This is hard. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic wasn’t something anyone expected, and yet, here we are. As a therapist who primarily works with youth, I have found that the unsung heroes in the pandemic are parents. Caregivers are facing new obstacles, such as working from home or filling out unemployment applications, while trying to establish a sense of stability for their children. Usually during hard times, we can reference previous experiences to help us navigate the challenge and predict what we can expect for the future. However, this is a completely new experience for everyone all over the globe. It’s uncertain when society will return to normal, which, for many, leads to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. If you’re a parent, grandparent, or other caregiver struggling to keep kids healthy and thriving, you’re certainly not alone. Keep reading to get some tips from the caring Family Connection Therapy counselors for families working to adjust during these difficult times.
Common Questions from Parents
- How do I talk to my child about the Coronavirus? – A general principal is to discuss the situation honestly, but in a way that is developmentally appropriate and reassuring. Too many details can overwhelm children, so keeping answers short and concise is ideal. Expect children to have lots of questions! If possible, it is best to discuss the current situation when the parent feels well rested and mentally in a space to answer these questions. Some kids will ask questions all at once and others might ask questions as they think of them throughout the day. Reiterate to children that kids from school, their friends, and adults are staying home to be safe and that you, as the parent, know what to do to help keep them safe.
- How am I supposed to referee the kids when I’m trying to work from home? – This has been tricky for most parents. Some parents are waking up before their children to get work done, helping with homeschooling during the day, and then, continuing their work after the kids go to bed. Others find that, with older children, they can establish a quiet work environment conducive to both work and school simultaneously. Resources that may help include identifying when one parent can work while the other monitors the kids, strategically scheduling online “play dates” with friends, so the parents in both houses can get work done, and having the kids earn screen time every day and implementing a quiet time or downtime daily. These can be times where the home is peaceful, so the parent can get work done.
Parental Burnout Doesn’t Have to be Your New Normal
I’ve spoken to many parents who feel like they don’t have time to address their own needs mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s hard for parents to take care of themselves right now while also trying to help their children process and adjust to these big changes. Parents have reported feeling like they had to become “homeschool teachers, camp counselors, craft experts, sibling referees, and snack machines” overnight all while trying to work from home. This is exhausting and likely the reason many parents are reporting feelings of utter burnout.
This does not have to be the new normal. First and foremost, you need to remember that we’re all making changes and doing our best. Treat yourself with compassion right now. Second, remember the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child?” That saying is extremely relevant right now. Even though we may be separated from our villages, we can still turn to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other loved ones to help us create safe, healthy, functional environments for kids during this tough time.
Grandparents to the Rescue!
Grandparents have been some of the most helpful and inspiring resources for families! Many older individuals report feeling isolated, bored, scared, and wanting to find ways to safely support their families. Grandparents bring a sense of cheer and fun while calling or video chatting with children! Older family members who live far away can still help with kids who are old enough to safely carry a tablet. See below for some great ways that grandparents can help out virtually! While parents are working, grandparents can help monitor many parts of the bedtime routine and even help with school.
- There are many ways grandparents can assist with school from home. Children can read books aloud and get help with tricky words, practice spelling and math, show grandparents science experiments, and help in a variety of other ways.
- At bedtime, kids can show Nana and Papa which jammies they’re going to wear and how they brush their teeth, while grandparents can read or tell bedtime stories, sing songs, or tell jokes to help with the transition to bed.
- Kids can play online games with their grandparents like Uno, Charades, and Minecraft! There are even video call platforms that incorporate games for added fun and entertainment.
- Keep it simple. Have grandparents call in for family movie night. You can all watch a movie together either via video chat or individually. Then, call to talk about the movie.
- Do some family video karaoke. There are apps for this, or you can just sing songs together on the phone.
How do I Get Started?
If you are a parent or grandparent feeling alone or isolated at this time, we are here for you! We are currently offering virtual sessions, phone sessions and even mini sessions to fit the needs of you and your family. For more ideas and resources, keep an eye on our social media pages as we will be posting helpful tools for families.
If your child is experiencing changes in behaviors or mood, this may be an indication that therapy may help. Therapists at Family Connections Therapy are currently providing telehealth and tele-play therapy sessions to accommodate people of all ages. Family Connections Therapy therapists are trained to support families in navigating scary and uncertain times and are happy to help. Get in touch with our team over the phone or use our simple online request form.