Hug Your Babies.
Even if your kids aren’t babies! Let your children know how much you love them. If you live in a state where your rights are being debated—or if you and/or your children occupy identities that are being targeted by our elected officials—snuggle your family a little longer tonight.
Sometimes, when the world becomes too stressful, it can be easy for us as parents to forget to communicate to our children all the ways that we love and care for them. Of course, an offhanded “I love you” probably comes at the end of any school drop-off or check-in phone call. But saying, “I love you unconditionally,” or “You are one of the most important people in my life,” brings us back to each other in an indescribable and necessary way.
The youth in our life deserve to know how much they mean to us and to hear often that we are going to do right by and for them. We also deserve to be anchored in our deepest love, and for many that is the love we have for our children.
Pick up the Phone.
It’s not for everyone, we know. Maybe it’s not a phone call. Text messages, handwritten notes, or Instagram DMs work too! The point is: It’s so easy to isolate ourselves in the face of fear. It’s easy to tell ourselves that the people we love probably don’t want to talk about these challenging topics just as much as we don’t.
But when you begin to feel like it’s better not to reach out—that’s exactly when you should. Talk to your chosen family, the people who will hear and hold your angst and meet it with fierce love.
It might feel like the last thing you want to do, but pick up the phone.
Turn on the Sound Machine.
This one is simple. There is so much research about the effects of “white noise”, including its ability to boost our focus. Sure, this might help us be more productive, but in this case, you can use it to silence your mind, turn off the news (literally and figuratively), and rest.
If you are in a place where you can rest—maybe snuggled in bed without a phone or book—a sound machine can help you concentrate on doing nothing, and, hopefully, sleep. This can be very helpful when our minds are flooded with anxiety about the harm we’re facing in the immediate and long term.
Break out the Notebook.
Having a place to put all of your feelings and thoughts without judgment can be a lifesaver. Times of crisis might bring up thoughts that you don’t want to share with the people you love—like the impact of transphobia on your sense of self-worth or your fears around talking to your children about what you all saw on the news that day. And, it might be that you don’t need someone to process those feelings with, you just need to get them out of your head.
From writing a letter to your younger self to jotting down the emotions you’re feeling in the moment, there are lots of ways to get those big feelings out of your brain and onto paper.
Make Space for Joy.
Amid great heartache, it can be difficult to remember all of the joy that comes from being part of an LGBTQ+ family. Sometimes, caring for ourselves means diving headfirst into that joy. Maybe it’s drag brunch or a But I’m a Cheerleader movie night. Whatever it is, make space for it sooner rather than later. Remember the full feeling of going out for coffee or dinner with your chosen family? The elation of laughing, joking, and knowing you had each others’ backs? That’s the feeling we’re going for here.
It probably goes without saying that self-care is easier said than done, always. At this moment, though, it is so essential. As LGBTQ+ caregivers, we have been holding years of uncertainty and elevated stress levels—all while muddling through how to parent in a time like this. In a world where so much is out of our control, hopefully, we can take small steps to care for ourselves radically and unapologetically. And, it can all start now.
(Hint: Close your computer and rest!)
Jess Venable Novak
Jess is a queer, non-binary educator, organizer, and parent living in rural Vermont. Jess began working with Family Equality first as the Midwest Children’s Programming Intern from 2010-2012, then returned as the Data & Training Intern in 2019, the Family Week Fellow in 2020, the Family Engagement Manager for several months, and then, finally, the Director of Family Formation until the summer of 2022. Originally from the Midwest, Jess has been living and working in Vermont for several years and today, they work as the Advocacy and Outreach Manager at the ACLU of Vermont. Presently, when they aren’t crossword-ing with their sweetie or doing art projects with their kiddo, they consult with schools, employers, and organizations to facilitate conversations about how we can build a culture that supports and celebrates LGBTQ+ people.