parenting under stress
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
There’s no question about it:
These are stressful times.
And for parents, the responsibility we feel for our kids’ well-being only compounds this stress.
You’re not alone. You’ve got this.
And even if you’re starting to doubt it… we’re here to remind you.
Today we’re sharing 5 reminders to keep in mind while parenting under stress:
1. Your kids are watching…
…but not the way you might think. They’re not keeping track of how flawlessly you’ve meal-planned or how serenely you’re digesting the onslaught of news updates. In short: Your kids aren’t looking for a hero who magically avoids stressful circumstances… they’re looking to you as a model of surviving despite the stress. Don’t be afraid to pull back the curtain a bit, to share a developmentally appropriate look at what you’re experiencing. Label your emotions in real time, demonstrate what healthy coping can look like. This is one of the most fundamental ways you can support your family right now.
2. You don’t have to have all the answers
Your kids might have a lot of questions right now. They might be feeling anxious, which can drive a sense of urgency when they share their concerns… and this can heighten your worry, as well. Keep these communication basics in mind:
- listen openly as they share
- validate their feelings
- get curious together and gently clarify any misconceptions
- remind them they’re safe
- invite them to share more in the future
- switch gears to a fun or comforting activity
3. You get to define what “structure” looks like
Despite what you’ve been seeing all over social media, there’s no one “ideal” schedule to adopt in your household. Whether or not your kids have an e-learning program to follow, chances are good they’ll benefit from some basic rhythms (e.g., waking- and bedtimes, meals and snacks, rest and play). But try not to get hung up on the specifics. Days that are scheduled down to the minute tend to breed tension. Aim for a general outline with flexibility. It’ll be easier on everyone.
4. Call out the positives, even when they’re hard to find
The unique combo of staying-at-home and social distancing can create the sense that the walls of your home are closing in on you. When family members feel crowded, behavioral issues often result. Expect this, and plan ahead to ensure everyone has a space of their own to decompress. Something else you can do? Call out the positives you see… even when they seem hard to find. Praise (even minor) acts of initiative and thoughtfulness within your household. And look outside your family to acknowledge and celebrate the everyday heroes who are sharing their time, energy, and resources for the greater good.
5. You don’t have to “make the most” of every minute
Perfectionism’s a funny thing. Even in the midst of a crisis, it manages to worm its way in. Beautiful, inspiring stories from other parents can feed insecurities about your own parenting if you let them. Try to stay in your own lane. Forget about “perfect parenting” and aim instead to provide the essentials to your family: safety, warmth, respect, reasonable predictability, and fun. Incredible memories can be made if you let go of the need for “perfect” ones.
Hang in there. You’re doing great.
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