Unfortunately, there isn’t a parenting book out there that leads you down the right path to navigate a pandemic with kids. On a normal day, being a parent is the most difficult job there is. But now we have all been thrown into a new parenting situation that has left us ALL pretty exhausted and burnt out. We are ALL dealing with extra frustrations and stress. Many people have lost their jobs or even their lives due to this pandemic. Our mental health and stability have been tested. Relationships have been strained, and so many of us are just trying to stay afloat the best way we know how. Teaching our kids coping skills may be the last thing on our minds, but it is more important now than ever before.
Teaching Kids Coping Skills During a Pandemic
The other day, my son turned to me in the car and said, “I really hate these mean germs, Mommy. Why won’t they just go away!?” I was both taken aback and sad all at once. He knows he has to wear a mask when we go out, but he hasn’t really shown me his true frustrations like that before.
I sort of froze because, to be honest, I didn’t know how to react.
He was sad. I could almost see the anger he felt building up, and I could tell that he sort of realized he wasn’t living the normal life that he used to. He is 5, and we don’t have many in-depth conversations to discuss what’s going on in the world. I try to stick to the basics, but even then, it can be very confusing for a kindergartner.
But it is our job as parents to teach our children how to cope with stressful situations and provide them with the tools they need to get through tough times. It’s important to ask yourself some key questions:
- Am I being a good role model for my kids?
- How am I handling my stress in front of them?
- Am I showing my kids the responsible way to navigate through these tumultuous times?
- Am I trying my best to be a good parent and learn from the mistakes I’ve made?
Why is Managing Stress Important?
Surprisingly, a person’s ability to problem solve is directly linked to how well they manage stress. As early as age 3, children can learn problem solving skills and emotional coping mechanisms that will carry into adulthood.
Modeling responsible behavior and appropriate stress management for our children is extremely important. They see and absorb everything going on around them, even at a very young age. And that means they see how you handle stress in your own life.
After a long day working, home schooling, and taking care of the kids, do you turn to a drink to take the edge off?
It’s true, I find myself drinking alcohol a bit more these days because of the amount of stress on my plate. But with our kids watching our every move, it is extremely important to show them how to handle stress appropriately.
We can better equip our children to deal with day-to-day challenges and stresses without outside help, whether from us or from other sources, like alcohol. As parents, it is so important to ensure our children receive the right messages about stress management and responsible alcohol consumption.
6 Tips for Parenting During a Pandemic
Recently, we virtually attended a Responsibility.org summit talk by Meghan Leahy, parent coach and author of “Parenting Outside the Lines.” During her talk, Meghan spoke a lot about the current stresses of the pandemic leading to extra turmoil in our day-to-day family lives. She also discussed the best ways to maintain resilience in parenting during this time and help navigate these new waters.
So today, we have partnered with Responsibility.org to share important tips and advice on teaching kids coping skills for the stresses life throws out as well as the added stresses of these strange pandemic times.
1. Cut Yourself Some Slack
I wake up each morning and have to remind myself that I am doing my best. I am only human. With both my husband and I working from home and two kids under 5 years old, we all are feeling the stress inside these four walls.
I am just surviving the best way I can right now.
We all are. I try not to judge myself or put pressure on certain situations that maybe I normally would handle differently.
Give yourself a break, and allow yourself some leniency during this time. Let’s put aside the mom shaming and lean on each other to find ways to cope with the stress and chaos of the day.
2. Stay Curious and Open to Learning
Staying curious helps you examine why you may have reacted to a situation in a certain way. Losing patience or yelling at your kids (or anyone) is a natural reaction to stress.
Being open to learning from your mistakes also helps you explore with your child why they might have lost control in a moment. As Meghan pointed out, it “orients you to reality.”
More importantly, curiosity help you grow, allows space for seeing what happened, and helps you learn how you can behave differently the next time those frustrations pop up. Curiosity helps us understand patterns in our behaviors so we can recognize the causes behind our actions. We can then avoid repeating the same patterns and negative behaviors.
During this pandemic, there have been many parenting moments where I wasn’t proud of my reactions. Being able to look at each situation without shaming myself has helped me work on how to fix things the next time. I think about how I can better cope and handle those situations in front of my children the next time I feel those same frustrations.
This role modeling is exactly the kind of influence we all strive to show our kids. And as Meghan said, “We are raising people for down the road!”
3. Take Care of Yourself First
Just because we’re in a pandemic doesn’t mean you should neglect yourself or push aside that much needed ME TIME.
Now more than ever, you need to find time during the day to focus on YOU.
If you aren’t mentally healthy, how can you parent your child and provide them with the best version of yourself?
Meditate at night. Take time to work out. Wake up an hour early to have coffee and eat a meal in peace. Once those kiddos are up, it’s GO GO GO! It’s nice to get things checked off your to-do list before everyone is up for the day.
4. Enjoy Family Time
One of my favorite takeaways from Meghan’s summit talk was her advice to set aside family time each night. Allow this time to be a space for your children to ask questions. Create an open and safe space for your children to speak and vent about their frustrations. You can also ask for help from your kids. Show them how important it is for you to all be on the same page and help each other through these tough times.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Apologize
We are all going to do or say things during stressful times that we may want to take back. Mistakes are part of life, and our children grow from these moments.
Apologies are NOT a bad thing.
There is always room to improve, and starting with an apology is the right step. Make sure you follow these tips with your apologies:
- Mean it!
- Don’t BUT yourself (I am sorry I hurt your feelings, BUT…).
- Don’t wait for the other person to apologize first.
- Make amends simple.
- Recognize your patterns, and try to do better next time.
6. Check in with Others
It is important to lean on your loved ones and seek guidance or just someone to vent to. Sometimes, it is helpful to know a close friend or family member experiences similar emotions and feelings.
When you are surrounded by the same few people (especially the kiddos) day in and day out, it can be difficult.
If you are feeling that loss of connection with others, there are ways to stay connected. Setting up a video call with friends or family after the kids to go bed is a great way to vent and unwind in the presence of adults. Virtual game nights with some of your couple friends or socially distanced get togethers, if possible, are also great ways to stay connected with people.
BONUS: #TalkEarly About Drinking Responsibly
Now is a great time to start (or continue) the conversation with your children about how to drink responsibly! Your children may be seeing your interactions with other adults or your own relationship with alcohol more often now. Be open in sharing your experiences with your children in these instances. It’s the perfect way to open the discussion early.
Responsibility.org is an excellent resource for conversation starters and how to approach the topic at all ages and stages. Talking with your kids about alcohol early and often really is the best way to help prevent underage and irresponsible drinking as your children grow and become more easily influenced by outside sources.
Remember, parents are the leading influence on their kids’ decisions to drink – or not to drink – alcohol.
Final Thoughts on Teaching Kids Stress Coping Skills
The tantrums, the crying, the fighting and the outbursts – this is all normal right? And the answer is YES, you are not alone. We are all struggling. So we are all experiencing this together!
Let’s be honest, we are faced with an unnatural amount of time with one another. That time together can easily amount to frustrations, outbursts, tantrums, and elevated stress levels.
Be kind to yourself. Know you are not alone. Build trust and honesty with your kids. And know that teaching kids coping skills can be as easy as modeling responsible behavior for your children as often as you can!