April 3, 2020 5:32 pm Parenting in the COVID-19 Crisis
Party with Moms is very fortunate to welcome Dr. Patricia Grimes as a guest columnist. Dr. Grimes is well known to many area schools as a valued consultant. She is not only an educational psychologist but also the mother of two adult sons.
Written by – Dr. Patricia Grimes
Four tips to help you and your children face these challenging times
Even in the easiest of times, the demands upon parents in our society are great. In my experience, most parents take those demands very seriously and their duty to meet them very seriously. But so much has changed so quickly.
Suddenly, many parents have seen their lives turned upside-down, and are being required to adapt to lifestyles that they never anticipated. This is even more challenging because there is not a clear sense of how long this situation will last. However, what is clear is that it will last long enough to become even more stressful.
There is no doubt that in crises, the role of the parents of children of all ages becomes much more complex and demanding. And the strain can become enormous, even unbearable at times.
The familiar structure of family life has, in many ways, melted away. As a parent, how can you best deal with it all? Let’s consider some of the challenges that you may now be facing and look at some possible solutions.
While there is not one single best approach to get through these times, I would like to share some concrete steps that I believe can help a great deal.
- Self-knowledge and Self-care
A key aspect of how well anyone responds to a challenge is their awareness of their own capabilities. Take a moment to step back from all the demands being placed upon you, and think about yourself and yourself only. What are your strengths and weaknesses? How have you dealt with unsettled times in the past? Looking back at your actions then, can you identify any things that you could have done better?
Fortunately, there are many different ways to be a wonderful parent. I strongly suggest that you choose those that suit your style.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. If you read a nice article about baking with your kids, think first before you pull out those pans. Is that your idea of a good time? If not, find something that might please everyone. Would you rather play cards? If so, go right ahead and organize a family card game. You’ll be a world class Corona-times Mom or Dad and your family will have fun.
- Have a Plan, but Make Sure it’s Flexible
It is probably a good idea to shape the outline of a daily plan or even create a plan for a few days in advance. After you have a good sense of what activities you feel are most appropriate for both you and your children, you’re in a better position to build each day in a way that’s constructive and enjoyable for everyone, without feeling too ‘forced’.
Here’s an example. Try to address the home-schooling demands being placed upon you in a way that you and your children can tolerate comfortably. Make sure to involve them as well. These efforts will help ensure that the home-schooling experience is a success. As you know, when frustration sets in, all is lost anyway. In some cases, it might be better to put off an activity. On the other hand, if your child loves worksheets, long hours doing them will do no harm in this interval.
By all means, aim for some structure, a rough schedule and reasonable limits. But choose the intensity of what you do so that it best suits you and your children. Be flexible. Change things when they are not working.
- Be Good to Yourself in Order to be Good to Others
I strongly suggest trying some mindfulness exercises. While there are many definitions of mindfulness, the one that I think works best for our purposes is: “[The] aspiration to be aware of and in the present moment, aiming for self-regulation in the face of the moment and facing realities with openness, acceptance and curiosity.”
Practicing mindfulness has many advantages. It can be very calming and satisfying, especially if you set your goals reasonably. You can share what it is about with others. Children too embrace it readily, in different ways at different ages and stages.
I will talk more about the role of mindfulness in one of my later topics.
Finally, I would also recommend any other positive practices that allow you to focus on yourself without distractions, and that contribute to your wellbeing. Whether this is meditation, exercise, spirituality or religious practice, or even quiet cup of tea, they are all ways to nurture yourself.
Because you likely find yourself with new burdens, it’s more important than ever to take a moment to nurture yourself. That will put you in the best position to care for and support your children, and others who may rely on you.
- Pull Back from the News Cycle
There is no doubt that the barrage of worrisome media coverage available far outstrips its value to any one of us. Much of the information in a crisis is of little personal use to us, and instead burdens us unduly at a time when we are already heavily burdened.
While it’s of course important to be aware of what’s happening in the world, the constant drumbeat of figures and statistics can be overwhelming and raise your anxiety levels even further. Being exposed to too much information makes it hard for us to know what is important (and something we should base our decisions upon), and what is perhaps unnecessary and worrisome ‘noise’. As someone I know recently said, “I’m not so worried about her and the coronavirus, but it’s 24-hour cable news that I fear might kill her!”
I hope that by sharing this information and advice, I enable you to more successfully cope with these most challenging circumstances we all find ourselves in.
I look forward to you sharing your thoughts and questions.
I hope to share more advice on further topics in the near future.
If you would like to reach out to me, please do so by email or phone.
203 – 966 – 5257
Dr. Grimes is a licensed psychologist specializing in psychotherapy with young children and adolescents, as well as parenting issues and educational decision-making. Dr. Grimes has been in practice for over 30 years, with offices in New Canaan and Greenwich, Connecticut.