Continued Pandemic Parenting

Special needs mom, Clinical and School Psychologist
01/25/21  4:58 PM PST
pandemic parenting

The beginning of the new year usually brings hope, resolutions and plans. This January 2021, the new year feels different. More of the same. It’s been 10 months, almost one year of living through the COVID-19 pandemic. Our lives are the most isolated they have been given the dark, cold winter and a holiday season that was “okay” and pretty much unsatisfying.

As we continue to parent day by day with virtual learning, working from home, video meetings and chats and limited interactions with the outside world, our stress and exhaustion level is increasing.

What a Mess!

The struggles of parenting during this time have been immense. Think about how you and your family are coping. Are you, your significant other or children:

• Over eating?
• Under eating?
• Over sleeping?
• Under sleeping?
• Struggling to fall asleep?
• Feeling lethargic?
• Over exercising?
• Feeling anxious?
• OCD-like behaviors?

As we continue to not be able to identify an end in sight, we may be finding ways to cope that aren’t necessarily helpful. Take note of how you and your family are coping and discuss if your go-to ways of managing through this time are not bringing relief.

Many of us, as parents, and our children feel out of control, anxious, and our usual outlets are not available. Mom’s nights out, going to the spa, exercising at the gym or extracurricular activities, hanging with friends and other ways to have fun and decompress are no longer available to us, or are available with significant limitations.

When Should I Start to Worry about My Kids?

For many of our children, they are adjusting and functioning as best they can given all of the limitations they are facing socially and academically. Take note of any of the following:

• interacting less with peers via video or in-person (as you have permitted)
• turning in few or no assignments
• grades are declining
• sleeping more
• sleeping less
• eating more
• eating less
• tearful or agitation

If you are noticing any of these signs, open a discussion with your child and try to get a sense of with what your child or teen is struggling. If needed, engage a therapist to work with your child and with you.

Survival Parenting

As parents, there are days where we are unclear as to how to support our children. It can be anxiety provoking and overwhelming. A few things we can do:

Don’t Hover

As our children seem to withdraw from academics or from interacting with us, our natural tendency is to hover or even micro-manage. For teens, this strategy will create greater tension and conflict. The very behaviors you may be looking to improve will actually worsen.

This is a time to give your child some space and compassion. Ask him what you can do to help and avoid telling him what is going to happen. Your child or teen is likely feeling out of control and for you to take even more control away will not help the situation.

Work Together

If your child is becoming less engaged in her schoolwork, create plans that allow the two of you to check in on grades together, once per week on an agreed upon day and time. Ask questions rather than give directives.

Validate your child’s experience and let her know that it’s okay to struggle. This is a tough time. We haven’t lived through a pandemic before now, so we are figuring things out as we go.

Focus on your child’s mental health first. Spend quality time with your child doing something that she enjoys and that has been agreed upon in advance.

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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