Managing work, child care, home schooling, and self-care all at once is a demanding and tricky balancing act, to say the least. Parenting has always been tough, but the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic adds new dimensions to that challenge that makes it even more stressful for both single and dual-parent households.
Parents and caregivers are experiencing burnout largely due to a mismatch between the demands of parenting and the resources available for them to meet those demands. The danger of burnout is that when we don’t take care of our own physical, emotional and mental needs, we end up with less energy and patience to connect with and care for our loved ones. These tips and lists of parental resources can help you cope:
Set Realistic Goals Around Distance Learning
Distance learning is nothing new at this point, but that doesn’t mean that it’s gotten easier to manage on a day-to-day basis. Figure out what’s working and what isn’t working in your child’s online school experience, and write down any obstacles that are in the way. Following these tips and tricks can help make distance learning more successful for your child, and less stressful on you.
- Assess Your Educational Capacity, Ask For Help
The majority of parents are not educators, so it’s important to make sure that your daily goals for distance learning are realistic. Ask yourself and/or your partner: How many hours per day can reasonably be devoted to the virtual classroom? Talk with your child’s school about getting more flexibility, whether it be for their schedule, tutoring, or financial assistance.
- Create A Designated Learning Space
Find a space within your home that you can comfortably dedicate for your child’s learning. Ask your child to give it a personalized touch to make them feel like the space is truly theirs, so they are more likely to want to use it everyday.
- Recognize Your Child’s Strengths & Weaknesses
Some children work quite well independently, while others struggle and need hands-on supervision. Ask your child what they need help with the most, and reach out to their educator or the schools about getting tutoring or other types of resources.
Moreover, ask your son or daughter what it is they want to learn. Are they interested in learning to cook, build, play an instrument? Whatever their passion, encourage them to pursue it so that they associate learning with excitement. As an added bonus, this can give you more time to yourself, as you won’t have to nudge them to do their lessons.
- Establish A Flexible Routine
Keeping a consistent schedule for school, meals, playtime, and bedtime is healthy for kids, especially in times of great uncertainty. However, overly-rigid adherence to routine can cause unnecessary stress, so be sure to allow room for flexibility. You can accomplish this by allowing your child to pick when certain activities happen. For example, they can choose which hour-long blocks of time they’ll work on their science or reading homework, and which hours they prefer screen time. This fosters a sense of collaboration with your child, helping them feel they have some semblance of control in how their day-to-day life unfolds. Kids are much more likely to cooperate with a routine if they have had a say in it.
Practice Self-Care and Mindfulness
One of the most important things any caregiver can do is to make sure that they take care of themselves. When we’re stretched too thin, it affects our ability to properly look after those who depend on us. Moreover, when we model self-care to our children, they will take note of it and learn to adapt these practices in their own adult lives. Take note of these techniques to keep your mental and emotional health in check on a regular basis.
- Write In A Journal
We often underestimate the therapeutic value of simply recording our thoughts, but the act of writing can help tremendously in times of stress. The idea behind this is to worry less by writing more. Research shows that journaling allows us to let go of emotions that have started to control our behavior, and it can greatly ease nervous tension.
- Compartmentalize Life’s Challenges
To compartmentalize is to divide something into sections or categories. You can imagine putting each source of your stress into separate plastic bins, and then closing the lids of each one. This visualization exercise serves to remind us that problems can be dealt with one at a time, while the rest can be stored away for a later date.
- Avoid Thinking In “Absolutes”
At some point or another, we’ve all uttered phrases like “I can’t do anything right,” or “it will never end.” We as human beings have a tendency to think in concrete, black or white terms, because absolute beliefs are simple and easy to comprehend. However, an all-or-nothing mindset leads to depression, and shuts the door on progress. Instead of speaking in self-defeating language, try adding the word “yet” to your statements. For example, say “I can’t solve this problem yet,” to remind yourself that you will solve a problem eventually.
- Reach Out To A Professional
A licensed psychologist, social worker, or other mental health professional can offer support if you no longer feel like you can manage setbacks on your own. Many behavioral health providers are embracing virtual appointments (also known as telehealth) in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to ensure patient safety. Consider setting up an appointment with a mental health specialist that offers virtual visits so that you can get the counseling you need from the comfort and safety of your own home.
Educational Resources To Keep Kids Engaged And Entertained
Just because the school day is over doesn’t mean that kids no longer crave mental stimulation. Here is a list of resources designed to keep children learning in fun, entertaining ways through videos, games, lessons, and other fun activities:
- Simple Activities for Children and Adolescents - Activity ideas for kids of all ages.
- NASA Kids' Club - Fun, interactive, science-related activities.
- Fun Stuff for Kids Online - Smithsonian animal webcams and games.
- Storyline Online - An award-winning children's literacy site.
- Bedtime Math - Arts and crafts designed to sharpen children’s math skills.
- Great Minds: Knowledge on the Go - Resources for Math, English Language Arts, and Science
- BrainPOP: Coronavirus - Free animated online lessons about coronavirus.
- PBS Learning Media - Free lesson plans, videos, and games.
- TEDEd - TED-Ed animations and TED Talks to inspire intellectual curiosity in children.
- Duolingo - Tools to develop foreign language skills.
General Resources For Parents
Most parents are feeling overwhelmed with child care in light of the ongoing pandemic, but often neglect to reach out for help because they are so focused on the physical health and mental wellbeing of their children. Consider taking advantage of one or more of the following resources:
- National Parent Helpline: 1-855-427-2736. It is operated by Parents Anonymous, an organization dedicated to assisting parents and caregivers in need.
- CrisisLogger - A research initiative that invites you to share your thoughts on how the pandemic has affected your family via audio or video recording. You can watch/listen to other parents, educators and frontline professionals' thoughts as well.
- Tips For Parenting during the pandemic sent via email from The Child Mind Institute.
- COVID-19 Resources - A collection of videos, toolkits, and activities to use at home from the National Federation of Families.
- 211 Assistance - Information and referrals to health, human, and social service organizations.
Capital Area Pediatrics continues to offer outstanding, comprehensive pediatric care to families throughout Northern Virginia. We are currently offering telemedicine visits for those who prefer to stay home, as well as touchless check-in to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Our dedicated care team is committed to ensuring the safety and health of children of all ages, from speciality and chronic care services to adolescent health. Request an appointment online or call one of our offices at a location near you.