To all the parents out there that are working and taking care of their kids while social distancing, we feel your frustration and know how hard this can be! On the one hand, so many of us long to have more quality time with our children. We dream of having experiences that allow us to feel close and bonded to our kids. So why are so many of us stressed with all this extra time with our children?
Perhaps it’s because the quantity of time we have with our kids does not automatically result in quality time with them. Adjusting to working at home, increased job demands, and a swift change to the structure of our lives has left both parents and children a bit bewildered.
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How do we stay sane through days, weeks, or even months of social distancing with our children?
Many parents I have talked to over the years have expressed a great deal of distress when they feel they are not being the “best” parent possible. They hold themselves to a very high standard of how they want to parent their children. They feel it is their responsibility to provide them with a diversity of healthy, fun, social experiences. Healthy food and limited screen time is a must, along with involvement in multiple extracurricular activities.
Maintaining this standard of enriching activities during social distancing is difficult at best, and next to impossible for many. And this shift is making us anxious, frustrated and downright angry.
So what are we to allow during social distancing? Unlimited access to TV and devices? Let the kids run wild while we are on endless calls? Mac n’ Cheese for every meal?
So here are a few tip to consider as we are adjusting to our new normal:
Tip #1: Lower your standards. At least just a bit. We must remember these lower standards are not long-term. They will not be forever. And our children will not be damaged by this short term change.
Tip #2: Be flexible. A sign of resiliency is when we are reliable enough to adapt to the demands or needs of any given situation. In times of opportunity and abundance, it is not perfectionistic to provide our children with many enriching experiences. However, in times of crisis and change, keeping these same standards becomes perfectionistic, rigid, and will likely result in distress.
Tip #3: Be creative. Identify what your overall values are for your children. Then challenge yourself to find alternative ways to meet this value. Thinking outside the box is an invaluable skill in times of crisis and change.
Tip #4: Take a break. Prioritize your own mental health. As parents, we can only give from our fullness and if we are empty we simply won’t have anything left to give. It may feel selfish to take time for ourselves when our kids want more from us. But remember, we practice balance and self care, we model this healthy practice for our children.
Tip #5: Embrace being stretched. Fighting against the discomfort of change only makes the process more painful. While we all have the capacity to change, many of us greatly dislike the experience. Being open to and embracing the changes that are coming our way makes us more creative and ready to adapt in necessary ways.
Tip #6: Accept your mistakes. When we make a mistake, we should not debase into shame, make excuses for our flaws, or become defensive when confronted with our misstep. We all make mistakes, and children benefit from seeing the way we handle our mistakes and how we can apologize for them. Own it. Learn from it. And model for your kids how to do the same.
These are not easy times. So many of us are in the same boat. Just remember, we are all in this together and I am figuring it out right there with you!
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Dr. Melissa Estavillo is a Licensed Psychologist and founder of Biltmore Psychology and Counseling. With over 7 years of experience, she specializes in both individual and couples therapy in Phoenix and Scottsdale, AZ. She integrates complementary methodologies and techniques stemming from Emotionally Focused Theory, Psychodynamic Theory and Other Evidence Based Practices to offer a highly personalized approach tailored to each client.