63 – Parenting During These Tough Times with Andrea Klepatz
written by Andrea Klepatz (Counselling Psychology, Social Worker) on 12/11/20
Do you find it hard to be the parent you want to be? Feel like you are running on empty? Are you challenged at times by how to respond the way you want with your kiddos?
Let’s talk about the challenges of parenting in a Code Red – when our normal is being turned upside down.
Halloween was likely a lot different than we imagined it would be. With the heightened public health restrictions this week, it has changed how we experienced the holiday. I am guessing it was celebrated in a very different way this year in households across the city. I know it was in mine! Looking back, I am proud that we didn’t cancel Halloween but rather we found new ways to enjoy the best of the tradition! The kids still dressed up, walked the dog in his costume and checked out the neighborhood decorations. We put out a self-serve, help yourself buffet of candy on the front step and hunkered down for our new Halloween tradition- Scary movie night! The thrills and chills brought us closer together and the movie- an old classic from my childhood- Fright Night was a big hit with my girls!
As winter closes in, we are going to be spending more and more time together. I am determined to make the best of it. I will try to tune in more, be present and enjoy the girls. Especially important now as they are entering into their teens. Where did the time go? I love seeing the world through their eyes- so much is changing for them.
Last March, we had no idea what to expect with this pandemic, now we have learned what to expect. The challenge will be to lean into the discomfort. What does your family enjoy doing together? Not sure, no time like the present to find out. Can you embrace a new outdoor activity; learn to skate, snowshoe or toboggan? Take long Walks outside bundled up in warm winter clothes and make the best of it. Maybe your family rediscovers cooking together, exploring new foods or old favorites with a twist. This winter might be a time to learn a new Craft, or how to knit or crochet. Do activities that bring you closer together like a family puzzle, play board games or have an old fashioned game of cards. Try to enjoy the attempt! Maybe you and yours will even learn to love the snow.
This Christmas may look a lot different, with fewer people around the table, and Zoom family gatherings replacing times together. Perhaps we can use this time to deepen our connection to those in our bubble, spend more time with the ones closest to us and explore new traditions. I know I have been trying to look at this time together as a gift- Life has been getting busier every year and my girls are growing up fast. This pandemic has caused us to slow down- Our family has had to sort out how to really be together- to give each other space when needed, and support at other times.
Many of us are feeling worn down and tired of the restrictions. This year, our favorite holidays and traditions are looking different and it is taking a toll. We need to pay attention to how well we are managing our mental health- it can sneak up on us. It’s like that app that’s open on our phone in the background constantly draining our batteries without us even being aware of it. We need to find ways to restore and recharge our batteries.
As Parents, we need to be especially diligent- our stress levels and reactions can set the tone. Be aware when things are getting too much, watch your triggers- we all have them. A Little sass from a tween or having to clean up after the littles can send us over the edge. We may overreact to situations if we are not aware of our stressors. We need to find positive ways to manage our stress and reduce our stressors as much as possible.
Our kiddos need us to regulate them. We are their first teacher- they look to us when they are tired, hungry or scared to help them organize their emotions and calm down. We can only do this if we are calm. So, look for ways to reduce your stress. Be kind to yourself, take breaks, exercise, sleep. If you find yourself overreacting, not your usual calm- STOP- put yourself in a time out for a moment until you get back to calm. I get this is tough! It is so hard to put yourself first. As a parent we are taught to put the children first- but that’s a lot like forgetting to put on your own oxygen mask. You have to take care of you so that you can be there for them. I recognize how hard this is even with a partner that I can tag team it with. I have so much respect to the single parents out there who are doing all of this on their own. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your support network and ask for help when you need it.
Don’t worry if you don’t always get it right- research says you only have to get it right 30% of the time! Being able to offer a repair – “Hey, I am sorry I got mad, can we start over?” will go a long way.
Know what calms you- you may need to try a few things- everyone is different, and every situation is different. Help your kiddos figure out what calms them. Taking care of yourself is important- you are important to your kids. You are their role model – they are watching carefully how you do it! They will follow your example. Be kind to yourself and take good care of your Mental Health.
Please email me if you think you could use some extra support during these tough times.