Over five million U.S. residents have contracted Covid19. More than 160,000 have died. Over 21 million people are jobless. The ramifications for parenting during this novel crisis are unprecedented and overwhelming. Refrains such as “I don’t remember parenting ever being NEARLY this difficult” are common. The dread that most experience now and then regarding being a miserable failure as a parent is the new status quo.

An article by Catherine Pearson in Huffpost notes that roughly half of parents surveyed say they are hovering somewhere between 8 and 10 on the stress scale. In another finding, 80% of moms said they were struggling at work; and nearly 30% described their current emotional status as “terrible”.

Parents today have no idea what they are sending their school-aged children into as schools reopen. As far as childcare for young kids, there seems to be no solutions that are both relatively safe and affordable.

Today’s parents feel guilty for losing patience with their children, expecting too much of them, not providing enough undivided attention, letting them watch too much tv, and the list goes on. Adult children feel guilty about not being able to visit parents or look after their needs. Employees who go to work feel guilty that they may be putting their loved ones at risk. Spouses feel guilty that they are too stressed to be kind, helpful, or reassuring. And, for nearly everyone, every day is boring and the same. Tomorrow is always the same version of today. Everyone feels that they are a few steps behind where they need to be.

However, there are ways to find a better balance and adjust your mindset to alleviate guilt, anxiety, and stress. Changing both your mindset and your actions during the Coronavirus pandemic can bring about new possibilities.

Changing your mindset starts with practicing positive self-talk affirmations. Tell yourself what you are doing right, cut yourself some slack and remind yourself that this situation isn’t your fault. Positive self-talk helps us feel good about who we are and prepares us to do our best at the things we want to do. Self-compassion leads to acquiring a more positive attitude, deflecting disparaging thoughts, and enhancing our feelings of self-esteem. Focus on what you can control, and avoid putting undue pressure on yourself to produce or achieve. Learn to accept fleeting feelings such as anger, fear, and sadness as normal. Manage your expectations in order to avoid feeling defeated. Find ways of expressing traits you feel are admirable such as patience, kindness, and compassion for yourself and others.

When you are able to reduce exposure to persons who are toxic and limit access to upsetting news, you acquire a sense of calm. It is helpful to maintain positive social media support through forums and social media groups you affirm. Be sure to retain communication with supportive, caring friends and family. Compassionately listening without judgment or giving advice benefits both you and others.

Changing your actions during the COVID-19 crisis starts with establishing planning and organizational strategies. Begin with developing routines that fit your family best. Involve the children in coming up with a visual timetable grid that can be posted with each family member’s name in a column indicating times corresponding with routines. Use picture prompts for young non-readers. Be sure to share tasks so that they aren’t disproportional, thereby leading to frustration, resentment, or burnout.

Include time in the schedule for exercise. Running, walking, biking, and swimming all help you physically and mentally. Additionally, stress levels can be greatly reduced using meditation, yoga, or deep breathing techniques.

Most importantly, within the family unit be sure to reassure your children that they are your top priority. Let them know that they can talk to you about their concerns and have their questions answered. Avoid telling kids how they should feel––“That’s not important”, “That’s ridiculous,” or ”Don’t be frightened”. Feelings, even ones such as anger, are legitimate. Utilize good communication skills such as providing eye contact and undivided attention. Although all families need established rules with consequences for when those limits are broken, parents must get across to their children that they are loved regardless. Establishing reasonable limits for kids–then monitoring, evaluating, and enforcing them—is hard work and a labor of care.  Parents must consciously make the effort to always separate poor behavior from enduring love. The most important parenting task is to convey to their children that nothing they will ever do will diminish that care and unconditional love.

Devise a family agenda that includes plenty of fun activities. For young children, that can include things such as making a fort, building an obstacle course, playing dress-up, or even playing hide and seek. Older children might want to cook, choose board games, have a family dance session, or play catch.

This time can be a great opportunity to teach children life skills. Actions can include teaching patience, sharing, getting along with siblings, expressing gratitude and compassion, cooperation, and being careful and helpful.

As you seek to diminish stress and guilt through changing your mindset and through various actions, be sure to balance your emotions with reality. Pandemics end. Economies rebound. People survive. We will all get through this together!

Karen Wilkerson
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