Parents are getting hit hard during the worldwide coronavirus outbreak. Most are stuck trying to “work” from home, usually while having kids home from school all day and worrying about aging parents who may need assistance. On top of it all, your favorite relaxation stations are probably shuttered for the next few months—gyms, theatres, sports, even restaurants and bars are becoming less of a home-away-from-home. So how can you maintain your sanity? Here are some tips from your trusted psychologist in Littleton.
Establish a New Routine, but…
While a week off to do nothing and have no plans sounds great if you’re visiting a beach, a week off at home to do nothing and to have all your plans flop around like fish out of water sounds awful! Even if you hate your “daily grind,” the familiar routine benefits you by reducing the number of decisions you have to make at any given moment. Without these constraints, you may find yourself working away until midnight, becoming unproductive, or just feeling constantly overwhelmed. Find your home rhythm and set clear times for work, meals, and family time, just like you would during a busy work week. If you are struggling with lack of work like many Americans, find your new routine—maybe this is the perfect time to help Junior memorize those multiplication tables, or finally tackle that pantry organization project. Setting a clear routine makes your life more predictable and manageable.
… Stay Flexible
At the same time, stay flexible. You can’t do everything, and that’s okay. Maybe some days you don’t put on your work clothes and “log in” by 9 a.m. Maybe you have “the blahs” and cuddle with the kids watching cartoons all day. With all the drawbacks we are facing, the least we can do is find some good in it! Similarly, cut your kids a break. They are more likely to express fear and anxiety through clinging, whining, and pestering, as well as “forgetting” all the basic rules. Show them you support them through these difficult times.
If there are things that feel out of your control, or that you just can’t handle, feel free to say “no.” Setting strong boundaries is important, especially when times are tough, and can help you and your family stay safe. Start by saying “no” to requests to be out and about where you could be sick, and escalate to turning down extra responsibilities that you cannot handle. Prioritize your family and your mental health. Set clear limits, even with your children, because however you set the stage now will likely continue to play out for the next few weeks.
Encourage Independence and Value Alone Time
If your children are school-aged or older, they can entertain themselves for some time. They may argue otherwise, but your job is not to be the village entertainment. Set your child up with independent activities like viewing a favorite show, coloring, reading a book, or playing with toys, and go do what you need to do. This gives you time to decompress, and time to spend with your partner.
Life will eventually return to normal, but until then, we all need to support ourselves and one another. If you find yourself needing someone outside of the house to talk to, do not hesitate to contact your Littleton psychologist. Set up a telehealth session, or visit in-person in our frequently-sanitized office.