This is the first post in my new “Comfort Series,” where I will provide insight and advice for managing all the uncertainty and change swirling around us, as we navigate a long hot summer that doesn’t look or feel like anything we’ve likely experienced before.
Headlines similar to “High stress is the new normal for parents,” “Parents can’t take it anymore” and “Parents say they don’t care about structure and let their kids do whatever they want” are everywhere these days, and with good reason. No doubt, the summer of 2020 will be like no other.
What we thought would be a temporary situation has turned into a summer of unrest after the last few months of sheltering in place, online school and working at home. Parents and children have been all together nearly nonstop.
On top of the pandemic and financial fallout that we don’t yet know the severity of, is the political season and all its divisiveness. Then you layer in the gut-wrenching events of the past month of pain, protests and remembering George Floyd and others, and it all feels overwhelming. How can one year, actually just a few months, hold so much and cause so much chaos?
Parents are just trying to hold it together
Its been hard, so it’s no wonder parents are feeling as if they aren’t living up to what they should be doing. To that I say: “How in the world can you? Given all that you are going through, all that the nation is going through, it’s hard not to be anxious and concerned that you are failing everyone. So what should you do? Stop trying to stay sane, stay calm and carry on. It’s all drivel, in my opinion. It’s time to be truthful with yourself and your family. Times are tough.
It’s time to be truthful
For me, it goes back to the basics: You are human and that is okay. Can we just start there? “Perfect” parents (and I don’t believe there are such a thing) don’t teach their kids anything. So, stop trying to be.
Tell yourself: “I am not feeling like I am doing all the things I should be as a parent right now, but I am trying to be okay with that. There has just been so much change.”
Then, talk about your feelings with your kids. You don’t want your children to feel responsible for your feelings, but you do want them to hear you saying how you feel, and let them reciprocate. Chances are, your kids probably already know how you feel; they may even be worried about you. When you tell them how you feel, you control the narrative, instead of letting them think the worse. You can say how you feel, and then you can reassure them that you are okay.
You don’t need to do this everyday, but at least once a week or so say:
“Kids, I am really feeling overwhelmed today (or sad or frustrated). This has just been a crazy time. How are you doing? What do you think about all the changes right now? I want you to know that I am okay, and I am going to figure this out. It’s not your job to help me because I am a grownup, and I have other grownups I can talk with, BUT I can help you because I am your parent.”
Create time to let loose
In those moments, when you feel completely overwhelmed, what can you do? Tell them what you need. For example, say, “I think we should …”
- Turn on some music and dance around the room.
- Talk about what we are grateful for and say a prayer.
- Take a walk together.
- Make popcorn, have movie night and snuggle on the couch.
Or whatever you need. Then ask them, “What would help you?”
What do you want to teach your children about times like these?
That we are human. To honor our feelings. To honor one another’s feelings, even if it is different than ours. That talking about feelings is important. That we can brainstorm ways to make us feel better. That when we feel in lack, gratitude and simple things are the best way to move forward. That we can just stay in today, and it’s OK.
Ultimately, give yourself some grace.