Parenting During Covid-19 - Going on Week #4...or it is Week #40?!

Apr 13, 2020

Here we go…week #4 of social distancing. When they first announced that schools would close and that everyone who could, should be working at home, did you think we would be going into a week #4, wearing masks when buying groceries, having 6.6 million Americans apply for unemployment in a single week and still not knowing when this will end?  Me neither!

Are your kids asking you questions you cannot answer? Are they cycling through the stages of grief or cycling in and out of anxiety, fear and boredom?  If so, that is normal.  We are navigating uncharted territory and most of us have not ever lived with this level of uncertainty. What do you do when it is week 4 and we know there will be at least 2 more weeks (very likely longer) to follow? What do you do when we don’t know what this being “done” looks like and what our new normal will be following all of this?  What do you do when your kids keep asking for answers that you don’t have?

Below are some suggestions for dealing with the uncertain world we are all living in while also holding space for your kids who may be struggling.

  • Have a plan for the week. I am not suggesting you map out your day minute by minute or even hour by hour but have a basic plan for the week and then for each day.  This helps our minds stay focused on what is happening now and reduces the time we spend thinking about all the “what if’s” that we don’t have answers to right now.
  • Try to plan something your family can look forward to. So many teens had things there were looking forward to that can’t happen now. From vacations to proms and graduation to getting a driver’s license to birthdays, Bat/Bar Mitzvah’s or other social activities. Often, the anticipation of these events brings us almost as much joy as the events themselves.  What you plan does not need to be elaborate but try to get creative and plan something you all can look forward to each week (a special meal, a fun game night, a movie night with fun snacks, a home improvement project, a video call with relatives, exercise together, make your own Sunday night, do a creative activity, have a dance party, plan a dress up dinner, play an outdoor game, learn something new together on YouTube – check out the iPhone Photography School’s YouTube channel to learn how to take creative iPhone photos and then practice as a family).
  • Ask them for their input. Ask them what special thing they would like to do this week. At this point, most teens understand the limits of what they can realistically do, and they may surprise you and come up with some creative ideas.
  • Have honest conversations that allow your teen to express themselves. Be honest that you don’t know what things will look like in 2 weeks, in a month or in 3 months and reinforce that everyone staying home and doing their part is what is going to help the most. It is a delicate balance between being “real” with them but also helping them feel safe during this uncertainty. While you do not have all the answers, you can present with optimism, hope and role model being present in the moment. 
  • Validate what they are feeling and share your feelings as well (assuming they will not create increased fear or anxiety in your teen). Just sit with them and encourage them to put their emotions into words. Being able to identify what we are feeling and put a label on our emotions makes it easier to understand and process through challenging emotions.
  • If you are struggling with fear, anxiety, financial stress, managing your family and maybe aging relatives also, be sure you have the support you need. Lean on a friend or family member if you need to so that you are not feeling like you need to shoulder all the burden alone. None of us is in this alone.

  • Know that a “C-” is just fine! If you were to grade yourself on your parenting and how you run your home and you are used to operating at an “A” or “B” level, stop judging yourself.  You are wearing many hats and living in uncertain times and it is unrealistic to think that you can do it all perfectly. If you can give yourself a “C- “, you are doing great!

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