Sarah here. All across the country, cities are starting to open back up. And, whether you’re excited or nervous, indifferent or exasperated, it means that life is changing yet again. Still not normal- not by a long shot. In fact, I’ve talked to a number of people who question whether things will ever go back to “normal” again. I don’t know if things will return to the way they were before COVID-19. But I do know that right now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are doing what they “normally do” in a crisis. That is, when faced with a crisis, we see the very best and very worst of humanity.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the depressing, infuriating and discouraging news we hear about each day and when we do, it’s easy to think that’s all there is. And that kind of news paints an ugly view of people and of the world. As a psychologist, I understand that in times of crisis, people may act out of panic rather than logic. They may do things they know don’t make sense because they feel compelled to do so or because other people are doing them (like buying the maximum amount of toilet paper allowed, even though they have a month’s worth at home already). They may be focused on keeping their family safe but aren’t thinking about how their actions may affect others. Along those lines, I wrote about how parents’ well-intentioned germ safety talks with their kids could backfire and have negative unintended consequences (Let’s Talk About Germs! on 4/14/2020).
Now, if you were to ask anyone who knows me, they’d tell you that while I’m not ridiculously optimistic, I do think that most people have a lot of inherent good in them. But, reading and watching the news, witnessing and experiencing exchanges and hearing personal anecdotes over the past 6 weeks have really put that view to the test. Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising, but I’ve had to go out of my way to find positive news. I went looking for it because I knew it was there. Because it’s true- in a crisis, people often panic, worry about themselves, and act selfishly and irrationally. But (and here’s a big but), it’s also true that in a crisis, people can be absolutely, positively selfless, kind, loving and downright awe-inspiring. And, it’s that side of humanity that I’m focusing on because it’s important to remember that there are so many times each day that people are kind, selfless and loving to each other. I want you to get in on all those good feelings- by paying it forward, you help others and you help yourself.
Lately I’ve been working on continuing education for my license. I just did a webinar on Positive Psychology. One of the founders of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, Ph.D., developed a 5-element model of well-being. He asserted that positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment (PERMA) can support well-being, happiness and fulfillment.
If you think about times you’ve felt really happy or good or content, I’m guessing that those times in your life hit on multiple elements in the PERMA model. I appreciate that the focus isn’t just on feeling good or on having a purpose. Well-being is about the balance and interplay of these the elements, which makes a lot of intuitive sense. I also appreciate that positive emotion doesn’t just mean happiness; it also includes emotions like love, gratitude, awe and optimism. We feel good when we do good, when we look for good, when we see good in others, and when we do things that we care about and that matter. And, there are all of these side benefits. For example, people who experience awe—a positive emotion experienced in the presence pf something vast that broadens our understanding of the world—feel more connected to others, more generous and experience a decreased sense of time pressure. That’s right- being in complete amazement and having your mind blown can help you feel less pressed, so you are more likely to help others…even if the actual demands on your time don’t change, your perception of how you spend your time changes.
To that end, I want you to pay it forward by…well, paying it forward and by helping your family pay it forward. Look for the good around you. Notice the kind, nice, caring, loving things that are happening in your house on a daily basis. Do your kids fight like cats and dogs sometimes? Sure! But, do they also have those “awwww…so sweet!” tender moments every now and again? You bet. Are the people on social media making you crazy? You betcha! Have you read any posts that were actually touching or kind, where people were just genuinely doing or saying something nice and encouraging just because? I’m guessing you have.
I know you’re tired and you and your family are dealing with long days. But awe comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes- it isn’t just about seeing the Grand Canyon or the Northern Lights. Look for things to be in awe of in your daily life- look for ways that other people and things that are going on inspire you and leave you in amazement. That’s a great way to feel good and to get recharged. And, what should you do with all of that increased sense of time? Sit on the couch and watch reality TV? Tempting…but, maybe you could do something for someone else. JPay it forward with your own actions using the PERMA model. To do good and feel good, help others by do things you enjoy that matter to you. Not sure how to play to your strengths? Lisa has curated an awesome list of volunteer opportunities for adults, youth and families. Remember that there’s good all around, so why not be part of it?
Ready to Pay it Forward? Check out These Volunteer Opportunities
Links to Opportunities for Kids and Teens
DoSomething – youth-led organization with volunteer opportunities for social change
Storiitime – connect with a senior to read to your child or have your child read to a senior
Teenangels and Tweenangels – learn about and create content for internet safety and cyberbullying prevention
Teens Give – high schoolers tutoring younger students can earn community service hours
Youth Volunteer Corps – volunteer group, check to see if there is a chapter in your area
Links to Opportunities for Adults
Bookshare – scan, proofread, and format books for people with reading barriers
Career Village – professionals answer career-related questions posed by students
Crisis Text Line – volunteers are trained to provide text-based crisis support
Infinite Family – connect as a mentor with a student in South Africa
Learning Ally – narrate and/or provide feedback about audiobooks
Red Cross – variety of volunteer opportunities, including virtual work
Translators Without Borders – volunteers translate documents created and used by humanitarian agencies as well as other non-profit organizations around the world
UN Volunteers – online opportunities to support various global nonprofits
Links to Opportunities for Families
Be My Eyes – app connects sighted and blind or low-vision people to help with everyday tasks
Binky Patrol – volunteers usually make blankets for those in need; current focus on making masks for healthcare workers and others who must interact with the public
Catchafire – searchable database of virtual volunteer opportunities
Feeding America – food bank volunteer opportunities
Generation On – youth and family volunteer opportunities, projects, trainings and resources
Girls, Inc. –focused on empowering girls; volunteer opportunities differ across chapters
Help from Home –volunteer opportunities that do not require long-term commitment
Idealist – searchable database of volunteer opportunities
Lifetime Connections Without Walls – program focusing on providing classes and social activities by phone between senior citizens and volunteers
Volunteer Match – searchable database of a variety of volunteer opportunities
Reach out and share what you're doing to pay it forward to others! Click this link or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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As a reminder, we have an amazing handout for families with information about COVID-19 that you may find helpful when speaking with your kids. Click here to take a look.
Feel free to peruse our blog and see what Sarah and Lisa had to say about topics related to your needs as a busy parent. We will talk about everything from parenting values, to life hacks, to realistic self-care.