Parenting during a pandemic is difficult. We're all stuck in a house together, often working from home, while trying to help navigate home schooling. Here are a few tips for how to survive and thrive during this time.
1) Create a schedule. School and work provides us with a schedule. It helps us figure out where we need to be, what we need to get done, when we need to get it done, when to eat, when to sleep, and when we can relax. Being without a regular schedule can be overwhelming for kids and adults alike, throwing off our balance between what needs to get done and what we want to do (have fun). Implementing a schedule can be really helpful. Consider easing into the schedule if you haven't had one before. Maybe schedule just the morning at first, then add afternoon and evening components into the schedule. Too much on the schedule or too rigid of a schedule can also be overwhelming. The schedule needs to be structured enough to meet our needs, while flexible to account for the unexpected.
2) Spend time together. We have a rare opportunity to have more quality time with our families than we have ever had before. Be sure to take advantage of that by spending quality time with each other. Play a board game, take a walk, do a craft, make cookies, watch a movie; anything that you define as quality time together. Remember not to put too much pressure on yourself as a parent though - we're juggling a lot. One quality activity together as a family is enough.
3) Spend time apart. Because we are all together in the same house so much, it is really important to get time apart too. Boundaries, especially when we're all sharing the same physical space all the time, is really important. Send the kids outside to play, to their rooms to play, let them watch an extra movie, or play an extra game; all so you can get a few minutes of quiet and solitude. This time recharging can be really helpful for your own mental well-being as a parent.
4) Take shifts. If there are two parents in the home, you might need to take shifts, or divvy up the parenting time, so that you can get that much needed break. If you are alone in your parenting, thinking creatively about how to involve other members of your support system so you aren't doing it all by yourself. Perhaps there are grandparents, aunts and uncles, or friends, neighbors, who your kids can video call. They can spend that time doing school work with that additional support person (ex: grandma can quiz them on their site words), learning something new, or just chat with them. Regardless of how the time is spent on the video call, it will give you a few minutes to breathe.
5) Teach independence and responsibility. This is the perfect time to provide your kids with some additional independence and responsibility. Maybe you teach them to cook or give additional chores right now. Being home all the time means that they are making bigger messes and using more resources, so it's a great time they can learn how to take better care of themselves and their home.
Above all, be patient with yourself and your kids. This is a really stressful time and you might need to give yourself and your kids extra space for forgiveness for those little moments aren't perfect. Remember we're all in this together.
Heather Katafiasz, PhD, IMFT-S, AAMFT-AS