Covid 19 – Is the Stress of Parenting in this pandemic getting the best of you?

Are you feeling stress from trying to teach your kids online school, or from being stuck at home all day, and stuck at home with the kids to boot? Stressed about not being able to keep the house clean with all the younger kids underfoot, or maybe you have lost your job and income. The pressure from all these things alone, can be enough to raise your blood pressure. Add them in together and you may have tempers exploding, irritation rising, or even the feeling of avoidance and wanting to hide away somewhere and not be found.
As a mom who normally adores her kids, I know your feelings. Trying to adjust to the new norm of social distancing and safer at home practices, can just plain get to you.
I’m not gonna lie! In the beginning it was kind of nice! Not having to go anywhere, the kids had just started Spring Break, my brain was still trying to process the whole “corona thing” and that kids REALLY would not be going back to school once spring break was over. I was enjoying just hanging out at home!
It sure was a bummer to see their sports get cancelled, but as a mom of 5, spring sports and end of year activities usually have me pulling my hair out trying to time manage and calendar check all 7 of our schedules anyway. So to not have to go anywhere! I had projects I was going to do! Right!? Wellllll….
Reality has definitely set in! There is loss of freedom, loss of me time, loss of income for many, and dealing with the kids every day while under so much stress can quickly make you feel out of control of everything!
Here are 10 things you can do to get kids to listen better, help out more around the house and make the challenges life is presenting you with right now, a little easier!
1. Get onto a regular schedule! – Yes it’s easier to just let them sleep in every day. However, children (and adults) feel the most secure, calm and are better able to rationalize, when their lives are predictable. By establishing a daily routine, you can lower stress levels, and take better care of yourself and your kids. Routine makes you more productive and focused and it is easier to plan your days in advance and form good daily habits such as scheduled exercise and better meal planning. Children are very intuitive and interceptive to what adults are feeling, no matter how much you try to hide or not hide it. Kids internalize that stress and often react be developing interrupted sleep habits, being more aggressive, not listening, or even talking back. By establishing a regular routine for your family, your children will feel safer, calmer, listen more and as a result are better behaved.

2. Get some sort of exercise – Whether you have your own morning routine or not, get the kids involved in some kind of daily exercise. This can be as easy as a mid-day jumping jack and burpee challenge. Or just go outside to get fresh air on a bike ride, or walking the dog. My advice is to try to do it in an area you don’t have to wear your mask, but if you will be around people, you will obviously need to protect first. By getting that sunshine on your face and the fresh air in your lungs, you give your brain a boost and enhance your overall mood.

3. Set Boundaries – This is one of the areas I work on most with my clients. Boundaries! It’s hard enough as adults to set boundaries for ourselves, but setting boundaries with kids, mainly teenagers, can really give a parent a challenge. How DO you set boundaries without also experiencing the yelling, tears and anguish? If you haven’t put these in place from the time your child was an infant, have no fear. You still can! Expectations must be spelled out clearly to a child or teenager, with consequences to follow up. I have had several parents tell me, you can’t control a teenager! My response is, you don’t want to “control” the teenager. You want them to be making good choices and the best way to do this is by giving them love, with common sense rules and expectations. This does not mean telling them you will love them even if they go wild on the town causing grief for our overstrained business managers or police officers. This is done by loving them through consequences for their actions and walking them through their punishment should they choose not to follow the rules. By setting boundaries at home, having full expectations they be followed, and enforcing them with consequences, you allow your kids to learn from their own mistakes while at home. Ultimately avoiding having them making bad choices when you are not around to guide them.

4. Get some Adult time! – I have 5 kids ages 12-19. Between helping with homework and working myself, getting my own adult time is hard. It is! But I still make it happen! How? Well, I know from experience just having a single infant, toddler, or elementary child home is just as hard! I get it! You can’t just leave and go for a walk with the dog leaving that child alone! So what do you do? If you want just YOU time, get up an hour before your little ones do. If you want some couples time, whether one of you is working outside the home or not. Plan at least 2 days a week where you put the kids to bed an hour early and get a good movie going with some snuggle time. Currently, as a mom of pre-teen and teenagers. My husband and I have learned to put ourselves to bed early a couple nights a week. I get the youngest kiddos started on bed time routine around 7:30, say good night by 8:00 and we retire to our own room and start a movie or just have some snuggle time together. The kids respect our time and they know to get into bed and read or even catch some extra zzz’s on our “quarantine date nights.” Why do they respect this? Because we have made this part of the families routine. It is just as important to keep your marriage relationship happy as it is to take care of yourself and your kids.

5. Talk to your spouse! – If you are feeling frustrated, scared, worried, or overwhelmed. Talk about it! No one is a mind reader. Lots of people’s lives have completely changed from where they were even just 2 months ago. Keep communication open so you can find the best ways to work through these uncharted waters. Especially when your feelings are effecting your own emotions and happiness. The best time to talk to your spouse is by planning a private time to talk. This is NOT during date night, couple’s time. Couples time is for dreaming and enjoying each-others company. You can plan a regular time each week to get up early and talk about issues of concern. Or if that isn’t for you, give your spouse a “heads up, I need to talk tonight” or “I want to talk about our future”, where you can both prepare to have each-others full attention. Then go sit out on the patio after dinner and have a discussion. Let the kids run around the back yard while you talk. Open communication is super important during stressful times. No matter what you want to discuss, communication is key to keep your mental state healthy, which in turn keeps your family and marriage healthy as well.

6. Check your own mental health – Over the years of working with families, I have seen parents deal with their own emotions of overwhelm, sadness, and negative mental health in one of 2 different ways. The first is what I call the “Bottle it up” method. This way of handling stress is by pushing all those negative feelings back down inside with an “I can do this, I don’t need help, I’m just fine” attitude. Or what I termed as the “Whaler”. This is the parent who voices all their emotions to the public, on social media, in front of their kids, or to anyone who is in ear shot. Either way, is not beneficial to anyone. Not saying anything can cause distress to your own physical and mental health and can lead you down a path to suicidal thoughts and feelings of hopelessness. If you are the whaler, your outcries, on social media, public forums, or in front of your kids, of helpless desperation are not taken as you might think they should be. Often times found to be an annoyance and ignored, or even worse, elevated by an equally dramatic participant. If you are expressing your outcry of desperation verbally in front of your children at home. This only causes unnecessary stress for your children and gives them the idea that dramatizing your feelings to the world gives them the right act out in a dramatic fashion for any situation. This in turn creates a backlash on you and your efforts of parenting, as well as any authoritative figure your children encounter in their lives. The healthiest way to get the genuine help you need is by talking to someone at a private and personal level rather than using a public platform. Tell them you are struggling and ask if they would be willing to listen and help. Whether it be a friend, your spouse, your doctor, or calling a help line, by speaking directly person to person, creates a more significant result in getting the help you need. You are an important person to your child and your spouse. Ask for help before it becomes over whelming.

7. Take time to Pray or Meditate – You can do this time each day alone, or practice this with your kids. Sit quietly with yourself with no distractions, close your eyes and talk to God, or your higher self. You can do so by speaking in your head or even by speaking out loud if you are alone. Whatever your beliefs are, taking even 20 minutes to an hour a day to make this a habit can give you these great benefits.

a. It is a stress reducer
b. Helps control anxiety
c. Promotes emotional health
d. Enhances self-awareness
e. Lengthens attention span
f. May help reduce age-related memory loss such as dementia
g. Increase the feel good hormones in your body and helps with positive feelings
h. Improves sleep
i. Helps with pain control
j. Can decrease blood pressure

8. Apologize – Everyone messes up. Be sure you apologize if you have lost your temper, or done something that wasn’t fair or right. By showing your children an authentic apology, you re-establish dignity for those you hurt. A sincere apology allows you to let people know you are not proud of your actions and you will do your best not to repeat that behavior again. It helps repair the relationship it has strained by getting you talking again, and making you feel comfortable with each other again. It is so important for your kids to see you are be able to own your mistakes and can help them grow into a better adult.

9. Creative Time! – Creativity is most important skill in the world to have! It truly is! Set aside time each week for some creative time. Whether it is creating a new game to play outside, making up a fun story to tell, making homemade playdough, building a Lego tower, or for older kids, letting them make dinner for everyone, or giving them a project they can complete. Maybe they want to paint their own room, or create a vegetable garden, or help build the garden beds, or plant flowers. Being creative helps you become a better problem solver in all areas of your life and work. It gives you a boost of success and accomplishment. Studies show that creative people are better able to live with uncertainty because they can adapt their thinking to allow for the flow of the unknown.

10. Co-parenting trade off- If you have an essential worker spouse, working long hours or maybe an ex that you are trading off time with your children. It is important to let your kids know you understand if they are missing their other parent, or feeling bounced around. One of the hardest things to deal with in this pandemic is keeping consistency for everyone. If your spouse is working long hours and your children are missing them. The last thing your spouse wants when they come home is to have to entertain the kids. Though it is not just about “entertainment for your children”, it is the bond the kids feel for that working parent that keeps them at their side the second they get home after a long day at work. Remember they just need your reassurance that you are still very much a part of their lives. The easiest way to re-establish this connection and reassure your children is to take 30 min to an hour with your full attention directed to them, once you are settled back home. If you need a minute to regroup yourself, give everyone hugs when you walk in, and then take a hot shower. This will allow you to regroup and for the energy to settle a little in the home again. Then you can come out of your room refreshed and ready to receive all the love they have been bottling up to pour on you the whole time you were gone.
If you are trading off time with children in different homes, or on different schedules then your spouse, settling back in to routine can be challenging. Communicate as best you can with your co-parent and try to arrange a similar schedule with each other. If your co-parent is not following the same rules and routine as you do, then spend the first hour or 2 gently reminding your kids of your routine you follow with them. The more you stick to routine the faster they will adjust because they know what to predict with you, and the smoother the transitions will become.

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