The COVID-19 pandemic affects everyone. This means we are all going through this collectively. People we may normally turn to for help are also experiencing similar feelings, making it difficult to reach out to and lean on our usual network of support. Furthermore, for parents, home has become everything: work, school and the social environment. The fact that we all need to practice social distancing to keep ourselves and others safe affects our mental health in an even greater way.
To prepare for life after the pandemic start now by assessing what is most important to you and what you would like to change and continue as you move forward. Here are 6 tips for parents to get through these times and to help adjust to the new normal:
Acknowledge & Track How You Feel
It’s perfectly normal and ok to feel fearful, anxious or nervous during this time. I recommend having a mood tracker to keep a watch on how you’re feeling daily so you can do something to intervene before it becomes problematic. Acknowledge and accept how you feel. Then reach out to friends or family to talk about your feelings. You may also wish to engage in an activity that brings you joy such as watching a comedy, cooking or gardening, to help improve your mood. If anxiety or fearful feelings occur too often or continue to persist, I recommend reaching out to a mental health professional to talk about and process your feelings as well as learn ways to cope.
Create a Routine
Set a schedule that works for you, so you are able to keep up with daily expectations in your many roles, parenting, work, etc. Having a schedule or daily routine also helps you keep some sense of normalcy, reduces stress and increases resiliency as the pandemic continues.
The fact that most people are home may cause others to believe you have more free time. However, parents have a lot to juggle and may actually have less free time than before. Setting boundaries is imperative during this time. It does not mean you cannot give time to other people but instead don’t do so to the exclusion of your own needs, leaving you with very little energy or time for yourself. Begin setting boundaries by giving yourself permission to say “No” to things you really do not want or have time to do, by staying aware of how you feel, being assertive and direct and seeking support when needed (talking through your decisions may help).
Throw Out Comparison
Self-comparison can be destructive and robs you of joy. Parents, it is unfair to you to look at other parents and compare your parenting to them. It lowers self-esteem and self-confidence and brings on negative emotions. Safeguard yourself from things, people and situations that will negatively impact your self-esteem. Practice self-acceptance, appreciate the good in yourself and your parenting, realize your uniqueness and that you cannot be compared to anyone else. When you look at other parents do so only to learn new ideas to incorporate in your parenting.
Forgive yourself for not doing things or for any mistakes you made. Be easy on yourself. We are in unprecedented times and there is no book or roadmap on how to handle everything that is happening. Some days you may feel like the best parent, be super productive and feel you had a stellar day. Other days you may desire to do and be more, or maybe you yelled at or said something to your child that you wish you would not have. You are human! Forgive yourself and be kind to yourself then do your best next time.
While your roles may be many remember to practice self-care. We all need some alone time away from other family members. Be sure to engage in something you enjoy doing daily and do some things alone. Take a walk, have a pamper/spa day at home, take a nap or sleep in, work out or meditate. Whatever you choose to do be sure to set boundaries around your self-time so you can focus solely on you.