I’m sure a lot of us thought, back in March when the pandemic started, that we’d be on the other side of it by now. Obviously, it’s still very much with us, and that’s especially frustrating for parents who are helping their students through school on screens. As a law firm that likes the emphasize the family in family law, we’re particularly attuned to the stress that parents experience.
There’s a great article we ran across recently called “Coronavirus Parenting: Managing Anger and Frustration.” It addresses the stress that parents are experiencing head-on and realistically. When parents are stressed out and angry, kids feel that, and they’re not able to learn and function as well as they can when their parents are calm and centered. The article gives lots of good advice to parents who want to reduce the anger and frustration they’re feeling.
One of the most important pieces of advice it gives is to “lower your expectations.” That doesn’t mean have lower standards; it simply means don’t try to be Superman or Superwoman as a parent, worker, household manager, and teaching assistant in the new pandemic reality!
As the article notes:
You won’t be able to do as much as you usually can as a parent, employee or partner. Instead, experts recommend focusing on your and your children’s emotional state and strive to maintain positive family dynamics.
The article goes on to quote an expert who notes, “Kids can’t learn if they’re not feeling safe and loved. If there’s a strain in the connections at home, and it feels very tense and miserable, your child’s brain isn’t going to take in what they’re learning because they’re stressed and angry. Your relationship is the precursor for everything else falling into place.”
So, make sure that’s central to your focus. That’s especially true for divorced and divorcing parents. Kids can feel incredible uncertainty and stress when their families are transforming. With so much else uncertain right now, it’s important to be mindful of creating as much stability as possible. That means that even if you’re not getting along as a couple, you need to be conscious of your role as parents.
The article also advises parents to think about nutrition, activity level, and sleep during this time. It’s a challenge for many parents to maintain a good diet, enough exercise, and enough sleep in good times. It’s especially tough in the midst of stress and tumult. But those are also some of the most important tools we have to keep calm and focused when we’re stressed. Those building blocks make us function better as well as feel better.
Finally, as the article notes:
What parents are being asked to do is impossible, so you need to prioritize. Most importantly, make sure everyone is safe and their basic needs are met. Next, determine what you and your children can realistically accomplish daily, and then try to structure everyone’s days so you’re not overwhelmed. This may mean that each child eats and/or does their schoolwork at different times.
It’s true that kids respond to and thrive off a regular routine, which is why creating a workable parenting plan is essential to a good divorce decree. However, the pandemic is making routines look different. Parents who went to work at a set time each day now work from home. Kids used to school and after-school routines have had those upended. It’s up to parents to be sensitive to what their kids can or can’t do each day, and adjust accordingly.
While the pandemic won’t be with us forever, it’s providing a unique opportunity for parents to raise their kids in stressful times. It’s certainly not an opportunity we envisioned or even wanted, but lessons learned here will help parents through any future stressful times they’ll experience. Here’s to getting through it and helping our kids grow and feel loved!