So many parents are facing overwhelming challenges during this pandemic.
These challenges are common themes families face as they try to navigate this new reality of intense togetherness.
“I just don’t want to have to come up with one more activity!”
“Why do others seem to be able to manage this so well?”
“I just feel like dropping out of all my parenting responsibilities!”
Even in the best of times, parenting is a formidable job. This unprecedented situation, with so many kids at home learning remotely, only amplifies that challenge. The reality is that parents are just too hard on themselves.
It is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed and to know that there is no perfect parent or an ideal approach to parenting.
Comparing your parenting to others does not help. First of all, every family is different, and more than not, their ‘filtered highlight reel’ on social media, is rarely (if ever) a true reflection of what a family is going through.
Some tend to be more susceptible to the strains of parenting during this pandemic, including those who have a more perfectionistic approach to parenting, those who have a lower anger threshold, those who do not have an emotional support system, single parents, and those with special needs children.
Parenting is always an ongoing learning experience. As we move through the unique challenges of this pandemic, it is reassuring to note that there are many effective ways to help manage parental burnout.
Harvard Medical School Assistant Professor of Psychology, Dr. Lisa W. Coyne, Ph.D., suggests the following strategies:
Start Where You Are
Family burnout affects everyone differently. So, take stock of your emotional and physical health and be sure to acknowledge how difficult it is to maintain a healthy family dynamic in these difficult times.
Let Yourself off the Hook
You do not have to reduce your expectations for yourself or your kids even though your circumstances have changed. However, you can shift those expectations and figure out what works best for you and your family. Remember: There is no such thing as a perfect parent.
Create a Safe Harbor
No one should navigate the challenges of the pandemic alone. Fortunately, no one has to. There are many peer-support groups available, both formal and informal. Reaching out for help and engaging with others will reduce your risk of losing your temper and feeling overwhelmed.
Take a Break
Parenting during a pandemic is a full-time job—with forced overtime! Be sure to take breaks—take needed downtime and alone time. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to take breaks because of your duties as a parent. Try using a contingency statement, like “Mommy needs 15 minutes. I need you to (read, play, watch). After 15 minutes, we can do something fun. If you interrupt me before the timer is up, then we will have to start the timer again.”
Limit your use of alcohol, nicotine, and other substances. Focus on healthy eating and get physical exercise—giving you much-needed energy.
Mindfulness and Acceptance
You cannot effectively manage stress by dismissing it. Like trying to push a beach ball underwater, it will keep popping up. Remember that it is 100% OK to feel whatever you are feeling, including anger. Learn to accept your feelings and address your stress as you engage in everyday tasks. Slow down your mind. Label your emotions.
Help Your Kids Help You
- Model Behavior: Kids learn from what we do, not what we say
- Label Emotions: Give names to the different emotions your children are feeling
- Emotion Shifts: Make your children aware of your emotion shifts; for example, let them know that you were mad, but now you are happy
- Get Creative: With the kids home all day, find creative ways to keep them busy by engaging them in projects, chores, and educational activities
Step Back and Slow Down
As you engage with your partner or your children, step back from your thoughts. Slow down and take a moment to ask yourself what you need to do right now. Ask yourself: How do I want to view this moment looking back? How do I want my children to remember this? Doing this allows you to walk away from a potentially damaging situation or reframe your thoughts and actions. You may come to think that no response is best.