How Can You Handle Parenting During A Crisis?
Being a parent is hard at the very best of times. However, recent health and economic crises haves made the job of parenting even harder. Family life has gone through some dramatic changes in the strategies that have been mandated during the health portion of the crisis. This has led to many parents (and, indeed their children) experiencing increased anxiety and stress along with the chance to their regular routines.
The lockdown that has been implemented in many countries, states and cities has led to some major parenting struggles that are difficult for any mom or dad to face. However, if you’re already a parent who suffers from mental health disorders like depression or anxiety, it can be even more challenging to cope. Having to stay at home all day in close quarters with your children can prove to be more difficult than you ever imagined. Typically, when children go to school and you go to work, the time that you spend together as a family is quality time. Now, though, there’s no such thing as quality time. With everyone on top of each other day in day out, tempers can rise and nerves can fray. This can lead to major tensions in any family home. So here, we’ll look at how parenting has changed due to this worldwide crisis and how parents everywhere can better manage their own mental health in lockdown along with that of their kids.
The Guilt Of Full-Time Parenting
One of the greatest issues that is facing parents during the current crisis and self-isolation is that the reality of 24/7 parenting is hitting home hard. With neither parents nor children being able to escape each other, it’s only natural to feel claustrophobic, especially if the kids are unsettled, bored and irritable themselves. Most parents in this situation feel somewhat trapped and frustrated, but not only that, they also often feel extremely guilty too. After all, shouldn’t all parents enjoy spending time with their little ones? If you’re not having a wonderful time with your children when faced with the prospect of ongoing full-time parenting, does that mean you’re a bad parent?
Of course, it doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean you don’t feel that way. In fact, the situation that we’ve all found ourselves in at the moment is unprecedented and completely out of the ordinary. So, you shouldn’t judge yourself too harshly for struggling with the challenges that you’re facing. We’re simply not used to spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week cooped up in a relatively small space with our other family members without any respite. Usually, we can rely on going to work, to school, to the gym, to the cinema, or to visit friends or family as a way of breaking up the time and recharging our batteries. Without these crutches that we’re so used to relying upon, it’s quite natural to feel stressed, out of control and frustrated. Spending so much time with anyone can be difficult to manage, even if those people are our nearest and dearest. Don’t waste time in negative thoughts about yourself. That will only make matters worse. Instead, acknowledge and accept that we’re living in unique times and, so, we simply have to get on with things as best we can, taking the rough with the smooth until the lockdown is finally relaxed.
Until that time, though, it’s important to find ways to cope more effectively so you can manage your own mental wellness as well as that of your children.
Making Physical Activity Part Of Your Lockdown Experience
Just because you have to spend your time at home doesn’t mean that you can’t make physical activity part of your daily life. In fact, you should try hard to add it into your routine. If you’re able to get outdoors in a back yard, that would be even better, but even if you can’t, there are still ways to get exercise at home. Online classes are easy to find, with some that are aimed at children and complete beginners, so you can be sure that everyone in the family can join in.
This is a great way to bring the family together with a positive purpose. It will also help improve everyone’s mental and physical well-being, and help to fill the time with engaging activities. With such a lot of options available to choose from, you could try something new every day. From yoga and dance classes to HIIT workouts and aerobics routines, there’s sure to be something for everyone.
Keep A Family Routine
With everyone indoors all day long, it can become all-too-easy for the whole family to fall into a disorganized way of life. Sleeping too much. Going to bed too late. Eating irregularly and unhealthily. Spending too much time watching TV or using screens. All of these things can contribute to worsening mental health for every member of the family.
To function properly emotionally, mentally and physically, it’s important to stick to some mind of regular pattern of behavior. Get up at the same time each day. Have regular meal times. Find fun activities that don’t involve the use of a screen, and go to bed at a reasonably hour. It may sound easy, but it’s harder to adhere to than you might imagine.
Nevertheless, good routines won’t just help you to stay mentally on an even keel, it will also help to avoid unnecessary tensions and disagreements between family members. When children know what to expect next in their day, they can accept those boundaries more easily. They will also be better rested and, so, more able to cope with the challenges that each day throws up without a meltdown.
Try to make a plan of things you can do, either by yourself, or as a family so that each day has a clear structure. Begin by making a brief list of three or four small and achievable tasks that you need to get done, then take pleasure in ticking them off. It’ll make a huge difference to your emotional well-being to feel as if you’re achieving something every day.
Staying In Touch With Loved Ones
Although the rules of the lockdown mean that it’s impossible to physically spend time with friends and family members who might give us some respite from the intense family environment, it’s still possible to stay in touch using technology. Whether via video call or conferencing app, or just on the phone, it’s good to talk and it’s good for the children to talk too. Simply seeing their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and companions can help to alleviate some stress and help everyone to not feel so alone. It also presents a good opportunity for struggling parents to discuss their problems with those who can give them support, even if it’s only in terms of advice and kind thoughts.
If you’re really struggling to cope, you should consider joining a support network or group online. Just by talking with other parents who are in the same situation can prove to be very helpful and will make you feel less alone and mentally challenged. Parenting forums, or special mental health websites can be useful sources of information and support at any time, and especially at the moment in these unprecedented circumstances.
Create Mini Me-Zones
Finding space inside the home for every family member to take time out away from the hustle and bustle of others can be difficult. However, it’s important for everyone to feel as though they have a place to retreat to when they’re feeling anxious, stressed, upset or angry. It may be possible for every family member to have a room of their own that they can go to and close the door to take some time out. But in other homes, this will be impossible, especially when children share bedrooms or many people are crammed into a small apartment.
Try to make a designated space for each family member, even if it isn’t in a separate room. Just a corner of the living room could be a suitable me-zone if every member of the family agrees to leave anyone using that space alone until they’ve had a chance to chill out, unwind and calm down.
Reducing Media Exposure
Unfortunately, in today’s environment it’s hard to escape the constant onslaught of bad news. With the headlines everyday telling us how many people have succumbed to the disease, it’s no wonder that anxieties are rife amongst both adults and children. If you’re finding that you, or your children, are experiencing anxiety about the latest updates it’s time to reduce your exposure to the media. Try limiting the number of times you switch on the news, and try to avoid Facebook and other social media apps if you’re finding the things you read distressing. Allow yourself to watch the news once or twice a day so you can stay up to date with the latest happenings and answer your children’s questions if necessary, but take steps to care for your mental well-being too.
Helping Your Children’s Mental Health
While it’s important to take care of your own mental health in lockdown, it’s also vital to care for that of your children too. Remember that, although children are usually very resilient, they can still be affected by their parents’ distress, and if you’re very depressed, stressed, or anxious, this will be picked up by your little ones. This could then translate into poor behavior and more attention-seeking, which will only serve to make your mood worse.
Rather than focusing on everything that’s going wrong, which is all-too-easy, try to focus on the positive. Praise your children and let them know that you appreciate the efforts that they’re putting in whenever they help you with something. Even praising children for something as small as saying thank you, or tidying up their toys, can really boost their self-esteem and make them feel happier and reassured.
Try to make time to participate in activities with your child every day, even if you’re busy with work and household chores. It’s important to have quality time together even in the current circumstances, so be led by your child. Arrange several chunks of time during the day when you can play together and enjoy an activity of your child’s choice rather than focusing on school work or learning.
If you’re feeling stressed out and ready to snap at your child or react badly, try to take a step back. Focus on how you feel and what your thoughts are sounding like before you take action. If it’s possible to step away from a situation that is rapidly escalating into a major meltdown, there’s a better chance that both you and your children will be happier in the long-run. Take some deep breaths, go to the bathroom and splash some water on your face, or go to the window and breathe in some fresh air. Just a short period of time out will give you the space you need to handle the situation with a clearer head.
If it’s already too late to take time out and you’ve already exchanged harsh words, try to reset then move on. Unpleasant outbursts happen from time to time, but if you can just quickly apologize then move on to a new activity, it’s usually possible to smooth everything over. Remember, too, to be generous with your affection. Remember that physical comfort represents a powerful way of managing stressful situations and events. Snuggling in front of their favorite cartoon or having a cuddle as you read them a bedtime story may be small things, but they can make a huge difference, not only to your child’s state of mind but also your own.
Parenting is never an easy job, and in this current global climate, it’s an even harder one. But remember that social distancing won’t last forever. So, try to make these few weeks ones to remember forever for all the right reasons, and focus on strengthening the parent/child bond so both you and your little ones can enjoy better mental health, despite the tough times.
And if you’re struggling with your mental health as a result of these crises, reach out to The Meadowglade! Our dedicated staff is here to help!