Updated: Jan 19, 2022
By By Eileen S. Lenson, MSW, ACSW, BCC Posted on April 19, 2020
Image from The Sloth Who Came To Stay by Margaret Wild & Vivienne To.
Welcome to Q&A Today a new column designed to answer your questions regarding challenges and concerns in everyday life, from family to coping with current events. A popular topic today revolves around the coronavirus. All questions are fair game. Just send me an email with your questions or concerns, and watch for the answer in upcoming editions of the Tasmanian Times. If your question is printed, only your first name will appear in this column.
Question: I’m stressed, exhausted and worried. I know I’m not relating well to the COVID-19 situation. My kids are starting to notice and are acting out. What can I do to calm my head so I can properly parent them? – Melinda
Answer: In almost no time flat we have gone from enjoying predictability in our lives to uncertainty. No wonder you’re feeling stress.
Children react to what they observe in their parents. If they see you responding well, they will be better prepared to cope with the unforeseen changes. If you’ve flown in an aeroplane, you’ll recall the flight attendant always announces that if oxygen masks are needed, parents are advised to secure their own mask and then assist the child with their mask. Why? Because if parents don’t take care of themselves first, they won’t be able to take care of their children.
Keep in mind that stress is an inside job. You don’t have a choice about whether you are going to live alongside this pandemic, but you do get to choose how you will respond to it. Chronic stress can result in your body being less capable of reducing inflammation, your immune system weakening, and finding yourself at greater risk of getting sick. You have a lot on your plate now, and kids to raise, so keeping physically and emotionally healthy is vital! You can reduce your stress by recognising you are in the midst of a crisis and it is to be expected that you’re not experiencing your best ‘you’. Being hard on yourself will only increase your anxiety, so I recommend that you give yourself permission to instead take care of yourself by practising self-kindness.
This self-kindness might take form in setting some boundaries, such as limiting the time you spend listening to the news. Watching too much negative news can become a toxic stressor, triggering anxiety and worry – two symptoms you mentioned. Listen to the news, ensure you are informed, then turn it off.
Make sure you’re practising social distancing, not social isolating. We’re not wired to be alone, and isolation can be bad for us. So perhaps decide that each day you will connect with a friend, colleague, neighbour or family member via Face-Time, Skype or Zoom, so you can see each other and discuss something that is not COVID-19 related.
Do something just for yourself each day. Maybe it’s a leisurely bath. Or time spent painting or learning to play an instrument. Look for a class online or an app that will teach you a new skill you always found interesting but until now didn’t pursue. Being kind to yourself will be modelling for your children how to take care of themselves in the future. But meanwhile, with so much focus on what we cannot do during this period of social distancing, you can help your children focus on gratitude for what they have. Pick a time of the day when each member of the family has to state something for which they have gratitude. Make it a fun exercise, reminding them that they have to yell it at the top of their lungs if they’re in their bedroom, so that others can hear. In short order, your home will have a new tradition whereby regardless of whatever is happening in the world, each member of the household will be announcing something for which they are grateful.
Have fun with creating new traditions of your own. Pause and laugh with your kids. Have them teach you a new dance. Show them how you used to dance. All of these activities will build up your much needed reserve of resilience during this challenging time and bring back your confidence and enjoyment of parenting.
Eileen S. Lenson, MSW, ACSW, BCC is author of Overcoming Adversity: Conquering Life’s Challenges, by Australian Academic Press. Eileen is a life and business coach and public speaker residing in the United States. She has spent her professional career working in medical and psychiatric hospitals and in her private practice, counselling people experiencing emotionally traumatic events. She can be contacted at Eileen@LensonLifeCoaching.com. DISCLAIMER: By submitting a problem to Q&A Today you grant Tasmanian Times permission to publish it on our website and social media pages. Your full name and contact details will never be included or distributed. The advice columnist acting on behalf of Tasmanian Times is expressing personal opinions and views and the advice offered is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this column is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional.
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