5 ways to handle the stress of parenting during COVID-19Written by Ali Donahue
If you’re hitting rough spots as a parent these days, we have some simple strategies to help you find more balance and peace with your kids while COVID-19 precautions are in place.
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How to handle the stress of parenting during COVID-19
1. Build up parental resilience (+ 4 ways to get started)
2. Find positive social connections (+ 3 ways to connect while social distancing)
3. Learn about child development and parenting strategies (+ 4 ways to understand where your child is at)
4. Get concrete supports (+ 3 ways to find the support you need)
5. Support your child's resilience (+ 4 ways to help your kids with this)
BONUS: Leave the cooking to MamaSezz
School closures, social distancing, economic struggles, and the novel coronavirus have put a lot of strain on parents. So if you’re overwhelmed, short-tempered, or just feeling at odds with your children, we understand. There are a lot of parents on the MamaSezz team, and we’re all adjusting.
One thing that can help is knowing the basics of parental resilience — how to cope with tough moments, coming back from them, and being there for your kids so that they feel safe and loved.
We have found the Strengthening Families Protective Factors to be a really great resource for understanding what we need to show up for this job of raising kids.
Here are the basic protective factors and simple ways to build them up during this strange, tough time.
How to handle the stress of parenting during COVID-19
Protective factor #1: parental resilience
Parental resilience is managing stress and functioning well when faced with challenges, adversity, and trauma. In other words, doing your best in times of stress.
Truly, building parental resilience comes from very small actions that make you feel able to make a difference. When you feel like you’re taking care of yourself, and when your brain can focus on what you can do well, you are able to be more present and patient with your kids.
Here are 4 things to try to build up parental resilience:
- Tell someone close to you how frustrated you are when you have a hard day.
- When you’re tired, take a time out for 10 minutes.
- Bring a positive interaction with your child to mind. Really dwell on it for 10 to 15 seconds. Load your brain with this positivity. It helps orient you to what’s good when a child is frustrating you.
- Think about what you do well as a parent and a person. Really think about them, and how they do good in your life. Write down a list of five or six things. Knowing what you do well supports you when stress makes you feel insecure and upset.
Protective factor #2: positive social connections
Positive relationships help us want to do better as people and as parents.
Everyone’s social connections can look different. Family, neighbors, gym friends, friends at your place of worship, parents of your kid’s friends—whatever works for you is a positive social connection.
In our time of social distancing, we can’t get together for dinner or a volunteer date at the local humane society. But we certainly can connect.
Here are 3 ways to connect while social distancing:
- Think about how you can use your strengths to help other people right now. Can you start a pen pal relationship with a relative in a nursing home? (Paper letters or email are great.) Or can you deliver groceries to a shut-in neighbor? If your district is giving out free lunches, could you pick them up for another family?
- Keep it simple. Send a smiling photo to a pal. Post positive comments when a friend shares on Facebook. Invite a friend over for dinner via video call and set the phone at their place at the table. Schedule a walk-and-video-chat, or workout-and-FaceTime with a friend.
- Join (or rejoin) Facebook groups. Are you a singer? A reader? A lover of The Bachelor? Jot down 10 things you love and search for like-minded groups. (The MamaSezz team is here for you, too! Connect and join our Facebook group to get daily encouragement, plant-based tips and tricks, and a few good laughs along the way.
Protective factor #3: learn about child development and parenting strategies
We can get incredibly frustrated with our kids when their behavior or actions don’t make sense. And because they are children, logic and rationality and consistency aren’t their strong suits.
Understanding how children develop helps make their behavior both normal and predictable. Learning parenting strategies gives you the tools to manage these situations. When they act like wild hogs, you’re much less surprised, and you can get them back in the pen!
4 ways to understand your child's development better
- Remember that our expectations for our children are often in conflict with reality. Accepting reality can help us keep our internal temperature down.
- Call your doctor and ask about developmental screening. They help you identify the unique strengths and challenges of your child in different areas of development.
- The CDC has a great library of videos about child development. (They are funny! A relief from the upsetting health information we’re dealing with right now.)
- When your kid’s behavior drives you crazy, come up with questions to help you better understand the “Why” behind it. Email your questions to a teacher or professional you know who understands child development. This is a great time to tap the resources of your child’s school.
Protective factor #4: concrete supports
Concrete supports are the family and community supports and services that help you and your family meet your basic needs.
We are all in a time of need. The health and economic threats are real, and they are very stressful. This is the time to reach out to community and family support systems, without reservation.
These supports can look like:
- Government services such as unemployment insurance, temporary child care, housing support, or food assistance
- Community food pantries
- School staff to talk through schooling or behavioral questions
- Licensed mental health professionals
- Family members who have surplus food
- Sports teams that can meet online for social support
- Online parenting groups
Here are 3 ways to get the support you need
- Take 10 minutes and write down what your family needs help with at this time.
- Ask people around you if they know of resources. Check them out to see if they fit your situation.
- Make a list of resources you know about, and ways you can help other families. Being able to offer help is empowering and builds your network of support.
Protective factor #5: supporting your child’s resilience
When children are able to be resilient, they can understand, talk about, and work with their emotions.
There are a lot of resources out there on helping kids develop social and emotional resilience. But the ways we teach resilience are pretty simple. Above all, we model it when we work on it ourselves!
Here are 4 ways to help you support your child’s resilience:
- Teach your child the words for a new emotion. Help them name that emotion when it comes up.
- Read stories that talk about empathy. How Full Is Your Bucket? is a good one.
- When your child is trying to solve a problem, refrain from coming up with a solution. Try asking, “I see you have a problem. What are you going to do?” If they ask for help, ask questions first, and trust them to come up with answers.
- Try blowing bubbles together when your kid has a rough day. This relaxes them physically and gives them a chance to feel that hard emotions can pass.
Being a resilient parent during times of stress usually comes down to small, consistent actions. Through doing them, you build up your resilience so you can lead your family in tough times.
That’s what we’re doing too. Together, we will take care of ourselves, take care of our kids, and come out on the other side stronger.
Remember, MamaSezz is here to help with the cooking!
Our bundles have simple, pre-made, healthy food easily adapted for kid-palates. We recommend the Family Bundle and the Breakfast Bundle, good any time of day. You can check them all out here.)
- With the novel coronavirus, school closures and social distancing, being a parent is especially stressful right now.
- Knowing the Protective Factors can help you handle tough times and be there for your kids.
- The factors are Parental Resilience, Positive Social Connections, Knowledge of Child Development and Parenting, Concrete Supports, and Supporting Your Child’s Resilience.
- MamaSezz has got the kitchen covered! Get your sanity-saving bundles here.
By Becky Karush
Becky Karush is a writer, copywriter, and family woman. She came up through newspapers and magazines, including Disney FamilyFun and Martha Stewart Whole Living, with road trips to teaching and farming. She’s run BeckyK Creative Marketing since 2012. She hosts and produces READ TO ME, a literary podcast that ends the cult of the critic and surfaces the power and beauty in great writing.
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