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Parenting in a pandemic: tips for managing stress and balance

mom working at home and two children doing schoolwork next to her

Family stress is at an all-time high - school schedules are modified, parents have altered work situations, childcare options are limited, and time outside of the home is decreased. For others, caregivers are out of work, family members may be ill, and the financial burden is mounting. During this coronavirus pandemic, expectations of normal family life are not always sustainable or realistic. So, if you haven’t heard it yet, here’s your pass to break from the norm and just focus on surviving for a bit. Here are a few tips to help manage the stress of parenting in a pandemic.

  1. Pair down your expectations. Something as simple as not having your child bathe every single day or allowing your house to be messy can reduce stress. As long as the family is still functioning, and it’s something you can live with, it is okay to focus on other things like virtual schooling and maintaining quality of life.
  2. Ask for help. COVID-19 has created its own complex calculus- adding stress, subtracting supports, multiplying responsibilities and dividing the hours in the day. To get through this, we will have to ask for help and share the load with our community. Ask your partner to take over a household task, share drop off responsibilities with a neighbor, or make a pact with a friend to shop for each other once in a while.
  3. Practice realistic self-care. Taking a spa day is not realistic self-care for busy parents, let alone during a pandemic. Realistic self-care can be as simple as commuting to work in silence, avoiding taking electronics into the bathroom with you (eww yuck, but it happens), or reading a book for five minutes before bed.  Finding a way to recharge each day helps you to be able to continue to support your family.
  4. Find a routine, any routine. Promoting your child's well-being during this time is important. Many of the things they used to do, like having a routine, going to school or playing soccer, are no longer options. A quick tip for building resilience is to try to create a routine and predictability no matter what you're doing. If virtual schooling, set sleep and wake times, have them get dressed and brush their teeth each day, and have lunch at roughly the same time on school days. You may have to practice what you preach though and ditch the yoga pants you have been wearing for the last 7 months.
  5. Connect with purpose and practice gratitude. Resilient children bounce back from adversity. Practicing gratitude for the small things you are thankful for and focusing on values-based goals, even when you cannot control your surroundings builds resilience.

Please remember, there is no ONE right parenting decision right now. Pandemic parenting involves doing what feels like the best option at the time, knowing you may have to reevaluate in an hour, a day, or a week and that's okay.

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Child Psychology

Child Psychologist; Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine