Parenting these days is like a game of Jenga. You’re trying to keep everything balanced – school, work, play, meals, finances, household maintenance – but everything seems to be one move away from collapsing into a pile of rubble. Feel the same? You’re not alone. A new study from the University of Michigan shows that 52 percent of parents surveyed said that financial concerns and social isolation are getting in the way of their parenting. Another 61 percent admitted that they shouted, yelled or screamed at their children at least once in the past two weeks. Parenting is hard in general but parenting during a pandemic, which children have difficulty understanding, is doubly hard.
Below you’ll find nine tips to help you and your family come out of this in one piece.
- You’re human. Rest assured, no one is at home with their feet up thinking how easy the past month has been. In reality, parents are locking themselves in the bathroom trying to get five minutes of peace. You may feel stressed, anxious, depressed and/or worried. And you may have noticed that your kids are having similar feelings. Don’t beat yourself up. You are doing the best you can in the moment with the resources you have.
- Connect. As more parents report feeling overwhelmed the more adult connection is needed. Connect (and commiserate) with other parents in the same boat. Share both your wins and fails with other parents. Be honest! Don’t be ashamed that your child is playing Minecraft five hours a day. Trust us, they’re not the only one doing so. Consider connecting with other parents via our Facebook page.
- Be Present. Karolina Lazarov, a licensed counselor and behavioral specialist, recommends designating an hour of your time to be fully present with your child rather than talking to them while staring at your phone or cooking dinner. “Children want to be heard and they want to feel that you have time for them even if that means that you will be sitting together on the sofa watching TV. Put your phone, tablet and laptop away for just an hour and you will see how happy your child’s face will be.” To be more present, try this five-minute visualization and meditation.
- Get “Me Time.” As you’ve probably heard, you can’t care for others if you don’t take care of yourself. When the kids are occupied or sleeping take some time solely for you. That may mean enjoying a glass (or several) of wine, taking a warm bath, reading a book you’ve had on the shelf for months, watching a movie (bonus points for popcorn), going on a walk or whatever else nourishes your soul. Remember not to feel guilty about taking this time!
- Let it Go. As Anna and Elsa say, let it go. If the kids made a huge mess and you don’t feel like cleaning it immediately, just let it go. Ordered pizza every day this week? Let it go. Haven’t showered in three days? Let it go, either have a lot of us. And remember to take some deep breaths, which help to reset your nervous system.
- Relax the Rules. Kids want to play with their friends not be stuck at home all day with (gasp!) their parents. “Our kids suffer, too. It’s difficult for them and as much as they are resilient, they also need time to adjust to the new reality with less structure and less obligations but with more chaos and disorientation. Don’t expect too much from your child who feels stuck. He feels exactly like you; overwhelmed, stressed out and sometimes scared,” recommends Lazarov. In your household that may mean pizza for breakfast, later bedtimes or more screen time.
- Get Outside. Many parents have shared that they have been going on family walks to get a lot of pent up energy out (theirs and the kids’). Plus, there is something refreshing and rejuvenating about connecting with nature. Look for four-leaf clovers, try to identify birds you see, play “I spy” and look for something yellow on your walk.
- Create a Flexible Routine. The World Health Organization recommends creating a schedule that has time for structured activities as well as free time. This can help children feel more secure and better behaved. Allow your children to help plan the day’s activities as they’re more likely to follow the routine if they helped to plan it. As a recommendation, check out the book My Hero Is You to help children ages 6-11 understand the virus.
- Take a (Virtual) Vacay. You may be stuck at home but you can still explore the world thanks to dozens of organizations going virtual. Take a home safari with the Cincinnati Zoo, visit a famous museum from your couch, watch a Broadway play or even travel to Australia.