Stressed mother helping daughter with homework.

Parenting during a pandemic – give yourself a break

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Parenting in these times during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can be stressful.

You’re not just a parent, but you’re a teacher, chef, housekeeper, entertainer, referee … And for some, you’re juggling all those roles in addition to working from home while trying to meet the expectations of your employer.

“It’s challenging, to say the least,” said Luke Raymond, LCPC, manager of OSF Behavioral Health. “It’s a challenge because there’s no separation between work and life, which makes it hard to focus fully on either parenting or work when both are happening at the same time in the same place.”

Class is in session

One of the biggest stresses for parents is taking on the role of teacher.

“While we may be trained professionals in what we do, we’re likely not educated as teachers – unless you’re a teacher,” Luke said. “This can be especially challenging with older kids who might have more complicated, complex work that may be difficult for us, as parents, to help them with.

“Younger children may have higher time demands and need more support, such as assisting them with their Zoom sessions,” he said. “Older kids may feel more frustrated that they can’t hang out with friends and that they’re missing out on extra-curricular activities that they find meaningful and exciting.”

What do you do?

“The first thing we can do, is change our expectations a bit – for ourselves and our kids,” Luke said. “The idea that we’re going to be able to be as productive as usual in this situation – for adults as an employee and for kids as a student – is probably not realistic.”

Father helps young son with distance learning on computer.Luke recommends setting achievable goals. At home, school doesn’t need to be in session for seven straight hours a day. It’s OK to let your kids concentrate on schoolwork for just a couple hours a day or long enough to complete the assignments their teacher has provided.

Also, if it’s a two-parent household with both parents working at home, take shifts in helping the kids with schoolwork.

“As for screen time; don’t stress over limiting your child’s screen time,” Luke said. “Sometimes their screen time is the only time the parent has to get their own work done.

“Remember this whole thing is unprecedented. Give yourself a break if it’s not all going perfectly.”

The new normal

“One of the challenges for everyone is the ambiguity of the situation,” Luke said. “We don’t know how long it will last, how bad it will get, if it’ll affect anyone close to us. The uncertainty makes it a lot harder because we don’t have an understanding of how to move forward.”

And for some, like high school seniors, they’re experiencing a real grief.

“They don’t get to have senior night or that last season or properly celebrate the end of their high school experience. It very much is a loss,” he said. “It kind of breaks my heart.”

Seek support

OSF SilverCloud, an online tool designed to provide cognitive behavioral therapy, has introduced “Challenging Times.” The new module supports an individual’s mental health during this pandemic. It helps normalize worries and difficult emotions, such as fear and anxiety, and provides emotional coping strategies like relaxation, grounding and worry time.

The module gives practical solutions for maintaining well-being in a time of crisis, including self-care, social support, prioritization and routine building. It also suggests strategies for how to stay hopeful during these difficult times.

Last Updated: April 29, 2020

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About Author: Lisa Coon

Lisa Coon is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare, where she has worked since August 2016.  A Peoria native, she is a graduate of Bradley University with a degree in journalism. Previously, she worked as a reporter and editor at several newspapers in Iowa and Illinois.

She lives in Groveland with her husband and son. In her free time she likes to cook, bake and read. She freely admits that reality TV is a weakness, and she lives by the quote, “The beach is good for the soul.”

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Categories: Mental Health