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Parenting and Self Care During COVID-19
By Tally Palefski, LMSW
Four months ago, our daily realities and roles as parents shifted. Overnight we became full-time parents, teachers, and playmates, all wrapped up in one. We found ourselves unable to physically interact with the village that we depended on, while trying to support our families. Since then, we’ve had good quarantine days and bad ones, experienced feelings from anger to sadness, anxiety to pure gratefulness, and back again. This fluctuation in our emotional experience of our new reality has come to be known as the “Corona-Coaster.” Now, even as we enjoy a few cautious steps back to normalcy, we face a summer of parenting with continued social distancing. How can we make the best of this summer with our kids?
Having been a full-time quarantine parent to my own three kids since early March, there is one lesson that has really hit home: In order to be the parent that I want to be, I need to take care of myself every single day. On the Corona-Coaster, we, the parents, are the carts. If our wheels are lined up and our safety bar is secure, although we will still feel the ups and downs, we’ll be ok and our kids will as well. How can we take some steps towards self-care during these demanding times?
Self-care can look quite different to different people. It could be asking your partner to take an extra shift so you can get enough sleep, writing down what you are grateful for, or stretching for five minutes. It could be dressing up or staying in your comfy sweatpants, having a long phone conversation with a friend, or spending some time alone. Listening to music that makes you happy or scheduling a remote therapy session. Self-care when you’re with kids can look like a morning snuggle, a family dance party, breakfast for dinner, or stepping out of the room when you need to take a few deep breaths. We all deserve care and it is especially important for us now during these isolating times to prioritize recharging our own batteries every day.
Set yourself up for success. If you have young children, trying to do a yoga class on YouTube while they are climbing on you may cause more frustration than it is worth. Start small and have realistic expectations. Whatever you do to replenish yourself, make it part of your routine so it’ll be more likely to happen. Think about what works for you and work yourself into your daily routine.
Treat yourself to a good dose of self-compassion. Why not show yourself the same kindness you would show your best friend in a similar situation? Self-compassion begins with checking in with ourselves. Respond to yourself with understanding and acceptance. You might find yourself in a trying situation right now as a parent. Forgive yourself if you didn’t have the wherewithal to do a fancy art project with your child or if you had a rough parenting moment, day, or week. Remember, we are each doing the best we can, given our resources and circumstances on any given day.
When we are mindful of how we feel, we can be less “on edge” and tap into our capacity to act the way we want with our kids instead of reacting to them. When we are kind to ourselves, we may find we have more compassion to offer our children. Afterall, they are also adjusting to the new twists and turns they’ve been dealt.
Tally Palefski is Family Engagement Specialist for the Early Childhood Programs at WJCS-Westchester Jewish Community Services.