There will never be a time when everything is perfect. There will never be a time when the world just makes sense and everything aligns. That’s what I’ve learned as a parent, but it’s also what I’ve learned as a human. No matter what we try to do or put into motion, inevitably something will change our well-meaning plans. And that’s okay.
However, in the time of a pandemic and back-to-school craziness, there are undoubtedly more stressors in our lives. If you, like many of us, are feeling the heat and weight of every decision, you’re not alone. Here are a few notes of encouragement and tips for overwhelmed parents. We are in this together!
1. Start with a deep breath
While I know that “just breathe” can sometimes feel inauthentic or even condescending, there is truth behind this mantra. When we give ourselves the space to breathe, we are allowing ourselves to acknowledge that what’s happening to and around us is outside of our control. We are acknowledging that whatever is happening is stressful and that we are going to take a beat to reflect upon it.
Taking a deep breath is re-centering and re-connecting back with our bodies. It is grounding us in the present and reminding us that all we can control is right here, right now. If you find that you are faced with (yet another) difficult decision, choice, argument, or moment, take a deep breath and hold the air in your lungs before letting it out of your mouth. Remind yourself that you are human and you can’t possibly have all the answers. You are doing your best. And your best is enough.
2. Let go of what’s not working
I think, as parents, we all have the tendency to want to do the “best” or “right” thing for our kids. The hard part is when the world can’t agree on what that “best” or “right” thing is. When it comes to some of the current conversations, people are very back-and-forth about what to do. It creates dissonance and frankly, chaos, for us as parents.
In these moments, truthfully the best choice is to simply let go of what’s not working. Some parents have said, “No,” to distance learning simply because their child was struggling to stay focused. Some parents have reduced hours at work to balance their home responsibilities. There is no right or wrong answer, especially amidst a pandemic. Please focus on what is right for you and your family and let go of what’s not working.
3. Remember your end goal
One of the best tips for overwhelmed parents that I’ve come across (and really, it’s a tip for every human) is to focus on the end goal. Although you might be frustrated at someone or something, before lashing out, keep this in mind: What is my end result? What is this anger going to achieve?
Asking yourself these questions can help you create space between your thoughts and your actions. It can also be a barrier between experiencing and reacting. In times like these, it’s natural to want to react to the things around us, but sometimes these animalistic reactions hurt (and that’s not our intent). Asking yourself your “end goal” question can help you ascertain what you really feel or desire and how you can best articulate that.
4. Focus on the memories first
How many times have you heard this: “In these unprecedented times…” Yeah, me too. These times are different, challenging, and even frightening for some. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as I’m trying to navigate myself through, it’s that focusing on the memories helps to ground you.
What’s really important right now? Is it being able to have every meeting that was on your calendar? Forcing your child to feel comfortable with online learning? Getting an ‘A’ on that assignment? Having the dishes cleaned before you go to bed? These are just a few examples but think about the moments in your life that you’ve been stressing over. Are they that important?
Focus on the memories first. Focus on building good times with online learning: taking breaks, eating healthy snacks, laughing about someone being silly on the group Zoom. Create pockets of time where you and your child can be together: sipping a milkshake and watching the sunset, going for a walk after school and work, waking up and having breakfast together.
For many families, these times are challenging. But they don’t have to mean disconnection for your family. When you feel overwhelmed, try to focus on building memories and creating positive experiences around the difficulty. This is what you’ll remember years down the road.
5. Embrace the temporary
Remember that everything is temporary – the struggle between work-life balance and your child’s school, the stress of the unknown, the differing of opinions about going back-to-school, the controversy of masks (and other related political uprisings).
While this doesn’t mean everything is fine and dandy, it should offer at least some relief. The things that are making your days feel heavy won’t be here forever. You won’t always feel as overwhelmed as you do right now. And you are not alone.
6. Listen to the needs + don’t fight alone
When it comes to figuring out what’s right for you and your family, try, as much as possible, to put your child’s needs first. Listen to what your child is telling you about his/her emotions, fears, and desires. Try to create opportunities for normalcy (especially in socialization). And remember that even if there’s something you/your child “should” be doing, it’s okay if you’re not simply because you’re trying to cope.
It’s also worth noting that one of the best tips for overwhelmed parents is to seek the support of others—family members, friends, caregivers, teachers, mentors, etc. Navigating the journey solo can be isolating; having someone alongside you will be the push and the voice you need to keep going when times get tough(er).
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Featured Image Credit: Anna Earl