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Parents, Take Care of Yourselves During COVID-19

Special needs mom, Clinical and School Psychologist
04/10/20  8:00 AM PST
COVID-19

Now that we’ve been in our “new normal” for a few weeks now, our kids are adjusting a bit to their distance learning and being home 24-7. A question I’m hearing from parents about their children (and themselves) often is “Is it possible to be adjusting but still feel anxious?” The answer is a resounding “Yes, it is possible.”

As human beings, we have the ability to adapt to a new schedule, a new environment, a different routine within 2 weeks. But that still doesn’t take away our adult worry about a few key questions:

  • When will this end?
  • Will my kids be able to go back to school this year?
  • How many people have been diagnosed today?
  • How many in my town/state/country have not survived?
  • Do I have the virus?
  • What if my elderly parents, aunt, uncle, grandparents, neighbors contract the virus?

Worrying can occupy a great deal of your time and energy and drain you both physically and emotionally. Our children need us, right now, to serve as their grounding force, both emotionally and physically.

Although you have been reading a great deal about how to care for your child’s anxiety and help them to manage through this unprecedented time in our lives and their education, I’m going to shift the focus to you, the parent. Let’s talk about ways to help you get through this time period of uncertainty and anxiety.

Self-Care

Each day, allow your kids some screen time or whatever activity that will keep them occupied for 30-60 minutes. Do this at the same time each day. During that time, take some downtime yourself. Take a walk, read a book, take a long hot shower or watch a show. Whatever you need to do to decompress, do it and do it at least every other day, although every day is preferable. Disengage from your work, your children, your significant other and ground yourself so that you can be available again tomorrow.

Connect with Your Kids

I think we can all agree that we have time in our schedules. It may be ample and it may not. Regardless, don’t use that extra time to panic or worry. Instead, use that time to engage in fun activities together. Watch a movie, take a walk, exercise together, build a puzzle, paint (a room or on canvas), house clean together. Engaging with your kids can be gratifying and will allow for a connection at a time when social disconnection is at its highest.

And, when this is all done, and it will be done at some point, my goal is to create several positive memories of what we did during this time to keep ourselves entertained.

Prepare and Eat Dinner Together

Why plan and prepare dinner by yourself when you can gather the family around and gain ideas for meals. If your children are old enough, ask them to plan one meal per week and to prepare it for the family. You, the parent, can pick up all of the ingredients and your tween, teen or young adult can put the meal together. The rest of the family can set the table, prepare a salad, and clean up after dinner. There is no reason why you have to plan 7 dinners per week or even 5 or 6.

For breakfast and lunch, get a list of foods that your children can prepare for themselves using the toaster oven, toaster or microwave. This way, you are not preparing meals all day long, while trying to feed yourself, work, transfer the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer, and so on and so on.

Turn the TV News Off

I have vowed that I will not listen to the news excessively or read the news on my phone.  It’s too overwhelming and it triggers my anxiety. Decide on how many times per week you will read or listen to the news and then turn it off the rest of the time. Sadly, the news does not offer much positivity or show how our efforts to social distance and quarantine could be helping us as a society at large. Instead, the focus is on the number of people diagnosed and the number of people who have not survived. These are daunting numbers. Turn it off. Just turn it off.

Parents, take care of yourselves. Prioritize yourself and your self care so that it is on your list of “to do’s” each day. This is not the time for you to extend or overextend yourself to be the best teacher, or the best mom or dad, or the best employee. Your goal is to take care of yourself so that you can keep your home ship sailing until we see this to the end. Stay healthy, stay sane, be well.

Dr. Liz Matheis

 

Dr. Liz Matheis is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and certified School Psychologist who specializes in working with children with ADHD, Anxiety, Autism, Learning Disabilities, and behavioral struggles. She is also mom to three children, one with special needs. Her practice, Psychological and Education Consulting, is located in Livingston, New Jersey.

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