Over the last eight months with a global pandemic raging and so much uncertainty here in the US, there have been many stressful moments, to say the least. And parenting during the pandemic is something new to everyone.
From my mom friends, I hear so much about how worried they are about losing their patience or bringing more stress to their family. When I have spent time with children during this pandemic, though, it has reminded me about how much we need to practice the same empathy with ourselves that we have for them. Here are a few things the kids in my life are teaching me to help cope with the challenge of a pandemic world.
1. When your basic needs are not met, meltdowns are inevitable
Kids do their best when they are fed, rested, and feel safe. If any of those are in question, there’s a good chance you’re going to have a meltdown on your hands at some point. The same goes for adults.
No matter how much the world is desperate to get back to normal, it just isn’t. We still can’t spend time with our friends and families the way we used to, we are interacting with a very limited group of people now face to face, we have lost physical touch and comfort, we have the ongoing threat of the virus—the list is seemingly endless. Our sense of safety is shattered too. We need to cut ourselves some slack when we think we yell too much or lose our patience.
2. Comfort rituals can help us feel calm
I was helping out a girlfriend on a day she had to go to work at a hospital, and her kids needed to do Zoom school from home. Her youngest cuddled up to me and sat on my lap doing a puzzle for a good chunk of the morning. From time to time, she would reach up and rub my earlobe, a comfort tool of hers from birth. I realized she was doing it more when she was talking about things that made her a little anxious, like “the virus.”
We, adults, need our comfort rituals as well. Whether it’s stepping out for a walk, listening to a podcast we love, taking time for a cup of tea on a rainy afternoon, we need to give ourselves a break for some simple pleasures. It may feel impossible, especially now. But it’s crucial to helping us survive.
Be honest with yourself about what you need and ask someone you trust to help you out. Have them come hang out with your kids for an hour so you can do your own comfort ritual. Even if it’s just screaming into a pillow for 10 minutes, your brain and body deserve a chance to recharge.
3. We all need to unplug sometimes
With all the virtual tools people are using, we are on screens for longer stretches of time. When I was watching my friend’s children, her oldest’s remote school schedule has 15-minute chunks built-in throughout the day to get the kids up and away from their screens.
It reminded me of my writing process. Sometimes I can be at the computer for hours without taking a break, and my writing is never better from me sitting there and staring at it. When I get up, move around, bake some bread, or wipe down the coffee table, I come back to my work ready to handle the task ahead of me.
Try to build in break times to your day. It can be a little bit every hour, it can be an hour at the end of your day, or whatever works for you and your schedule. Shifting your brain away from the task at hand can give you space to come back with a fresh perspective.
4. Don’t try to hide your feelings, everyone can see them anyway
Kids will tell you they’re not mad, but then shove their little sibling as they walk by. Their behavior often gives away their true feelings, and the same goes for us adults. Try to acknowledge your feelings and pinpoint their cause. Otherwise, the people around you may spend a lot of time worrying about what they might have done to cause a bad mood or take it upon themselves to try to fix it for you.
Try to acknowledge your feelings and pinpoint their cause. Otherwise, the people around you will spend a lot of time worrying about what they might have done to cause a bad mood or take it upon themselves to try to fix it for you.
If you’re frustrated because of work and you are having a tough time, tell your kids, your partner, or the other people in your home. Or if you are frustrated with something happening at home, take a moment when you’re not angry to articulate and deal with it so it doesn’t build up and explode on the people you care about most.
5. Practice makes perfect
Just like riding a bike, trying a new hobby, or even making an art project, no kid is good at something right out of the gate. Practice helps anyone hone their skills.
The same goes for handling a pandemic. This is brand new for everyone all over the globe. Even though there have been pandemics before in history, the world we live in looks very different, so what we have to handle is different. We are not going to be great at it right away or even after a few months.
Judging how we are handling ourselves is not going to getting us to the end any faster. This pandemic has brought about a lot of trauma in a short amount of time. Things that would individually cow the healthiest person in the world, yet we’re hearing about it and experiencing it on a daily basis. So many of us think we should be dealing with everything better. But I think that’s simply not true. When we lose it or when we are upset, we have to remember we are in the process of practicing something we have never done before.