The impact of this crisis is different for everyone and everyone is struggling in different ways, so it’s important to practice empathy towards each other. Many parents, especially single parents, will be celebrating when they receive the official notification that the lockdown is lifted and it’s time for their kids to get back to school. Some feel they aren’t quite ready to send them back to soon. Most all of them feel drained, frustrated with being quarantined, and are ready for a real summer break. Parenting is hard and even harder during a Pandemic.
Remove any judgement you may have toward yourself on how you are managing or how others are responding during this difficult time, and replace it with compassion. Emotions run high during times of crisis and we need to be kind to each other.
Many are also sharing a new appreciation for teachers, because they are figuring out, that anyone who can teach their kids, plus 25 others for over an hour, deserves a whole lot of praise as well as a raise. Most have been struggling to balance work if they are still employed, childcare, and homeschooling, with the worries and frustration of when and even if their life will return to normal again. All of this is a recipe for anxiety, depression, and low patience. You are doing the best you can with where you are and there is no such thing as perfect parenting.
One day our kids will look back on how this time in history was spent and it won’t be the math equations they will remember, but how emotionally safe and connected they felt to the adults who were caring for them. Taking care of your mental health is crucial, especially now more than ever. In my work as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I am hearing similar challenges from parents on how they are struggling to adjust during these difficult times. Here are some tips that my clients I work with, have found helpful.
Practice Self Care: Prioritizing your own emotional health, will help you manage stress, improve your mood, and teach your child how to cope. Schedule time alone daily, even if it means allowing your child to have more screen time so you can take a short walk, a shower or a long bath, or eat a meal alone. Social isolation doesn’t mean emotional isolation. Reach out to friends, family, and neighbors and let them know they matter to you. Take the time to do more things that get you out of your head and into your body to be in the present moment, such as slow deep breathing, exercise, dance, yoga, eat healthy, or play games. Laughter is the best medicine and can relieve stress, try watching comedy. Journaling- writing down your thoughts and feelings can be therapeutic. Remember you can’t pour from an empty cup, nurturing yourself first allows you to be your best self for others.
Acknowledge your feelings and those around you that are feeling the same: Most people are struggling to manage a mixture of difficult emotions during this time, understandably. Many are grieving the loss of jobs, events, graduations, weddings, loss of lives, and the list goes on. Allow yourself and those around you to express their sadness, anger, and frustration. Help others how you can and show someone you are thankful for them. Being there for each other is going to make it easier to navigate these times.
Your Child’s Mental Health is more important than their grades: When children are stressed or depressed, it’s hard for them to focus on doing well in school. Check in with how your child is feeling, validate their emotions by relaying understanding, and give extra hugs; they can feel good to you too. Encourage them to socialize. Parents and even teachers have had to adjust to homeschooling. When our kids can connect with us emotionally and feel like we understand them, they will be more motivated to listen and learn.
Use Praise and Empathy: Praising your kids promotes positive behavior in them. Let them know you understand it’s hard for them to learn things online without their friends and teacher in the same room. When you experience difficult teaching moments, acknowledge all feelings, by saying something like, “I’m getting frustrated and you’re getting frustrated, let’s take a 10 minute break and we will come back.” Parents and both kids need their own mental breaks.
Schedule special one on one time with each child: Create a flexible routine that works for you and your family and include some one on one time with each child. Allow them to have some free time to do activities they enjoy such as, playing games, going outside (while keeping a safe distance from others) for a walk, or a bike ride. This can also be used as a reward if scheduled following homework, to motivate them to finish.
Focus on what you can control: We can control how we choose to spend this time. We can see it as an opportunity to appreciate and connect with our kids, because they grow fast and how we connect with them is what will matter most and will impact them for a lifetime.
If you feel like you need extra support during this time, I am here for you. I am happy to provide a 10 minute free phone consultation and could talk to you about how therapy could be helpful for you.
Spread love, kindness, and calm.
Julie Garcia, MA, LMFT #92355, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She provides Telehealth therapy for individuals, couples, and families to those in California. She can be reached at 925-482-6170 or www.juliegarciatherapy.com