Parenting is difficult at any time, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light many new challenges. If you’re a parent, you’re probably familiar with the stress and worry that so many other families are reporting right now. Trying to support and care for your kids while the world is in crisis can feel impossible, but you’re not alone.
Many of us find ourselves facing new routines and roles during the pandemic. Maybe you started working remotely and are figuring out how to juggle your job responsibilities while parenting. Perhaps your kids are doing school from home, and you’re trying to help them keep up with their work. Are you just adjusting to life without regularly seeing extended family, friends, or neighbors?
Managing all of these life changes is overwhelming, but you are more resilient than you may realize. Remember that this pandemic will not last forever and that it’s okay to feel like the stress is building up. By following these tips, you can find balance, reduce stress, and help yourself and your kids make it through each day.
1. Understand Low Versus High Brain
Your kids may be acting out more frequently than usual during the pandemic, and there are a few reasons why. Understanding the roles of the low brain and the high brain can help you get to the root of your child’s outbursts and effectively manage them.
The high brain is in charge of your complex thought processes like task management and logical reasoning. When your child’s high brain acts out, they’re fully in control of their behaviors. They may appear out of control, but internally, they’re being strategic in their choice of words and actions.
In these cases, creating boundaries and consequences is helpful. Your child can understand that what they’re doing is wrong, so this is a great parenting opportunity to teach them the appropriate behavior.
Low brain meltdowns involve a loss of control that you don’t see with high brain episodes. When the low brain acts out, the brain is so overwhelmed with stress that the child can no longer think straight. In these situations, your child won’t respond to logic and reason. Explaining to them why the behavior is wrong probably won’t help in the moment. Instead, the goal should be to soothe your child until their high brain is in control again.
2. Address Your Child’s Stress
Kids are often capable of understanding more than we give them credit for. Even if your child is very young, they can tell that the world has changed. To help them through the pandemic, be sure to address their stress and worries.
Don’t share information about the COVID-19 pandemic that’s beyond their developmental level, but be honest when you answer their questions. Talk with them about the safety precautions they can follow, like hand-washing and social distancing. Your kids may manage their stress better when they know that they can do their part to help slow the spread.
If your kids express their fears, stress, or disappointment, be understanding. Try to comfort them and assuage their fears, but don’t dismiss them. Stress is a valid feeling for people of all ages, so let your kids know that it’s okay to feel down right now.
3. Have One-on-one Time
Your family may be spending more time at home during the pandemic, but this doesn’t automatically mean that you’re spending quality time together. If you have multiple kids, try to have one-on-one time with each of them. Each child could choose an activity for the two of you to engage in.
This parenting tip is always relevant, but it’s especially important now that there have been such big changes in roles and routines. One-on-one time with each of your kids can be a valuable opportunity to forge a closer bond and check in with them about how they’re feeling about the pandemic.
4. Stick to a Routine
Your usual routine may not work anymore, but you can always develop a new one. Kids respond so well to routines, particularly during stressful times. Having certain tasks or activities that they can anticipate will make your kids feel more secure.
Regular sleeping schedules and mealtimes are critical as stress gets worse when you’re hungry or tired. Your family may benefit from keeping a regular schedule for schoolwork, exercise, and household chores as well.
5. Reward Good Behavior
Your typical parenting strategy may not involve rewarding behaviors like completing homework on time, making the bed, or cooperating with siblings. However, during the stress of the pandemic, it may be helpful to reward your kids for these positive acts.
While adjusting to these new circumstances, it can be more difficult to keep up with usual tasks and chores. Maintaining their responsibilities may take more effort if your kids are mentally or emotionally drained. Show them that you appreciate their efforts by recognizing and rewarding good behavior.
6. Work with Other Parents
Your best resource during this stressful time is probably those who are going through the same thing. Check in with other parents via phone or social media to see how they’re handling the pandemic. You could even work with other parents to organize a virtual activity for your children.
If you’re not close with other parents, look for online support groups. There are plenty of groups on social media and online forums dedicated to parenting. You may be able to connect with new friends on those platforms to offer each other support and get tips for managing challenges during the pandemic.
7. Take Care of Yourself
As a parent, when stress starts to take over your life, the first person you neglect is yourself. Between your kids, work, and household tasks, you may feel like there’s no time left for self-care. However, if you don’t practice self-care, you’ll quickly burn out and be unable to be your best self for your kids.
Try to take a few minutes every day for yourself. Self-care doesn’t have to be an elaborate or indulgent routine. You could listen to your favorite song in the shower or read a book for 15 minutes before going to bed. Alternatively, you could detach from work by shutting off your computer after dinner. Another option is that you could take a break from social media if it’s fueling your stress.
Be intentional about your self-care so that you follow through with it. If it helps, add your self-care activity to your calendar, even if it’s just a few minutes of meditation. Write it on your to-do list so that you remember to make it a priority.
Many counselors are currently offering tele-health therapy sessions, so you don’t even have to leave home for your appointment. You and your counselor can discuss the reasons behind your stress and find healthy coping skills as you navigate this difficult time. No matter what you’re struggling with, mental health professionals are here to help.
The Beverly Hills Therapy Group is offering therapy for parents and other individuals dealing with stress, anxiety, or other mental health concerns. Whether you’re affected by COVID-19 or are seeking support for any other reason, we can help you work through it. Contact us today to speak with a therapist in Los Angeles.