Zoom classroom probably wasn’t on your list of things to know as parent. Most likely neither was learning how to entertain during a quarantine. But here you are parenting during a pandemic. If you run out of energy, patience, and other tools in your toolbox, you can be assured you aren’t the only one. Maybe some of the tools below can be added to your already built toolbox.
First. YOU ARE DOING GREAT! It’s easy to see the lack of “knowing” during this time as a fail. However, no one was given the manual “How to Parent during a Pandemic” (nor was one ever created). You are doing what you can with the knowledge, skill, and love you have. Some days will be tougher and more challenging than others. That doesn’t make you less of a parent; it makes you human.
One thing you can add to your toolbox is asking for help. Kids are being presented with something new: classroom online. It can be a challenge for the kids, especially those that need face to face learning. It can be a challenge to you because you haven’t been in the classroom with the teacher to maybe know the subject matter or how it’s taught. And the technology can be a challenge as well. These challenges may have you feeling helpless and maybe even powerless. As a former educator, I would tell my students, “You are not responsible for what you don’t know; however, once you’re given the knowledge, you’re responsible.” Therefore, you not knowing doesn’t make you inadequate or irresponsible. There was no reason before this time for you to know Zoom or how to do common core math. But now you are thrown into being responsible, and it’s scary as well as highly frustrating. And this is exactly why you need to ask for help. Ask other parents how they are managing this time with their kids. Ask the teacher his or her expectations for work as well as for help. It’s not easy to admit when you need help, but it may be the best thing for your sanity.
When it comes to helping your child with schoolwork or helping them find something to do, you may feel a variety of emotions: overwhelmed, frustrated, fearful, anger and more. And be assured that if you are feeling that, most likely, your kids are too. This can lead to you having thoughts such as “I’m powerless,” “I’m helpless,” “I should’ve have known this,” “I did something wrong,” and many other thoughts. Again, the kids are probably having the same thoughts. This leads to another tool you need to add to your toolbox: managing your emotions and challenging your negative thoughts. When I work with kids, I always remind them to pay attention to what their body is experiencing, their heart is feeling, and their brain is thinking. I give you this challenge as well. Here are some tips for managing those emotions and challenging thoughts:
- Walk away – sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves and the child when we are frustrated is to state “I recognize we are both upset. Let’s take a few minutes apart and then we will talk.” This allows you to calm down, and model how to calm down for your kids. No need to be in power struggle. It will only lead to more of a meltdown for you and your kiddos.
- Change your thinking – Just as what we say to others matter, so does what we say to ourselves! For many people negative self-talk comes naturally; it’s what we believe to be true. However, it’s not truth. The truth is “I can ask for help,” “I only have control of myself,” and “I do the best I can.” It is important to think on these positive statements so you can give your brain something else to pull from rather than the negative responses.
- Practice Self-care – In order for you to not be overwhelmed while parenting during the pandemic, you’ve got to practice self-care. Mediation, yoga, exercise, positive thinking, etc. are a basic necessity for now, and for always. This allows you the opportunity to manage all this crisis without feeling overwhelmed.
- Language of letting go – None of us are in control of what is happening right now. We are merely witnesses. And that can feel very uncomfortable. I encourage you daily to pay attention to what causes you frustration: schoolwork, the house being a wreck, the kids being cooped up, and more. Then determine if you are in control of whatever is causing that frustration. If the answer is “no,” tell yourself “Today, I let go of keeping the house clean,” “Today, I let go of understanding all the school stuff.” Letting go can allow you to breathe a little easier allowing you, in turn, to manage emotions and thoughts.
Lastly, perspective matters. If you focus on the negative, the negative will be all you see. However, if you can find the silver lining, maybe that will help see something different. Maybe you can focus on an opportunity to spend more time with the kids, finding a new hobby, or renewing connection with loved ones and friends. Remind yourself that this won’t be forever, but is for now. What can you do, what can you control, in the now, to make this time enjoyable?
If you need help managing your emotions, reframing your thoughts, or handling the now we are in, ask for help. Talk to a loved a one or friend. Or talk with us. We would be honored to help you parent through this pandemic, 562-6903.
Written by: Peri Gilbert-Reed, LPC, RPT