Better Together: Strengthening Your Family During COVID

Written By Mili Dhru, Contributing Writer

2/9/2021

When reports of COVID-19 first began circulating across the globe, the extent to which the pandemic would impact society was indeterminable to even the most knowledgeable of public health professionals. No one was able to foresee the indefinite quarantine periods, mandatory face covering and social distancing protocols, devastating economic crisis, and alarmingly high death tolls; but it was an event that vastly altered the course of human history and changed the lives of millions of people.

Public health organizations both domestically and internationally kept us updated with preventative measures that we could take individually and share with our loved ones to minimize the spread of coronavirus, yet the worry about our families’ well-beings remained relevant. In this time of unprecedented and widespread confusion and illness, it is essential to stay on top of managing individual and familial health. 

As a parent, it is important to manage your own stress effectively in order to be able to provide for your children and elderly family members. There are many things that you can do to manage your stress level.  First, be conscious about the sources from which you get your pandemic-related news. If you find that you are consuming an excess of coronavirus-related news or your social media feeds are causing you to develop feelings of anxiety or tension, try taking a break from these platforms and focus on a calming activity instead. 

Another helpful tip is to practice mindfulness daily and often during certain times throughout the day. Focusing on the present and not worrying about what is to come in the future or what has already occurred in the past is a constructive coping mechanism that can prevent you from getting too caught up in the frenzy of life. It is also important to set realistic goals for yourself and your family. Many parents had ambitious and somewhat unrealistic expectations for themselves and their families to accomplish at the beginning of quarantine.  Understand that you and your kids achieving even the smallest of goals that you set for yourselves during such a hectic time is in fact a victory in itself.

Also, try to stay virtually connected as frequently as possible to remain grounded and inspired; maintaining a strong support system is vital for your own encouragement and for the comfort of your family. Setting up virtual playdates or phone calls with relatives could also serve as a refresher and healthy morale boost for your kids. A final tip to consider as parents during the pandemic is to accept your feelings and cut yourself some slack! The COVID-19 pandemic did not come with a helpful handbook for how to best navigate it, and between juggling work, childcare, looking after elderly parents, and the countless other responsibilities on your plate, you should remember to be kind and understanding to yourself. Accept that experiencing feelings of anger, fear, frustration, and anxiety is normal.  Resisting the urge to fight against acceptance might help you to gain control of your emotions and strive to come up with a practical solution. 

Along with these techniques to promote your own progress during the pandemic, there are also a few to help your children cope and thrive. Encourage mindful thinking collectively.  Engaging in a fun activity together that can help you all unwind, like doing family yoga or taking a walk on a trail, will allow your children to also remain focused on the present and make the most of each and every day (Premier Health, 2020). It may also be useful to stick to a consistent routine that you can make and a post a schedule of.  Sticking to a schedule will establish a sense of order and regularity that might be hard to otherwise adopt during such an erratic time. 

Finally, it is imperative to emphasize positive reinforcement and validate your children’s feelings. Go the extra mile to ensure that good behavior and academic improvements are rewarded with copious encouragement, especially since the adjustment to virtual learning has been a difficult transition for many kids. Many students, especially older ones, feel disappointment from missing out on experiences like graduation, prom, and dorming in college. Try to actively and patiently listen to them while they share their feelings, and avoid reassuring them with general statements like “everything will be fine”.

Feeling anxious about your family’s physical, mental, and emotional health during the COVID-19 crisis is normal, but sincerely and consistently practicing these mindfulness techniques will allow you to better regulate your emotions to manage your family’s well-being for the long-term (Child Mind Institute, 2020). 

References

Coronavirus Resources for Parents From the Child Mind Institute. (2021, January 19). Retrieved January 19, 2021, from https://childmind.org/coping-during-covid-19-resources-for-parents/

Strengthen Family Ties, Manage Emotions During COVID-19. (n.d.). Retrieved January 18, 2021, from https://www.premierhealth.com/your health/articles/healthnow/strengthen-family-ties-manage-emotions-during-covid-19

Published by Counseling With Leslie

Leslie Stevens, M.Ed., LCMHC is a North Carolina and Virginia board-certified licensed professional counselor. She co-owns a successful practice in Carrboro, North Carolina. Leslie specializes in helping adults navigate stress, depression, anxiety, and perfectionism. Additionally, she is a life strategist, spiritual coach, and writer.

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