So, you’re raising a child during a pandemic. And of all the parenting challenges you thought you’d encounter and prepared for, I suspect this one wasn’t very high on the list, if it was on the list at all. Now, you’re trying to navigate what were once normal, everyday activities (working, getting the kids to school, running errands, etc.) with the added bonus of:
- working from home, with all its distractions, including your spouse and kids being home all the time
- getting kids to online school sessions, resolving any technical issues that may arise
- running errands, as long as you’re wearing a face mask (in some states), maintaining an appropriate distance from your fellow shoppers, finding alternatives to products not readily available, and fighting thoughts of anxiety when you leave the house
What are you and your family supposed to do when your life has turned pretty topsy-turvy, with lots of uncertainty about when it will all end?
As simple as it sounds, this is something that we often forget to do when feeling stressed, overly anxious, annoyed, angry, you name it. In stressful times, we tend to tense up, clench our jaw, roll our eyes, feel our heart start to race. In moments like these it’s important to stop, take a deep breath in and exhale as slowly as possible to allow for the calming effect to take place. It’s an excellent behavior to model for your children as well, as middle schoolers can often struggle with emotional regulation (think of all the changes they’re experiencing, on top of what’s going on!). You may even find that if your child approaches you agitated, if you remain calm and model slow and deep breathing, they will quickly mimic your pattern and begin to calm down themselves.
Let Things Go
You might be inundated with posts on social media about making the most of this time we’ve been given. It’s a beautiful thing, really, to have so much mandated time to spend with our families. And at the same time, this isn’t the case for every family. Some families may be struggling to work from home, as supervisors increase work loads and virtual meetings in an effort to make sure everyone is still working 40 hours a week. Some families may be facing a drastic cut in their take home salary and trying to adjust to how they can continue to meet their basic needs. If someone suggests you take this time to learn a new skill, explore a hidden talent, start an herb garden, learn Japanese or plan your future trip to Mars in 2030, just let it go. The same goes for the laundry that’s piling up and driving you crazy. Take a deep breath and let it go.
Plan and Prioritize, Then Share It
Again, each family is different; some families may have had a certain way of doing things (for example, maybe dad always cooked dinner because he got home earlier or mom was in charge of making sure homework was complete) and it might be time to reassess what was working (or not working). Rather than put yourself at the mercy of each day, identify one or two major tasks that need to get done and plan with the family how it’s going to get completed. Let’s say, you know you need to spend 2 hours in a virtual meeting tomorrow and you desperately need to focus. Start the conversation with your family by saying: “Tomorrow, I need to be present for this meeting from 10 am to 12 pm. What if you all watch a movie together to keep you occupied while I’m doing this? You can pick the movie.” The same goes for chores that might have been waylaid. You might say, “Today, we’re going to do two loads of laundry and organize the rest so it’s off the floor of your bedroom. Do you want to organize, or load the washing machine?” This way you work together, not against one another, to get things done.
You and Your Child Are Struggling With the Same Feelings
Just like you miss your friends, your co-workers, getting out of the house regularly and alone time, your child is struggling with these same emotions. They may miss their classmates, their teachers, friends and after school activities. Additionally, they may be experiencing a sense of relief at not having to go to school everyday (just like you might not be missing that 45 minute commute each morning). It’s ALL normal. It’s ALL okay. What matters most is that you give space for you and your child, to feel whatever you might be feeling during this time. Some ways you can do this are by asking your child at the end of the day what were some things they liked about today, disliked, what they learned and what they hope for tomorrow. Even if they don’t answer you, you’re letting them know you’re there for them and they can come to you whenever they need.
One final thought to keep in mind is that despite the seemingly endless nature of the pandemic: it will end, it is temporary. If you keep that in mind, you can face any challenge that comes your way.
Hello! My name is Hayley Kirchoff and I’m a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and National Certified Counselor. I specialize in working with individuals to overcome feelings of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and a history of childhood trauma. I also work with children (ages 4 – 12 years old). As a strengths-based therapist, I love to help individuals explore the root cause of their issue and make a plan toward achieving the goals of better living, without placing blame on what happened to them in the past. My approach to counseling sessions is to work collaboratively with you as the client to help determine the best course of action while incorporating evidence based therapy techniques.
For more information, visit: https://caringtherapistsofbroward.com/staff/hayley-kirchoff-lmhc/