The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a slew of new responsibilities, challenges, and worries onto the shoulders of parents everywhere. With school closures and stay-at-home orders, parenting has taken on several new dimensions that can be difficult to navigate. As a result, parents are feeling more burnt out and stressed than ever before. Coping with the demands of the pandemic is not easy for parents, but it is important for our well-being to find healthy ways of managing stress and taking care of ourselves. Here are some tips for parents to confront the unique stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Focus On the Now
Between figuring out what to pack for lunch and driving the kids to sports practices, parenting requires a lot of planning. Coupled with the constant uncertainty presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, making plans now takes on an additional layer of stress that can be difficult for parents to deal with. Thinking ahead can often feel overwhelming when we try to account for factors outside of our control, resulting in unproductive and unhealthy worry about the future. By acknowledging the role uncertainty plays in our lives we give ourselves permission to be present in the moment. Implementing meditation and breathing practices are one such way we can train our brains to focus on the now and help ourselves shed unnecessary feelings of anxiety.
Carve Out Family Time
Although we may be spending more time at home with our families during the pandemic, it is easy to overlook the need for spending intentional time together as a family. Intentionally spending time together means fully engaging with one another without cell phones or other distractions. Incorporate intentional family time into your life by trying out some group activities such as cooking together or playing a game as a family. Even just 10 to 20 minutes of dedicated time spent together every few days can supply an important social boost in your life and help you connect with those in your household.
Schedule Personal Time
Time spent with others is important to one’s well-being, but so is time spent alone. Uninterrupted personal time dedicated to relaxation is important in combating feelings of overwhelming stress. Set aside some time for your kids to do something for themselves, or if there is another caretaker in the house let them be in charge of watching the kids for a while. During this time you can do some exercise, make yourself a snack, or watch an episode of your favorite show with whatever will help you unwind.
Monitor Your Media Consumption
Constant stimulation from social media and the news can leave us feeling exhausted and disheartened. While these media offer us a way to stay informed and in touch, they can also induce high levels of stress and reaffirm uncertainties that lead to worry. Taking some time to step away from the constant flood of information on our phones and TVs offers a chance to center ourselves and focus on the things that matter to us. Find times throughout the day to cut off excessive stimulation and let your mind and body rest. Even just sitting in silence with yourself is a valuable skill that takes time and practice to perfect. If your family is guilty of media overconsumption, try sharing this practice with them as well. Ultimately, by disconnecting from the media we consume we free ourselves up to connect with ourselves and those around us.
Remember You Are Not Alone
In the midst of quarantining and following stay-at-home orders it can often feel like the stresses in our lives are unique to us. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, is affecting everyone, and it can be reassuring to remember that families everywhere are sharing the same challenges you face. Talk to other parents to see how they are coping with the pandemic. Whether to share practical tips or just to share feelings, connecting with others who can empathize with your situation is an effective way to reduce stress and combat feelings of isolation.
Feelings of stress and concern are a natural response to the challenges parents face during the pandemic. Still, by prioritizing our mental health we can find ways to better cope with these tough times. If you are concerned about your mental health during the pandemic, contact your doctor or a mental health professional. At Sanford School, we have three school counselors who provide support, along with COVID-19 Information, Updates & Resources to help support the mental health of our entire school community during the pandemic.
Courtney Gregor is the Middle School counselor & learning services coordinator. She received her bachelor's degree in Psychology from Franklin and Marshall College and a master's degree in School and Mental Health Counseling from the University of Pennsylvania. She also has a National Counselors Certification. In addition to serving students as a counselor, Courtney is the head swim coach at Sanford.
Skye Rashkind is the Lower School counselor & learning services coordinator. Skye has been an educator for 25 years in a variety of roles and school communities. She has taught at the elementary school level, has been a museum educator, an admissions counselor, and a tutor. Skye holds a B.A. in Psychology from Dickinson College, an M.A.T. in Elementary Education from Brown University, and an M.Ed. in School Counseling from Wilmington University.
Sarah Satinsky is the Upper School counselor & learning services coordinator. Sarah is a Licensed Professional Counselor of Mental Health (LPCMH) in Delaware and was in private practice in Texas before moving into the school counseling world. She earned her bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and received her master's degree from Southern Methodist University.