new friends, is enjoying her team and coaches -and likes her classes.

My life is busy with new and old projects. But, I notice a quiet, a sort of waiting sense, that I didn’t feel before. It’s the little things about her that I miss.

Kat swmming

Kat swimming

I miss her cracking my back. She could give me hug, tell me to relax and say, “One, two..” and lift me up in the air before she said three. The result was cracking, popping relief.

I miss her making me laugh. Kat is funny. I love her little half smile when she knows she’s especially clever. And the crinkles around her eyes when she laughs out loud.

I miss her cleaning out my wallet and organizing it for me. She’d say, “Mom your purse is gateway hoarding.”

I miss her walking through the kitchen door after her morning workout asking me to make her eggs. I don’t have anyone to make eggs for right now — except my husband and I — and we rarely eat them.

I miss her cat Olive walking on the skinny end of her four poster bed while she watched Netflix on my laptop.

Baby Olive Bear

Baby Olive

I miss when she was very young and called yellow “lallo.”  And when we’d go to the beach and she’d strip naked as soon as her suit got wet. I used to bring a bag full of swimsuits for her.

Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.

Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.

I miss going to the pool and watching practice, chatting with the other swim parents. That was a luxury that I took for granted.

Yes, I miss her.

What do you miss most about your kids?

Kat making an entrance into the room.

Kat making an entrance into the room.