By Erin Murphy and Megan McJennett
COVID-19 is causing stress for a lot of people and that stress can manifest very differently. So parents, this blog post is for you. Because parenting during COVID-19 is HARD.
Parents already worry about their kids and COVID-19 only increases those worries. Thoughts may crowd your mind like, “What am I going to do if my kids get sick? What am I going to do if I get sick? How can I help my neighbors? How bad are my bills going to be this month with everyone at home all day, using all the utilities constantly and eating SO much food!?”
Be Kind to Yourself
These are extraordinary times. We are calling on parents to work, teach, keep house, keep calm, but be vigilant and for goodness sakes, make sure everyone washes their hands all the time and keep 6 feet away from everyone else. This is a tall order and we parents need help. However, the most important thing we can do for ourselves during this very odd and stressful time is to be kind to ourselves. This is not the time to beat ourselves up for not being the “best” parent but rather to give ourselves grace as we parent through a global pandemic crisis.
How to Survive Telecommuting and Homeschooling
For those of us who have the privilege of having a job we can do from home, telecommuting while homeschooling unexpectedly is a whole other level of stress. An attempt at structure can be helpful. Routines are beneficial for everyone. Some families are getting so creative, the kids are holding an auction to determine who does which chores and when.
But while a schedule and a routine is good for you and for the kids, rigidity to that schedule is not.
Things happen. This particular schedule went out the window on the first day when the internet went out. A telecommuting parent and two kids attempting online school with no internet? Not going to happen. So give yourself grace. Deep breaths in and out. Take the advice you would like give your best friends. Fully unplug and reboot – it works for parents as well as modems.
Kids maybe feeling anxious so we need to give them grace too and let them explore creative ways to learn. Remember, the screen time recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics did not take into consideration social distancing, surprise long-term school closures, and telecommuting.
It can feel nearly impossible, but creating space for yourself and setting boundaries can help reduce the stress of your day. Perhaps it is making a way to exercise or being able to designate a specific area in your home where you can focus on work. There is no one formula applicable to everyone. And let’s be real– sometimes boundaries are also meant to be broken because it is a matter survival. (This paragraph is being written with a three year old on my lap, who is eating cookies and getting lots of screen time—definitely outside our usual boundaries) Self-care right now can be as small as taking a moment to breathe and feel present in the moment in between the numerous demands at hand.
You Don’t Have to Have All the Answers
It can feel very stressful when you can’t give your kids answers so release yourself from knowing everything. The experts don’t know exactly what is going to happen so you don’t have to either. Acknowledge that we are learning and embrace uncertainty. It is okay to say, “I don’t know the answer to that question, but I bet we are going to be able to figure it out.” Or my favorite: “There are many smart, dedicated people working on this, so we just have to do our part and let them do theirs.” Information is flying at us at warp speed – pick one or two trusted resources and stick to them (like our own Public Health blog!) and take a break from the 24-hour onslaught especially right before bed. It’s most important that you are creating space for your kids, listening to them, validating and loving them amidst uncertainty.
Distance vs. Isolation
Connect with Others
It is really hard right now to feel cut off from our family and friend support networks. Parents’ sanity often relies on the help and in-person support from family and friends. Do you have grandparents that are high risk that you are avoiding in order to protect them? That’s love and it is also so incredibly sad and hard. It is important that we are intentional in reaching out and talking to our key support people. It may look different now—instead of group play dates, maybe it is group phone calls or video chats. Or perhaps it means a lot more texting during the day which also means you may be more distracted around your kids while on your phone. Give yourself a break and do what you need to do right now to encourage other parents, commiserate, and find the humor in these challenging times.
Get Fresh Air!
Maintaining distance does not mean you have to be cooped up inside the walls of your home. Even for those in quarantine—are you fortunate enough to have a yard or a balcony? If so, you can get outside! Maybe COVID-19 will turn you into an avid gardener.
The outside is a great place to be! King County is experiencing a wonderful stretch of weather and even when the weather is not so great it is still beautiful and green—a real selling point for our region. Get out! Let the kids out! Let them play outside with a small group of friends providing there is ample space (6 feet between them) and no contact. Riding bikes, scooters, running races are all encouraged. If you are telecommuting, take walking meetings, take family walks and look for treasures, talk to your neighbors from across the street – connect and care. Social distancing does not mean social isolation! Grandma was right, fresh air is good.
In short, in these unprecedented days we need to be gentle – to be gentle with our kids, ourselves, and our community. Remember that we are only human and community is our anchor during these hard time, even from a distance