The Long Days and Nights of Parenting During Social Distancing.

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First take a deep breath and know you are not alone. This is hard work taking care of children and especially during such uncertain and extraordinary times.  During the first two weeks of social distancing and working from home, I have been talking with friends, colleagues and clients about how we are all adjusting to having our home be the “one stop shop” for entertainment, meals, work and school for our children. The pressure on parents right now to keep their children safe and entertained, while still working, can be very challenging and anxiety provoking for everyone. As we settle into this new normal it is important to reflect on what works for your family.  Not every family or every family member needs the same thing.  Here are some tips to be emotionally healthy…

Compassion   

During this time of uncertainty we are all craving clarity and control. Find ways to be compassionate and model compassion.  As we know there are so many things out of our control and out of the control of our children.  This can lead to frustration, anger, sadness and anxiety. These emotions can lead to challenging behaviors at home. It is important to approach this uncertainty with compassion.  Help your child understand with age-appropriate facts what is happening and what we have control over.  Give children space to express their feelings and finding ways to soothe their discomfort.  You may start a new daily ritual of sharing a positive experience or facts you learned.  Make sure to practice self compassion too, even when we are trying our best we can lose our cool.  If this happens, find ways to express your frustration and discuss challenging and overwhelming emotions.  

Structure  

Every family will have a different level of structure then they are used to.  Think about what has worked in the past, plan your day with this in mind. For children who have been in school or outside activities, they are used to the predictable nature of their day. Now that everything is cancelled and their day is wide open, this can be overwhelming. Plan a schedule that includes time for physical activity, schoolwork, reading, social time, and relaxation.  Depending on the age of your children, they may need help coming up with this schedule.  Help give them choices (that work for you too) on how their day will be spent.  Daily routines offer comfort during uncertain times.

 

Together but Separate

This is one aspect I have been hearing is the most challenging and stressful for families.  We keep hearing about how we should embrace this time with our family.  Yet, as we know there also is value in having some alone time, both for adults and children. It is important to create time and space for each family member to have some alone time.  Talk this through with your partner and children.  We all need time to do our own thing without judgement or guilt.  Build this into your day.  It may be watching a show only you like, reading, or talking on the phone. While we are all physically sharing a small amount of space, how can you set aside alone time for yourself? Talk through this ahead of time with your family and give each other time to prepare and plan for what they can do to keep busy during your alone time. This is a wonderful skill to model for children as young as 3 years old. In addition to planning time alone, it is important to be mindful of how each of you are feeling in the moment. If you or one of your family members are feeling overwhelmed it might be helpful to let your family know that you need a break.

 

Lean in for Support

During times of social isolation and distancing it is critical that we reach out for support and connection with those people that lift us up. Who can you call, text or video chat with about your day?  Who can your child reach out to? Think about setting up daily rituals around connection to people outside your home.  This could include playing a game over Facetime, reading aloud via the phone or sending texts.  The more we are engaged with others, the better we will feel.  If you have people in your circle that are bringing you down or making you feel overwhelmed, set healthy boundaries around your interactions. Leaning in for support can also mean reaching for support outside your circle.  Seeing a therapist via telehealth can give you the space to process what you and your family are going through and offer coping strategies for how to manage this time. 

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