We are living in historic times. As a society, we are scared, overwhelmed, tired, confused, and impatient. And it’s only been a few weeks. We are all settling into the certainty of uncertainty. So many of us aren’t sleeping well, we’re not eating well, and we’ve lost many of the coping mechanisms that we heavily relied on, like attending church, hanging out with friends, or even grabbing a drink at the local bar. And in the midst of all of this, parenting doesn’t stop. When we wake up in the morning, our children still need us. Dinner still needs made. Homeschooling still has to happen. How can parents survive and thrive in the midst of COVID-19?
How Do You Explain COVID-19 to Kids?
In the midst of natural disasters, national tragedies, and now pandemics, how do we as parents best present this information to our children? Depending on their age, there’s only a certain amount of information they really need to know. I’m a big believer in not having the news on the TV when young children are around. We all know that the 24 hour news cycle can be overwhelming even for adults. For children, imagine how much more confusing this information can be. We really don’t need to know 50% of what we read and consume. Children really only need to know about 1% of what’s going on.
A rule of thumb is to tell your children age appropriate information. Also, tell them how it affects their lives on a daily basis. Remind them how important it is to wash their hands properly and to have healthy habits. It’s a great opportunity to review basic scientific facts. And if you have times when you, as the parent, can’t keep it all together, don’t beat yourself up. If your kids see you cry, explain your emotions in a simple way, and remind them that it’s ok to feel sad sometimes. We aren’t perfect, and it’s ok for our kids to know that.
What About Homeschooling?
I’ve been homeschooling my five kids for 10 years. For years, because of this, people have acted like I was a little bit crazy. And now, the whole country is a little bit crazy! Is homeschooling easy? Nope. Can you do it? Yep! It’s overwhelming, but with these simple steps, you can be successful in this season. These are some simple steps you can use to get started:
- Start with the basics. You don’t need to do it all, all at once. Start with just the essentials like reading and math. And then add in other things as you are able.
- Set a schedule. Different schedules work for different families. Set times don’t work too well for me, but lists are essential. I always know what needs to get done in a day, and the general guideline for when it will get done.
- Assign tasks and chores. If you’re parenting in a large family, try having the older kids help the younger kids. If you have a smaller family, you can still assign chores and tasks that are age appropriate. They may grumble a bit, but it will also help them feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment. And it will help lessen your load!
- Connect with a community. In the midst of COVID-19, all communities are virtual. But it’s still important, for both you and your children. Log into those Zoom meetings and Google Hangouts, even when you don’t feel like it. You’ll be glad you did.
Self-Care as a Parent in the Midst of a Crisis
We are all at, or close to, our wits’ end. I don’t know about you, but I cry multiple times per week. We’ve never experienced anything like this in our lifetimes. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed and scared. And even though you’re a parent, you’re still a person. And the old saying is so true, you really do need to put your oxygen mask on before you help others. However, as we discussed earlier, many of our favorite pastimes and ways to relax aren’t possible right now. Our family loves going to theme parks and to hang out with friends. We can’t do either! So what are some other ways to relax and take care of yourself during this crisis? Try some of these suggestions:
- Carve out alone time. Many people are lonely during COVID-19. But as parents, we might be feeling the opposite. There’s zero time to ourselves and maybe very little quiet. Make time for yourself by going for a walk, scheduling time for the kids to have quiet time in their rooms, or watching a movie in another room by yourself.
- Try out new things. What’s that hobby you’ve always wished you had time for? How about the game you got a few birthdays back and never played? As parents, we often say how we just wish we had more time. In a lot of ways, now we do. How will you spend it?
- Stay active. In whatever way works for you, find ways to be active. Take a walk or a bike ride, try a home workout, or play a game in the backyard with the kids. It’s good for both your physical health and your mental health.
- Connect with others. This is essential! As important as it is for your kids and for homeschooling, it’s also just as important for your self-care. Voice your fears to your friends. Send each other funny memes. Connect with others and it will make you feel a lot less alone.
As parents, we often feel both lonely and overwhelmed with little people. During the midst of COVID-19, this is even more true. We are alone, but we are together. Our children are our life and our main priority. But we also need to take care of ourselves, in order to be the best possible caregivers for them. The world is a scary place, and we are now left to create a happy and healthy space at home for our little ones. We are holding it together for the next generation, even if just barely. There will be a time when our great grandchildren will ask us, for a school report, what it was like to live through COVID-19. We will look back, and feel proud of how we brought our children, and ourselves, through this difficult time. And we’ll do it alone together.
*Amber M. Shimel, M.S.W. is a Mom of 5, who has been homeschooling her children for over 10 years. She’s also a Professor of Sociology and Psychology. She shares parenting, travel, and homeschooling resources on her blog at www.amberlikes.com.