How to be the Best Parent you can be during a Pandemic: Part 3 of 4 in the Series

By Laura Chackes, Psy.D.

There’s no question that we are all in over our heads when it comes to managing life during this pandemic. For parents, this has been exceptionally hard, as we’ve been expected to not only figure out how to adjust our own lives around all of these changes, but also care for and manage the lives of our children. Yet, this is what being a parent is all about, right? Therefore we should all manage it with ease, just like a quick look through our social media posts make it seem.

All sarcasm aside, this pandemic has hit parents very hard. Seeing our children struggle with drastic changes that they don’t fully understand, all while we don’t really understand it all ourselves, has put even the most confident and competent parents on edge. While there are certainly no easy answers to any of this, here are a few tips to help you get started on your path to becoming the best version of yourself that you can be during these challenging times.

Manage your own stress

  • Like putting on your own mask on an airplane first, you can’t help your child or teen when you are not managing your own emotions.
  • They pick up on your emotions even if you are not aware that you are outwardly expressing them.
  • You can be a role model without saying a word by taking deep breaths, taking a walk, walking away instead of reacting, and going to therapy yourself if needed.

Create routine and structure

  • With so many changes to their schedules and so much uncertainty about when the next change will occur, your child needs to know that somethings will remain the same. 
  • Set regular times for waking up, showering, meals, etc whenever possible.
  • Create a schedule with your teen for when they will do their schoolwork
  • Plan fun activities regularly like weekly movie or game nights so that they have something to look forward to each week.

Listen to what your child or teen wants

  • Ask your child how you can help and do as much of what they tell you as possible.
  •  If they say they don’t want to talk, let them know that you are there if they change their mind and then give them space.
  • Even the best advice from the best experts is not better than what your child tells you they need. Every child is different and your child or teen often knows what they need much more than you think they do.

Be collaborative

  • Approach your child or teen with curiosity about how you can solve whatever problem they’re having together.
  • It’s healthy for your older child or teen to want more independence, so let them take the lead in coming up with a plan.
  • Hold back from giving advice and telling them what to do, and instead help them learn to figure it out by asking questions.

Get moving

  • Physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce stress for both you and them.
  • Children and teens are often more likely to talk while walking because they don’t have to look you in the eye and the movement helps relieve the pressure of the conversation.
  • Ask your child to choose an activity or sport that you can play together so that you can both enjoy exercising (e.g. basketball, yoga, tennis, jogging, dancing, etc).

Use mindfulness to create a healthy bedtime ritual

  • Everyone benefits from bedtime routines, even adults, so creating this ritual with your child or teen will help them throughout their lives.
  • Ten minutes of one-on-one time with your child each evening goes a long way in strengthening attachments and reducing misbehavior during the day.
  • Creating a routine around mindfulness will help your child (and probably you too) sleep better and have the best chance of success the next day.
  • You can start by using an app like Headspace, Calm, or Insight Timer and listening to a guided meditation together.
  • To establish all of the benefits that mindfulness has to offer, and to overcome the obstacles that often get in the way of a regular practice, join one of our upcoming mindfulness courses.

Tap into your support network often

  • Even the best parents often cannot do this all on their own.
  • If you are struggling, it is likely that your friends and family members are too, so by reaching out you may be not only helping yourself and your children, but your friends and family too by providing mutual support.
  • Asking for help is often one of the hardest things to do, but it can also be the most rewarding for both the help seeker and giver.
  • In addition to your loved ones, you can also seek support online through Facebook groups for parents in your area or with children similar to your own, or through your child’s school district that often have helpful events for parents.

Know when to seek professional help

  • Pay attention to signs that your child may need professional help, such as a marked change in their behavior (i.e. staying in their room all the time, not completing homework on time, arguing more than normal, not eating as much, sleeping more than normal, etc), a decrease in their social or academic functioning, suicidal thoughts, or self-harm.
  • Even if these signs aren’t evident, if your child or teen is struggling, and either you or they want to talk to someone about it, it never hurts to go.
  • The professional will tell you if they think that your child or teen doesn’t need help, so it never hurts to get it checked out if you’re in doubt.

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