Dear Fellow Parents,
If you’re anything like me, you may need a lighter perspective following the first week of our strange, new COVID-19 reality. So, here you go: Congratulations! I mean it. This past week was one of the most difficult and slow-moving parenting experiences I’ve had so far. Don’t get me wrong – I adore my children and love spending time with them, but there is nothing like the task of facilitating e-learning with absolutely no option of escape to make you question your ability to be a quality parent. And this of course is the best-case scenario, one in which you are not personally or directly affected by the actual illness.
So, here’s the thing to know: You are a great parent. And now more than ever, I want to make sure you hear me when I say, we are all doing the very best that we can right now. And it is good enough! Enough is the important word here – enough. We do not have to be homeschooling superstars or master the art of cooking a week’s worth of kid-friendly meals from whatever you currently have in your pantry – we just have to be good enough. Lower your expectations of yourself, settle into the moment, and give yourself a high-five if you can currently locate all of your children.
Here are a few more tips to help lower the bar:
Take some time to check-in with your own anxiety.
Joking aside, these are very scary times and our anxiety can overwhelm us. Children are emotionally vigilant little creatures and are so tuned in to what we are feeling. If your anxiety is up, theirs will be too. Taking time for ourselves might not be a reasonable option given the current circumstances. So instead, identify out loud how you are feeling. Then together with your kids, do some intentional relaxation activities. This could include a few deep breaths, some light stretching, coloring quietly together, or even reading a favorite story.
Create a daily schedule – in pencil.
If you haven’t already, establish a daily routine now that most of our kids are home from school. We know that kids thrive with structure and predictability. But, none of us will benefit from a rigid, inflexible schedule. So, outline your day, but just do it in pencil. That way you leave yourself the option for change and hopefully, reduce your anxiety about staying on task.
Relax your screen time rules.
For both your own well-being and your children’s, let them play longer, watch longer, record videos longer, whatever. Yes, we will most likely pay a hefty price for this decision in the long run when we go back to limiting their screen time, but right now, give yourself a break. Literally give yourself a break and let the screen babysit your kids for just a bit longer.
Turn off all news and social media notifications.
Designate a specific 30 minutes a day where you can check in with the latest news and if you must, social media. Sure, it seems like the news changes frequently, but it will all still be there if you wait a few hours to check-in. Social media is a great way in this current situation to feel more connected to our friends and loved ones. However, it is also a sure-fire way to feel bad about your parenting skills. There will always be another parent out there posting about their homeschooling successes, clever corona virus crafts, or 7 ingenious ways to get your kids to eat canned tuna. Compare and despair, my friend. You are managing your life, your household, and your children exactly the way you know best.
And, this is enough.
Kate Fisch, LCSW
Psychotherapist and Eating Disorder Specialist
Northside Mental Health, Indianapolis