With everything going on in the world right now, I’m finding myself with less emotional reserves to be patient and gentle with my kids (who really need it right now!). If you’re feeling the same way, we’ve got a great guest post today from Mary L. Pulido, Ph.D., the Executive Director of The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
Psst – For additional tips on managing stress and trauma, please consider registering for Dr. Pulido’s upcoming webinar “Stress Management for Parents”, scheduled for Thursday, June 18th at 12pm ET. Registration can be found here. Or, please visit www.nyspcc.org for more information.
Here’s Dr. Pulido…
It is a very stressful time for parents, particularly as the news cycle remains consistently dire, social media continues to showcase alarming posts, and the stock markets are on a roller coaster ride.
Pair those worries with income loss and school shutdowns, and any parent can be at their wits end. Now, these concerns, combined with the tragic death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests and rioting, can easily push parents to the edge of their stress thresholds.
Tempers can be short and result in parents lashing out at each other or at their children. The key to surviving and thriving is to take care of yourself. As they say on the airplane, put your own oxygen mask on first, then assist your children.
Too often, self-care for parents is the first thing to go when times get tough. So, here are a few tips to help you keep your calm, and balance the competing priorities that this outbreak brings.
1) Cut yourself some slack, and I mean real slack
When it comes to keeping everything super organized and on schedule. This is not business as usual. Realize that on some days parenting will be more challenging.
If the baby won’t stop crying and you are exhausted and feel like crying too, put the baby in a safe and secure place and leave the room for a few minutes. As long as you’re sure it’s not a medical emergency, the baby will stop crying, truly, they will. Some days your children will be attentive to their schoolwork through virtual learning, and some days they won’t.
It’s okay. We’re in the midst of a pandemic and everyone is doing the best they can to readjust to the new normal. Think, “this too shall pass.” Don’t berate yourself. All parents have these moments. Children go through cranky, difficult times – it is getting you through them too that counts!
2) Understand that your usual coping skills probably need a complete change, or a refresh at the bare minimum.
Coping is a dynamic process that changes over time in response to changing demands and changing appraisals of the situation. Most of us just go on autopilot and use the same coping techniques over and over, but during especially stressful times, most of them will not work as well.
There is an actual “process” to coping that is helpful to understand, particularly during this time.
- Step One: Determine that an event is stressful
- Step Two: Select a coping strategy
- Step Three: Implementation of a specific response
If the response is effective, then stress is reduced and you feel better. That said, there are adaptive (positive) and maladaptive (negative) strategies that you can choose.
Positive ones including exercising, talking to an uplifting friend, therapy, meditation, or a hobby you enjoy, such as reading or cooking, help maintain your equilibrium during stressful times and are not harmful in the long run.
Maladaptive ones, such as consuming alcohol or pills, smoking, or binge eating your favorite box(es) of cookies, may make you feel better in the short-term, but are likely to have negative consequences in the long-term.
Since many of our usual coping techniques, such as going to the gym, yoga class, swimming and coffee with friends, are not available now, figure out what is second best and try it. Attend a virtual workout class, yoga, video chat with a friend, or even just take a walk outside and see if you feel more relaxed.
3) Feed your mind good news
The news these days is unusually alarming, depressing, upsetting and full of violent content. As a parent you need to take in a dose each day to stay abreast of the latest updates, but limit it to 15 minutes in the morning and/or evening.
Most of us have a constant diet of bad news from our phones, social media, the television, radio or newspaper, often without noticing. So, limit it. Turn it off.
It’s a real stress producer.
One important point to remember is that once you see something, it is in your brain forever. Find shows, newscasts or blogs that are upbeat, happy and calming. Watch a show that makes you laugh.
Don’t have dinner with the news on, turn on a comedy or play relaxing music instead. I promise you, your psyche will thank you and you’ll sleep better too!
4) Last point, have an emergency support plan.
If you think you are going to “lose it” and find yourself getting angry or frustrated with your children, reach out for help.
Ask your spouse, partner, friend, or neighbor to take care of the baby or children while you regroup. If you think you are depressed (and it is quite common these days) talk to your doctor about what may help you.
The demands of parenting can be fierce and draining, but they pass. The parent-helpline at 1-800- CHILDREN (1-800-244-5373) is a great resource for parents.