Managing Parenting Stress During COVID-19

By Eleanor Beeslaar, HRI Graduate Assistant

Doing our part to help stop the spread of coronavirus means practicing social distancing and self-isolation, and while this is important, it’s also really stressful, especially as a parent. As parents, you may be balancing working from home, child care, homeschooling, and self-care, all while managing both your own and your children’s anxieties. With stress levels at an all time high, it can be difficult to find patience and keep your cool as a parent, especially if your kids are having a hard time adjusting to the new normal. Know that you are not in this alone, and there are steps you can take to help cope with the stress and anxiety! Try the following tips to manage stress and keep your calm with your kids during the coronavirus pandemic.

Take deep, calming breaths. Breathing is a powerful tool that can help us regulate our emotions and regain composure when we are experiencing intense feelings. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or upset with your kids, try taking deep, calming breaths before you react. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth, counting to four each time. You can even try closing your eyes if that feels comfortable for you. By using your breath to slow down and take a moment before responding, you can have a healthier, more constructive interaction with your kids!

Find the root of your emotions. When you feel like you are losing your cool and getting angry with your kids, it’s important to look deeper and determine if there are other factors contributing to what you are feeling, especially now with all that is happening with COVID-19. Are you tired, stressed, anxious, or upset about the current circumstances with the coronavirus pandemic? If so, know that this is a normal reaction and give yourself some grace and self-compassion. Take a moment to pause and recognize that these are difficult times and they may be contributing to what you are feeling. This can help you gain control of your emotional response and come up with a more effective way to communicate and handle stressful situations with your kids.

Remember that your kids are going through a challenging time, and their behaviors may be a response to the stress, anxiety, and fear of COVID-19. An important part of parenting is being aware of your kids’ experiences and trying to look at things through their eyes. Keep in mind that behaviors that may cause feelings of frustration and anger for you as a parent may be a result of the current changes and challenges of COVID-19. Your kids may be having a hard time with the transition to social distancing and self-isolation, as well as experiencing feelings of sadness and anxiety due their sense of normalcy being uprooted and the uncertainty of this pandemic. Give your children space to express their emotions and remind yourself that this is difficult for everyone. When you approach difficult situations and behaviors with your kids from a perspective of curiosity and understanding, you can find compassion and empathy, leading to more effective and constructive outcomes. 

Pull your kids close and hug them often. When you’re feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with your kids and don’t know what to do, try asking them if you can give them a hug. Hugging your kids during moments where you feel like you are losing your composure can have a calming effect, reminding you and them of the loving bond you share. Focusing on physical and emotional connection not only helps you calm down, but it also shows your children that they are loved and cared for, which is especially important during moments of social distancing and social isolation.

Create consistency and stability. An important part of regaining composure as a parent during social distancing is to set yourself up for success ahead of time. By creating consistency and stability  in your kids’ lives during this time of uncertainty and instability, you can avoid potentially stressful situations. A great way to establish consistency is to create a weekly routine and set clear rules and expectations. Developing predetermined rules and expectations can help you feel more prepared to handle challenging moments as a parent, leading to more constructive outcomes with your children.

Make self care a priority. Another key element in being prepared for difficult parenting moments during COVID-19 is establishing social support and engaging in self-care. When your needs are being met, you will have more patience and compassion for your kids and be less likely to lose your composure during stressful or frustrating situations. We encourage you to engage in a self-care activity at least once a week and to connect virtually with friends and family who provide support and comfort during this difficult time.

Today’s blog was adapted from our Split Seconds: How to quickly regain composure as a parent series.

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