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For the COVID-19 Angry Parent

Special needs mom, Clinical and School Psychologist
11/16/20  11:24 AM PST
COVID-19 angry

As parents dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and sometimes, downright angry.

“It’s not fair!”

Although that sounds like something my 7 or 11-year-old would say, it’s how I’m feeling right now. It’s not fair that our world has been shut down for 7 months. It’s not fair that we have missed graduations, weddings, births and deaths. It’s not fair that we don’t have an end in sight. It’s not fair that it’s going to get cold again and some of the freedoms of being outside are going to come to an end, and we will be stuck inside again. It’s not fair that we have to balance being a teacher to our children while balancing a job and a home. It’s just not fair.

Pre-pandemic life was stressful enough. Add a pandemic and we are not managing an underlying and residual layer of worry and fear in addition to the extra life demands that have taken a bad situation and made it feel impossible. As parents, we are overextending ourselves every day. We are going through the same routine with the dread, each day, and without an end in sight.

The feelings of rage are real. Many of us are feeling angry, rather than patient and compassionate towards our children or significant other in the presence of everyday, common sounds and experiences. And then add on the thick layer of guilt and we are well on our way to burnout. There have been plenty of times when I thought that the sound of my children arguing about small things was going to take me over the edge. The sound of my phone ringing or text notifications have been causing me to feel overstimulated. So many times, throughout the day, I think, “Please, stop. No more.” I don’t want to hear the sound of the dryer buzzing, the questions about schoolwork, or requests for more food or snacks or remind my child to log in to their Google Meet or to virtually meet with their teacher during their office hours. The emotional and physical load of taking care of our children, teaching our children, working our jobs, maintaining a family life, caring for our home, and trying to make sound decisions that will keep us safe is just too much.

It’s time to take some of the time and energy we are investing into everyone and everything else in our lives and re-invest it into ourselves. Try to find whatever balance you can during this unbalanced time.

Get Up and Get Out

Each day, I encourage you to wake up, take a shower and get dressed. If it makes you feel good about yourself, add a little make up and jazz up your hair. Whether you are getting in front of a camera or not, get yourself ready as if you were.

Get out of the house one time per day. Run an errand, take a walk, practice mindful breathing or meditation out in a park or an open field. I don’t suggest that you lock yourself in a room or sit in your backyard because you will hear your children’s voices and footsteps, and this may not allow you to fully relax and let go of the day’s tensions.

Create Start and End Times

Lately, our days have an early start time and a late end time. Our days are a blend of kids’ schoolwork, household tasks, meal prep, snack prep, tending to our jobs, and a mix of all of that all day long. It feels like there is no beginning and no end. If you’re feeling like I am, I am feeling chaotic and unproductive. Hours go by and I feel like I have nothing to show for the time.

My suggestion to you is to set blocks of time for yourself throughout the day. That is, dedicate the same 30 minutes, hour or two hours each day where you will work with your child on school tasks. Switch off with your significant other during a block of time during which you can then focus on your job tasks or household tasks. Create a visual schedule for your children so they know who they can go to for help with meals or schoolwork so that each of you can gain consistent blocks of time during which you feel like you can start and finish a task, uninterrupted.

You may also wish to set up an education pod with another child or two, which means that you and one or two other families can rotate teaching and managing schoolwork while also getting a break when it is not your turn.

If you’re feeling anything like me, I feel completely incompetent as a teacher to my children. My children don’t respond to me as they would their teacher, and I don’t really think they are learning much. With that said, hire a tutor or a college student to guide your child through their assignments so that you can continue to hold the primary role as parent, rather than teacher.

Get Heard

That anger we are all feeling right now is a sign that our needs are not being met. It’s a sign that we are not feeling heard. It’s a sign that we need a break. Seek support. Join together with other moms and schedule regular times to get together and vent and decompress. If that’s not enough, find a therapist who can help you process your anger, frustration and overwhelm and create systems and processes that will help you get through this insane time.

I also encourage you to write down your thoughts in a journal. I know it’s an old school idea, but hear me out. The physical process of taking pen to paper and allowing the flow of your thoughts to be seen by your eyes allows for a release, a catharsis. When I write down my thoughts, I feel relief. I feel like my thoughts become real and tangible as opposed to floating in my head with no realness.  I also find comfort in reading my own thoughts one week or one month later. Sometimes, the struggles that I’m having have been resolved and sometimes, they persist. When they persist, I know I have to do something differently.

Ask for Help

If you have an older niece of nephew, an aunt, or even a parent who is willing and able to offer you respite care, ask for help on a consistent basis. You may choose to use that time to make dinner, fold laundry or binge watch your favorite series or movie without interruption. Not only does this give you a break but it also gives your child or children the opportunity to spend time with someone other than you.

I cannot emphasize enough how valid your anger is right now. It’s okay to be angry, but please don’t let it fester for much longer. Do something or a couple of things to help you get through this bizarre time of our lives.

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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