During the quarantine, we will be providing blogs regularly on parenting in quarantine during this era of COVID-19. We have also formed a private Facebook group for sharing positive, supportive materials and resources as well as providing a safe space to share challenges. In that group we will host a weekly live series on developing self-regulation and coping skills together with our children, as well as Q & A sessions. Please join us there, and stay healthy.
Last week there were memes circulating, that jokingly warned us that it would be a rough week because of the time change, full moon, and Friday the 13th falling all in one week. Little did we know how different life would look on March 16 than March 9. There’s no need to rehash the events of the past 10 days. Rather, it’s time to acknowledge that not one family’s routine is unaffected. We’re all in unknown territory. Suddenly we’re expected to work from home, maintain productivity, AND homeschool our kids. Or we’re in a job that still requires us to work, but we’re scrambling to find child care. On top of this, our kids don’t understand why they can’t play with their friends or go to the playground. Parenting in quarantine is a whole new ball game none of us has trained for. And it’s okay that we feel lost.
It’s okay to lower expectations
Spend ten minutes on the internet, and once you weed through all of the terrifying news, you’re next bombarded with all of the things you should be doing with your kids at home. Some of these resources are wonderful, like the San Diego Zoo live stream or bedtime stories with Olaf. But others (and I am sorry to report that I have been guilty of sharing some of these) set unrealistic expectations. There’s a big difference between setting up a schedule at home during spring break or summer vacation, and what we are facing right now. It is true that all of us cling to schedules and routines in times of turmoil, and for some families these will continue to ground and guide your daily life. But for many of us, schedules need to go out the window right now, because they lead to guilt when we’re not able to stick to them. It’s okay to have a Netflix and Disney Plus Day. It’s okay if the only thing that’s “accomplished” for a few hours is simply being with our kids.
“But what about my job?” “What about all of these assignments that got sent home?” “What about all of the extra cleaning?” Of course I’m not saying to ignore these things. There are still very real responsibilities that we have to attend to, and very real problems we are all faced with. I’m simply saying that right now there’s this sense that we should be continuing as though this is normal, and that every minute of every day should be filled with productivity (child and adult). And that is simply not healthy or possible.
It’s okay to be scared
It is human nature to fear the unknown. And not only are we filled with uncertainty right now, but we are facing a very real and serious threat to our livelihoods and to the people we love. I am not going to rehash what you already know. It is okay to feel fear, and it is okay for our children to know that we are afraid. No, I’m not talking about panic talk or laying our adult problems onto our children. But let’s not leave our kids to form their own conclusions, either. Let’s instead give them guidance. Let’s talk about why we’re afraid, but just as important, make sure our children know that we’re focusing on spending time together, taking care of ourselves as best we can, and taking care of our communities.
Children’s brains are naturally wired to sense the emotional state of others. If we are scared and anxious but not communicating it, they WILL pick up on our nervous energy and become more on edge themselves. By talking about it and naming it, children will better be able to make sense of what they (and we) are feeling. If we can find a normalizing, calming activity for everyone to engage in together, we will all feel better for it. Even if this is blowing off schoolwork for an afternoon and watching Frozen 2.
It’s okay to unplug
If you’re anything like me right now, it is downright impossible to tear yourself away from the neverending apocalyptic news. It’s gone beyond a need to be informed, and has turned into this unexplainable need to stare at the train while it’s coming straight at you. Give yourself a break from it. I’m not saying you need to turn off all screens. But limit your news to a few check-ins per day. Turn off the phone alerts. Your mental health will thank you for it.
We are all in this together. Never before (at least in our lifetimes) has our community faced such a universal threat and disrupted our lives to this degree. Acknowledge that, and be kind to yourself. We are resilient, adaptive, and inventive creatures. Right now everything seems like it’s upside-down and spinning out of control, but we will figure out how to find a new normal. We will figure out how to navigate this new landscape, and keep our kids happy and growing. The world is still turning, and we got this.