While we are still learning to navigate pandemic life, there are a few things that I’ve learned since March 2020 that have helped me find my footing when I slipped, and helped to keep my family as grounded as possible:
1. Acknowledge the Loss.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s so important. Our children, no matter their ages, often look to us in order to gauge their own emotions and responses. When we act as if “everything is normal”, it can send a message to our children that what they are feeling and experiencing is wrong or something to ignore. By creating space to talk about the loss of social activities, relationships, private time, and pre-COVID structure, I gave my children and myself the opportunity to grieve and create a way to support each other through this process.
2. Know Your Media and Social Media Capacity.
What can be said about media and social media during this pandemic?? This has truly been a time where, whatever you want to find, you will definitely find it! You want to feel inspired? Yup, there’s a post or story for that! Want to feel hopeless and like the world is going to end in a matter of minutes? You’re covered on that end too! There was a moment where it became so easy to go down that rabbit hole without realizing that I would look up and be shocked at how much time passed. In addition to not utilizing my time in the best way, I also found my parenting practices influenced by feelings of fear and anxiety. While I needed to be cautious of all of the unknowns occurring and mindful of new protocols, I still needed to create a space where my relationship with my children felt safe. By limiting my media and social media time, I became very present with my children and better equipped at identifying our collective and individual needs.
3. Be Transparent with Your Feelings.
I was surprised at how this transparency with acknowledging my feelings was a bit difficult for me. We are a family that believes that feelings matter, they are honored, and discussed. However, when COVID happened, my fight or flight kicked in and I went immediately into survival mode. I wasn’t checking in with my feelings, and reflecting back, I think I feared that acknowledging them would translate into inaction, when in reality, it did the opposite. I remember sitting on the stairs of my home one day and feeling overwhelmed. My teenage son happened to walk in the hallway and ask what was wrong, and before I could get up and say nothing, the emotional floodgates opened. I shared with him my fears and prayers for my family during the pandemic, and he listened and poured into me. Being transparent with my feelings gave me and my son the opportunity to see me as a person first and parent second, and allowed me to, in that moment, put down my ‘Super Mom’ cape.
4. Don’t Forget about Your Family’s Social-Emotional Needs.
One of the things I noticed right away when the pandemic started was its social-emotional impact on my children.They went from playdates with friends, sleepovers with cousins, and weekends with Granny to stuck in the house with mom (insert side-eye). So many fundamental aspects of their childhood, like highschool crushes and birthday parties were not experienced...and we felt it! I had to re-prioritize (several times) where I placed emphasis, and found myself replacing academic performance with social-emotional safety to ensure that my children felt safe and made online connections with peer groups who provided them with the outlets they needed.
5. Create New Opportunities.
I am a firm believer that with every change comes new opportunities for creation and beginning again. While we couldn’t have adequately prepared for the depth of impact caused by the pandemic, we could regain a sense of control in deciding how we wanted to use the gift of time. We began taking road trips, which offered us a change of scenery and a chance to practice our singing skills. My daughter and I wrote letters to friends who she could no longer visit. We cooked family meals while making up our own recipes. One of the beautiful things about healing is the chance to create and own your new narrative, these experiences gave us the opportunity to define who we are as a family.
6. Find Outlets of Support for You and Them.
Parenting is hard. Parenting during a pandemic is HARDT. In less than 24 hours,
my major support systems were gone. I knew that in order to maintain my sanity, I needed to connect with other parents and caregivers who could relate to what I was experiencing. I also knew that I could not be the only outlet for my children either. I enrolled my daughter in a free online jewelry making class. My son was in a creative arts group for teens. I, along with my girlfriends, had Zoom parties or “single mother happy hours” in department store parking lots (sans the liquor, wink). These meet-ups, some as short as 15 minutes, gave me an outside connection that was so necessary and appreciated. Community care was one of the best forms of self-care we received.
Creating and finding moments of rest saved me. Sitting in my car for 10 minutes before going inside my house became a ritual. I learned to rest as often as possible. I began to rest my eyes for 10 minutes. When I was too anxious to sleep well, I found that resting my mind through music or coloring or daydreaming was something I could give myself. I also developed a deeper understanding that my rest was an act of resistance against this narrative of “powering through” and it felt so freeing. I learned not to apologize for moments of rest, but savor them and use them as moments to recharge and reset.
What are some lessons you learned as a result of parenting during a pandemic? I’d love to hear your takeaways in our IDT Parent Group
Check out my Dr. Tara Tuesdays video about Parenting through COVID-19.
© 2021. It’s Dr. Tara™