I have always been the type of parent to prepare for everything. However, preparing for a pandemic is something I never could have imagined. I mean, who could have prepared for this? Coping with COVID-19 as a parent has been overwhelming and exhausting to say the least.
Perhaps you are a working parent trying to adjust into a new routine of working from home with your children. Perhaps you are an essential worker dealing with being separated from your children, worried about exposing them. Or perhaps you are a stay at home parent, trying to juggle being a parent and now a teacher for your child who is doing remote learning for school! Now is the time for parents of all kinds to come together and support one another.
Let’s just say it – parenting during a pandemic is hard!
As parents, it is important to remember that the state of our mental well-being can have a large impact on the overall mood of the household. We are all feeling many types of pressure. It ranges from financial uncertainty, lack of child-care, and worrying about the well-being of loved ones. On top of that, we are feeling the pressure of being our child’s main, maybe only, source of education, entertainment, and social activity. Throughout the day your mind wanders asking yourself questions like –
Am I reading to them enough?
Are they having too much screen time?
Have I been present enough with my children today?
Although these questions we ask ourselves are well-meaning and at times help motivate us to engage with our children, it is important to take a step back. Focus on connection. Focus on being happy, and making your child happy. Here are some suggestions on ways that you can become a happier, more present parent during a pandemic.
Let the guilt go
Have you been thinking about the American Academy of Pediatrics suggestion on screen time a lot lately? I know I have! It is time to let this guilt go. During a time of social distancing, screen time restrictions should go out the window. Instead, try finding educational programs for your child to watch. Make sure that you are taking breaks for things like outdoor time, and reading. However, if you are noticing that your child is watching more TV than usual – you are not alone.
Furthermore, you can even use screen time as a way to engage with your child. Perhaps now you might have some time to watch their shows with them. Engage in conversations about the characters, point out teachable moments, and teach empathy through discussing what their favorite character might be thinking or feeling. My current favorite for this activity is Sesame Street!
You may also be spending more time yourself on social media than usual. Scrolling past the perfect pictures of others, you may feel guilty and like you’re not doing enough for your child. It is important to remember that social media is often a portrayal of what people want you to see rather than reality. Remember if social media starts to shift your emotions in a negative direction, it’s time to take a break.
An even tempered parent is most important
When you feel stressed, your child feels stressed. This is no coincidence. Your child is taking in all of your verbal and nonverbal cues about how to feel during this pandemic. During a time when the outside world may feel unsafe, be your child’s safe space. Engaging in your own self-care may seem like a far-off dream right now, but you have to find small opportunities for self-care in your everyday moments. For example, when you are taking your shower today try focusing on what the water feels like hitting your body. What does it sound like? Focus on what the experience of taking a shower evokes in all of your senses. Take slow, deep breaths as your observe. This small act may seem insignificant, but it is called practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is proven to help reduce stress! When you come out, you will be a calmer parent. In turn, your child will feel safer and happier too.
Small moments are big memories
It has always been important to me to focus on experiences and making memories with my child. Now, with all of the museums and theaters closed it may feel like sharing great experiences with your child is near impossible. Perhaps this has you worried about your child’s development. You might be feeling the pressure of being one of their only sources of education and social interaction. But, what if we shifted our way of thinking about experiences? I know that I am guilty of getting caught up in the big moments prior to this pandemic – always looking forward to the next family trip. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been working on appreciating the small moments more and focusing on connecting with my child. One mom told me that she recently put a mattress in the living room and did a camp out with her child there! Another shared that they had a birthday party for their child’s dolls.
Moreover, Chrissy Teigen even posted the whole family partaking in a wedding for two of her children’s dolls! Get creative, get silly, and get in touch with your own inner child. This can help those small moments feel like big memories to your child. Be kind to yourself by throwing away all preconceived notions about what you “should be” doing. Rather than worrying about them missing out on their after school activities and classes, feel good about the small moments like having a pokemon stuffie battle. They will remember the moments when you were a present parent.
Remember that none of us are perfect. We are all works in progress, just trying to do our best in uncharted waters right now. It is ok if you slip up on some of these suggestions, but FORGIVE YOURSELF and JUST KEEP ON TRYING!
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Jessica is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping those struggling with postpartum depression and birth trauma. She creates a safe place for her clients to share their stories and develop the necessary skills to thrive. Jessica specializes in treatment for children, families, and mothers.