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Taking the Pressure Off Parents During COVID-19

The pres­sure of being a par­ent can be relent­less, and a new study from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan School of Social Work shows that the coro­n­avirus out­break is increas­ing par­ents’ stress lev­els. While schools are out and peo­ple are home, par­ents are spend­ing more time with their chil­dren. They are show­ing more affec­tion, par­tic­i­pat­ing in edu­ca­tion­al activ­i­ties and play­ing games togeth­er. Nine­ty-one per­cent of the par­ents in the sur­vey said they felt very close to their children.

But with all of this change also came stress, as 52 per­cent of par­ents said that finan­cial con­cerns and social iso­la­tion were get­ting in the way of their par­ent­ing. Par­ents also report­ed yelling at their kids more often than usu­al, and they were try­ing to adjust to sud­den­ly being respon­si­ble for school­ing their chil­dren from home.

The COVID-19 out­break is scary, and it’s not going away quick­ly. So how can we take the pres­sure off of par­ents so they can get back to par­ent­ing well?

  1. Sim­pli­fy. So many par­ents are try­ing to step into the gap and make sure their kids expe­ri­ence every­thing they would at any oth­er time. But does that make sense? For most of us, that takes a team of peo­ple: teach­ers, day­care providers, coach­es, music tutors and so on. Instead, try what doc­tors do when there is too much going on and triage. What is real­ly impor­tant right now and what can wait? It can be hard to let things go, but spread­ing your­self too thin can lead to noth­ing going well and extra anx­i­ety. Instead, invest your ener­gy where you think your child real­ly needs it right now and let the rest slide.
  2. Take care of your­self. Accord­ing to the Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Pedi­atrics’ (AAP) 10 Tips to Help Keep the Calm at Home” dur­ing COVID-19, attend­ing to your own needs is a pri­or­i­ty. Try to exer­cise and get enough sleep. But most impor­tant­ly, take time to decom­press or alter­nate who is watch­ing the kids if there is anoth­er par­ent at home.
  3. Keep the kids busy. This is eas­i­er said than done, but lone­li­ness and bore­dom are big rea­sons that kids act up. Most par­ents don’t want to rely exclu­sive­ly on screen time for this, so try set­ting up vir­tu­al play­dates, art projects or life-skills” lessons. My kids are sur­pris­ing­ly engaged in learn­ing how to clean the bath­room and sweep the floor. The AAP has a great tip sheet for keep­ing your kids pro­duc­tive at home.
  4. Take time to talk about fears. While most par­ents are work­ing hard to shel­ter kids from the worst of the news about the coro­n­avirus out­break, kids are still hear­ing about it. Some­times they over­hear bits of adult con­ver­sa­tion, or get mis­in­for­ma­tion from their friends. Kids who are old enough for social media may be get­ting fright­en­ing and incor­rect infor­ma­tion. Some fam­i­lies may have already faced the death of a loved one from COVID-19. Fears should be brought into the open, and grief pass­es best when we talk about it with those we love. For more tips about talk­ing with kids about coro­n­avirus, read here.

As we spend more time at home with our chil­dren, it’s impor­tant to notice how we feel in our bod­ies as well as how our chil­dren are feel­ing. If you have con­cerns about how you or your child are doing, phys­i­cal­ly or men­tal­ly, your pri­ma­ry care provider is a great first resource in ensur­ing good men­tal and phys­i­cal health.

Addi­tion­al Resources:

Coro­n­avirus (COVID-19) is a rapid­ly evolv­ing glob­al health sit­u­a­tion. For the lat­est infor­ma­tion, visit: