Many parents are struggling through COVID-19. Juggling childcare, cooking, homeschooling, and cleaning is no easy feat when you get zero breaks or vacation days during the week. As an added stress, many parents are either working from home, out on the front lines of duty as essential workers, or have been laid off.
In such overwhelming and stressful circumstances, how in the world are parents or guardians supposed to be patient, loving, and calm presence for their children and teens?
Let things go.
“It’s okay to relax certain standards of what a stereotypical good parent should look like,” Dr. Koslowitz says. This includes things like meticulous neatness, carefully prepared nutritious meals, and strict limits on screen time. “It’s ok if our homes look like a train wreck and if our adolescents eat whatever they want for dinner or don’t shower some nights.”
If your laundry basket is always full and the sink is overflowing with dishes for days on end, don’t stress.
If your teen is on his phone a bit more than usual, let it go.
If they haven’t cleaned their room in a while, it’s okay.
A quick disclaimer: If their behavior worries you and seems to indicate serious problems, you may want to consider a clinical assessment by a mental health professional, or treatment for mental health issues. Otherwise, keep reading.
“We need to completely change our definition of good parenting during the coronavirus. Give yourself permission to relax most of your standards of parental perfection during this stressful time.” Dr. Koslowitz says.
Because it’s a once-in-a-century global pandemic. And there are more important things to focus on during COVID-19. Parents need to save their energy for things far more important than laundry, dishes, or dinner.
And that is…drumroll, please:
“The only thing that’s a non-negotiable is being a calm and present parent,” Dr. Koslowitz says. Children and teens shouldn’t be seeing their parents chronically yelling or arguing. Limit criticism of your adolescents’ behavior. Avoid loud conflicts with your teen as much as possible. Especially during times of stress, such as a pandemic, it’s even more essential to have a low-conflict, light atmosphere in the home.
And if the only way to achieve this is to let other burdens go, then go ahead. Choose your sanity over making complicated meals. Deep breaths over dishes. Coping over cleaning.
It’s fine to tell your teen to eat cereal for dinner during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s not fine to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to snap at them.
Self-Care During Coronavirus
In addition to letting low-priority home-maintenance tasks fall to the wayside, something else that will help you save your energy and patience is self-care. Self-care is one of the most important coping tools that will help you maintain your sanity as a parent during this stressful time.
What does self-care mean? It means doing something every day that will bring you joy or satisfaction. For some, this could be gardening. For others, it could be reading a magazine or taking a warm bath. And for everyone, it means sleep. Yes, sleep.
Sleep deprivation makes it extremely difficult to be patient with your children, especially when they’re teenagers. Going to sleep late and waking up early – even if you have good reason for doing so – can directly affect your mood. You’ll be more negative, angry, and snappy towards everyone around. Which, during this pandemic, primarily means your spouse and your teens. And you’ll stay that way until you take a nap or go to bed again.
So please, please, parents: engage in self-care. Let go of your pre-COVID standards of perfect parenting. And start realizing what really, truly matters: being a calm, present parent who models positive coping skills for your children during times of stress.