A recent National survey highlighted the very real challenges thousands of parents are facing as they struggle to cope in lockdown. The findings showed that four out of ten parents are feeling anxious and one in ten admitted to being out of their depth when it came to parenting during the pandemic.
Many parents are experiencing the same level of mental health challenges, lack of sleep, and feelings of loneliness that their children have, leaving them clueless about how to help.
Though it highlights the many hurdles we all must overcome right now, at least this survey reminds us we are not alone. In this blog post we will take time to explore what causes pandemic pressure and how we can find hope in challenging circumstances.
It is important to stand back and recognise that we really are parenting in crazy times. Life before the pandemic seems a distant memory right now. The pressure on us all builds up in us right now from many different angles all at the same time.
Parenting Pressure due to Constant Change: With so much change and uncertainty about what is happening due to Covid, it can be hard to make plans for tomorrow let alone think about the long-term impact of what is happening right now.
Parenting Pressure due to Media Messages: The messages on the news and online offer endless charts with scary figures, conflicting opinions about a way out, and seemingly constant changes to how things might look tomorrow. The mixture of real news and fake news leaves us feeling on edge. The very real facts about the health consequences of catching Covid-19 can be a deep cause for concern.
Parenting Pressure due to practical struggles: Managing the household for many parents has become a real sticking point. Many are feeling like you must look after young children, home school teenagers like an expert and even work from home all at the same time. Some parents are finding it extra hard to try and please a boss as well as communicate with a school teacher, manage tech time and figure out what the next meal on the table is going to be!
Parenting Pressure due to concerns over our children: Parents in the National survey reported worrying signs in their children under 18 such as ‘bedwetting’, becoming ‘clingy and unsure’ and not ‘wanting to go outside’. Others reported ‘disordered eating’, and that their child had become ‘weepy’, ‘frustrated’ or ‘scared of people’ outside their home. If your child’s behaviour consistently deteriorates to a worrying level – it can be time to ask for help.
All this parenting pressure could lead to sense of hopelessness yet thankfully there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. One of the most important things to remember in times of crisis is that there is so much we can’t control but it is helpful to focus on what we can.
There are some practical steps to take that can help relief the pressure valve and help us make it through.
1. KEEP IT SIMPLE
Life is not the same right now so we cannot expect to go about business as usual. We so often place unnecessary huge expectations on ourselves to either function as we normally did before the pandemic or perform at some super human level. Sometimes it is fine to go back to basics and ask yourself what is the most important thing right now? We can’t do everything – so figuring out the simple priorities helps us keep moving forward. It may even help to get a piece of paper and write down everything going on in your world right now to help you bring a sense of order and know what to do next.
2. KEEP A ROUTINE
As the external pressures build up, our internal lives can end up in a right jumble. One of the ways to navigate out of feeling chaotic is to create a consistent plan for how your day looks. Experts say that keeping your routine — whether a new one or the one you had before the pandemic hit — is an important part in helping maintain your mental and physical health. Creating boundaries around working spaces and putting in time slots for different parts of your day can really help. Establishing a healthy routine can help offer something that’s not easily found right now: a small sense of certainty. It also helps avoid that feeling you get when it is almost like you are stuck in-between Christmas and New Year period and have no idea what day it even is!
3. KEEP IT HONEST
What we model to our children makes all the difference. Sometimes you need to admit you are struggling and talk to someone you can trust before your children will do the same. There are many organisations that offer emotional, mental and practical support. You can chat to a friend or family member or talk to someone you trust at school or work. Try to phone one of the many useful helplines that help you cope when you feel overwhelmed. There is a helpful analogy that if an emergency occurs on a plane, you need to put your own oxygen mask on first, before attempting to help those around you. Thinking about this, you might instinctively think this is selfish, but it is the best thing you can do to help others.
4. KEEP TALKING
Creating opportunities to connect and talk with your children is vital in this season of change. Listening is the heart of communication and so often as parents we forget that we are not meant to do all the talking! Doing practical things together helps break the deadlock when you feel like you are not connecting well with a teen. Sometimes being “alongside” a young person is less intense than face to face and basic small talk that leads to real talk over time. Remember a teenager will rarely want to talk on your convenient schedule. Be prepared to pause what you are doing when you see signs they want to connect. Validate your children’s feelings and acknowledge without judgement how they are really doing right now. Remind them that this is not forever and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
5. KEEP GOING
One of the rare memorable moments of joy during 2020 was seeing Captain Tom Moore walking laps in his garden. On 6 April 2020, at the age of 99, he began to walk in aid of NHS Charities Together, with the goal of raising £1,000 by his hundredth birthday. During the 24-day course of his fundraising efforts he made many media appearances and became world famous. His fundraising efforts attracted over 1.5 million individual donations that have raised up to £40 Million pounds. It was incredible to see this elderly man keep walking step by step rising above every barrier he faced. And it is a great reminder that we can do the same. Even though the road feels long and winding, we will only get there if we move one step at a time. So above all else, keep going – whatever you are facing right now – because in the words of the amazing Captain Tom… Tomorrow will be a good day.