If you are reading this, please stop and take a deep breath before you continue. This is hard, we are three weeks into physical distancing and the novelty of it has definitely worn off. Fatigue and exhaustion are setting in and families are feeling it. There are a lot of lists circulating right now about how to support your kiddo during this time (we will talk more about those below) but the most important way you can help your kid right now is to take care of yourself. You are your family’s nervous system. This does not mean you need to be calm all the time, because let’s face it, you won’t be! However, the more you are able to stay regulated, the more your children will be able to. So let’s let go of the idea that good parenting equals being selfless. Kids learn by your modeling and them watching. So if you’re feeling unbalanced, stressed, or a bit unhinged, here are a few ways to get regulated:
- Increase Your Movement: There is a lot of pent up energy from being cooped up all day. Release this through moving your body. Take a family walk, turn up the tunes and have a dance party, or do 10 jumping jacks.
- Find Some Alone Time: Easier said than done right? Relationships are meant to have ebbs and flows, and we are not used to being together this much, try to find a few minutes to yourself, even if this means locking yourself in the bathroom for 5 minutes.
- Create Predictability: The brain does not like when things aren’t predictable, it signals to the body that this means danger. One of the hardest parts of this pandemic is the uncertainty, what’s going to happen next?, when will it be over? Create a schedule to give the brain some predictability, but keep it flexible.
- BREATHE!! It sounds simple and cliche, but even breaths in and out signal to the brain that it is safe. Throughout the day stop and breathe. Set a timer on your phone once an hour with a reminder if you need to.
This is an incredibly stressful time. We are all experiencing collective trauma and grief. We are all going to feel emotional ups and downs. Perhaps you’re even feeling heightened anxiety, emotional overwhelm, or shut down. You do not need to hide your emotions from your children. They are perceptive and can sense your feelings even if you slap a smile on your face and tell them everything is ok. Share with them (in an age appropriate way) how you are feeling. You can follow it up with how you are supporting yourself through these feelings. For example:
- “Mommy is feeling overwhelmed by the news today she’s going to turn it off and take a few deep breaths.”
- “‘Daddy is feeling sad that we had to cancel our trip, I’m going to let myself feel sad about it today.”
And lastly, when you snap at your kids, which you will!, be sure to come back together with them and reconnect.
How are you managing this time as a parent during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Blog written by Annalise John, MSW, LICSW, therapist for kids, teens, families, and young adults.