5 Parenting Lessons To Help You Thrive During a Global Pandemic
Parenting is tough in the best of circumstances. When your family has challenges such as being a single parent household, or having a child with special needs, tough doesn’t begin to describe it! And now, we’re all experiencing a global pandemic, adding a whole new level of difficulty. As a single parent to a kid on the Autism Spectrum I’m thinking about the things I learned along the way, and offer my thoughts for parents who are pulling their hair out right about now.
- No matter what anyone else says, I’m The Mom – Since my son was high functioning I got lots of opinions about how if I would just do … he would be better behaved. I really had to learn to block out what was not helpful and advocate for what we needed. I learned some polite ways to tell people to back off. I would say, “We have found this is what works best for us.” or “I have to do what works best for my family”. Others would get the hint that I was not open for advice.
If you have a child who receives lots of services you are also getting lots of advice and support from professionals. While this is often helpful, right now you might be feeling overwhelmed, keeping up with appointments, and homeschooling, and working from home. It’s ok to ask your providers to help you come up with a plan that will be less overwhelming. You might want to reduce the frequency or ask for more support depending on what your family needs right now.
- Never Let Anyone Judge You By Their Standards – If you’re reading your Facebook feed then you are probably convinced that all of your friends are using this time to bake bread with their kids and teach them Japanese. I know it’s easy to feel like everyone else suddenly figured out how to be Super Parents but they didn’t! One issue parents are especially worried about is screen time.
I hear many parents saying they feel guilty about the amount of screen time their kids are getting right now. For parents who are concerned about this I came up with a few ideas that might help you feel better about screen time:
- Remind yourself and your kids that this is not forever. Once life gets back to a more normal rhythm you will decrease screen time again.
- Schedule screen time. This way even if it seems like a lot of screen time you still feel like you are making some rules about it.
- Use the screen as a babysitter. Sometimes it can make you feel better to say to yourself, “I’m using this as a tool to help me get my work done.” It helps you feel like you’re making an empowered decision rather than feeling like your family structure has just fallen apart.
- Try directing some of their screen time towards more educational activities so you don’t feel like they are just playing Minecraft all day. Just a couple ideas, they could research something that interests them on youtube like how to make a potato gun or a pinhole camera. They could watch a Broadway show on BroadwayHD.
If you’re not worried about screen time, that’s great too! No one knows what your family needs right now better than you do.
- I don’t have to be a “Good Parent” – I think that our standards of “Good” Parenting are too high. When we think in terms of just being Good Enough then we probably have a much more realistic standard in mind. What I did is I decided on One Thing that would define whether or not I was a good enough parent. When times were especially stressful, all other standards went out the window. My one standard was, “Does my kid know I love him?” If I couldn’t get him to do his homework, or he played too many video games that day, well we try to do better tomorrow. But does he know I love him? Yes, then that’s good enough for today. In case you’re wondering, “Am I a good enough parent?” Then the answer is YES! If you care enough to wonder then you’re doing a lot of things right. If you’ve read this far in this post then you obviously care.
Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for your child is make them do chores or take away the phone. But sometimes when stress is high, like right now it can feel more loving to say “Let’s just make some popcorn and watch Netflix together. We’ll try again tomorrow to get your homework done.” Remember you are modeling stress management skills for your child right now. That doesn’t mean you suddenly have to be perfect, because you won’t be. It just means that whatever stress management skills you have right now are probably good enough to get you through life, even if you wish they were better. So let that be good enough for your family too.
- Ask for Help – How are you at asking for help? If you have a special needs child you might have services that are provided to your family, but how are you at asking for help? Raising a special needs child can feel very lonely, and I think it can make us worse at asking for help. Others may not really understand our situation and it can feel hopeless, like our needs won’t be met even if we ask. While we’re sheltering in place we have to find more creative solutions but it’s still important to ask. One creative idea I saw is a friend of mine who has his daughter Skype with family members who are out of state for a couple of hours in the middle of the day so he can get work done. Or maybe you can ask someone else to go get groceries for you or pick up take out. And again, don’t feel guilty about using the screen time if you need a break.
- Put on Your Own Mask First – Every time we get on an airplane we are told this but I rarely see parents apply this lesson to their parenting. The best thing you can do for your child is take care of yourself. I see some of my clients who are parents doing our sessions in a closet or in the car. One person told me they go to the bathroom to get away and my son used to take long showers to decompress. Another option would be to practice one minute of mindful breathing throughout the day. Your kids will feel more calm and safe and even behave better if you model some self care right now.
I have researched some links for additional resources and provided them below. Hopefully they will give you a boost in the areas of asking for help and self-care.
May your Family be safe and well!