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  • Jacqueline Siempelkamp

Imperfect Parenting During COVID-19 (Spoiler: you're not the only one)

Now that we are several weeks into the global health pandemic, one might think that parents and children have figured out their new routines and are essentially functioning together well by this point. This may be true for some families, but a tremendous amount of parents are sharing their stories of trying times that involve feeling overwhelmed, angry, anxious, stressed, and guilty. If this is how you’re feeling, you are not alone.

Many parents are trying to manage their “day job” of working remotely from home, while still completing chores and getting food on the table. If this weren’t already enough, parents are also taking the role of homeschool teacher and must help their children get on Zoom or Google Classroom to meet with their class and complete assignments throughout each day. Other factors could be present- leaving home for an essential job while the kids are home from school, functioning in a one-parent household, losing a job, or coping with a loved one becoming sick. Emotions are running high for parents and children alike.

Throughout the now-combined school and work day, there is breaking up arguments between siblings and trying to manage meals and snack time. Children may be showing more intense behavior struggles due to their heightened emotions as well, which results in both dysregulated kids and parents. Parents struggle to help their children with assignments, and even getting kids to focus long enough to complete their tasks can feel difficult enough. When will this end? It can be daunting to think of the weeks ahead.

For all these reasons and more, we all may need to let go of the shame and guilt for “not parenting well enough” and talk about how to get through this. It may seem that we’re the only ones who don’t have it together by now-which can feel lonely and shameful. Let’s normalize these emotions and know that we are not the only ones going through this.

Here is a list of (realistic) tips created with the insight of (realistic) parents that can help provide some relief from these overwhelming feelings:

  • Take a pause from social media: It can be easy to compare ourselves to others, especially when we have more time at home to peruse the Internet. On Facebook and Instagram, it can look like other parents have completely managed the chaos in their homes and are spending their time doing engaging and fun activities. It’s true, they could be great suggestions-but it’s important to keep in mind that these ideas may not be perfectly executed. Social media is often our “highlight reel” rather than a place we share our struggles. We don’t know what someone else is going through. If social media is becoming too overwhelming or negative for us, it’s important to take a break until we are in a better headspace.

  • Consider a general routine: No need for anything detailed or elaborate. Take a minute to think of the flow of schedule you would like the weekdays to have. Involve your children in creating the plan so they can experience involvement and have buy-in to your plan. Make the routine straightforward and easy to understand. Post your schedule in the home so everyone has access and can see what to expect.

  • Revisit the situation: When you start to feel yourself escalate, break from the situation and cool off for five to ten minutes. The situation could be anything-your child is refusing to focus on schoolwork, the dog won’t stop barking during your conference call, or your children won’t stop fighting over the last pack of fruit snacks. Give yourself some space and leave the room or step outside (warranting your children are safe and with supervision). Take some slow, deep breaths. You’ll have the room to regulate your emotions and de-escalate so you can go back and attend to the situation with a fresh state of mind.

  • Connect with others: Make time throughout the week to check in with friends and family members. Be honest with them and share what you’re going through. They will likely be able to empathize with you and assure you that things haven’t been the easiest for them either.

  • Release shame and guilt: It can be easy to fall into the belief that you aren’t doing well enough right now, or even that you are failing your children. Trust yourself that you are doing your best-because you are. Everyone is. This situation is new and far from ideal for anyone. All you can do is assure yourself that you are giving everything you have, and that is more than enough. Put trust in yourself and give yourself grace. There are no perfect parents in this situation.

It is always easy to place blame on ourselves and dwell on our shortcomings as parents. It is important to remember that we are trying our best. It’s true that the global health pandemic is frightening and worrisome. It would be impossible to function as well as we normally do. Allow the space to experience these real emotions without judgment and remember that everyone is going through this in one way or another. Lean on others-we will get through this together.

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