We’ve all had those days as a parent, when it seems like we’re teetering on the verge of insanity. The baby is crying, your toddler won’t get dressed, and your grade schooler forgot to tell you about a science project due today. All you really want to do is make it to your important meeting, coffee with a friend, yoga class, or whatever else you had planned for YOU today. However, now that the world is at a standstill, with nowhere to go or to be but home with your children, it’s becoming even more difficult not to succumb to insanity.
This global pandemic has us longing for the days when we were running late for anything. The above scenario might even sound nice right about now. Many of us get short with our kids on our best days, but with the apocalyptic global fears and the kids in our faces from dawn till dusk, it’s beginning to be more than most of us can handle.
Never in your wildest dreams did you think you’d be fighting with your spouse about toilet paper, or that you’d have to remember how to do geometry, let alone teach it. You try to avoid the news but it’s everywhere; from updates on your phone to your neighbor who insists on chatting with you over the fence (six feet away, of course).
You’re sad, scared, and may even feel guilty that you get to be home while others are on the front lines. You worry about your aging parents, your uncle with a heart condition, and wonder when all of this will end.
Regardless of all of this though, you don’t really get to let any of it sink in. You’re too busy Googling enough games and crafts to keep the kids busy while attempting to work from home and keep the job that you know you’re frankly still lucky to have. For most of us that ends up being a ton of screen time, saying yes to video games, caving into demands for endless snacks, and a feeling of guilt at the end of the day. We comfort ourselves by pointing out that we are at least staying safe. In the end though, that really is all that matters.
It’s Not About Thriving; It’s About Surviving
If parenting were an Olympic sport, then this is the event you’ve been training for. This is the perfect time to recognize that as long as the kids were fed, bathed (occasionally), and nobody dies; it was a good day. This is not the time to master wreath-making, calligraphy, making a vegan cheesecake, or losing 10 pounds. It is the time to be basic. It’s time to strip this parade float down to four squeaky wheels and a functioning steering wheel.
Set a Realistic Schedule
Perhaps you had good intentions of homeschooling. Your Facebook friends are doing it (or saying they are) so it can’t be that hard, right? But if your kids lasted for all of 20 minutes, that’s okay, too. You’re not alone. Most parents aren’t skilled at teaching their children.
However, kids still need structure and schedules. Make a realistic schedule that includes a wake up time, bedtime, and mealtimes that are similar to life before the quarantine. The rest of the day should focus on helping your child make good choices, even if that means some screen time. Focus on the point, which is that your living room is not a real school, and nobody expects you to be a schoolteacher. The best you can do right now is to aim for your kid to have something interesting, educational, or fun to do; for at least part of the day. It would be impossible for you to replicate real school, so stop trying to.
Get Some Fresh Air, Have a Snack, and Stay Hydrated
All of us need fresh air, whether that’s playing in the backyard, going for a walk at a safe social distance, or simply opening the windows. Inhaling fresh air can make all the difference. The change of scenery can help everyone from a tantrum-throwing toddler to a frustrated spouse. Be sure to have healthy snacks and keep everyone hydrated throughout the day to help improve and stabilize everyone’s mood.
Give Yourself a Break
If you take nothing else from this experience, know that your brain really needs a break to work well. As adults, we force ourselves to hustle and grind all day in order to do our jobs well, but that’s not the best way. We need breaks to recharge, give our brain the opportunity to rest, and ultimately make our day more productive. So get on the floor and play with your child, kick a soccer ball around, and let yourself have fun during this time.
You may never get an opportunity to feel this much freedom again, so try to enjoy it. Not being as productive as you are used to is fine. When the pandemic is over, you can continue with your regularly scheduled hectic lifestyle. For now, give yourself the break you deserve.
The Screen Time Debate
Here’s the thing: we live in a world of screens. Depending on the age of your child, screen time may be unavoidable. Letting your child sit occupied and quiet for three hours probably isn’t the best idea, but if it’s day 25 of quarantine, it’s pouring rain outside, and you’re about to lose your mind; go for it. You have to be realistic. Set limits, and keep your child’s disposition in mind. Some kids can be told their screen time is over and will happily go and do something else. Others will explode or trash their room out of anger once their iPad has been taken away from them. If that’s the case, try to hold off on screen time as long as possible, such as until late afternoon.
Remember: Other Parents are in The Same Boat
While it may seem (physically and mentally) that you’re alone in this, know that other parents are in the exact same boat. Everyone has had some level of disruption because of the coronavirus. Everyone’s house is a little more cluttered than usual, dogs are barking, and kids are peeking in on conference calls. Nobody’s kids are mastering another language. The only real job we all have right now is to stay alive and to keep other people alive. That’s all that truly matters at the end of the day and every day until this whole thing is over.
Get Some Extra Help
If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, sad, or depressed during this uncertain time, it’s important to seek help. You can speak to a licensed therapist online who can help you improve your mental health from the safety and comfort of your own home. A healthy mental state will help you parent better during this unprecedented time.