Pandemic Parenting Tips to Balance Your Mood for Your Kids

A parent's mood directs the mood of the entire household.

Posted Sep 29, 2020

As parents and families have passed the half-year mark of navigating the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, families are struggling in multiple ways. One of the most significant tolls the pandemic has taken is on adults' and children's' mental health. Specifically, the impact on mood has been extreme.

Cooped up at home for months on end, parents of children under the age of 18 are facing historic pressures. Not only are parents impacted by the simple fact of sharing space 24 hours a day with school-age children who would typically be in school and being stimulated a set number of hours per day, parents must now additionally act as teachers with the unique demands of distance learning. According to a bulletin published by the American Psychological Association (2020), more than 7 in 10 say managing distance/online learning for their children is a significant source of stress (71%).  What's crucial for parents in such circumstances is prioritizing their mental health and mood because the parent's mood sets the tone for the whole family.

Weekly or daily inventory for parents of their own daily self-care practices

Parents must regularly consider the self-care they engage in and assess on an informal but weekly basis just how many self-care activities they are practicing.

Exercise has a major impact on mood

Exercise is a critical buffer in helping to manage stress, anxiety, and even moments of hopelessness. When people think of exercise, they may have an association with what that means that is more rigid or narrowly defined. For example, exercise doesn't need to be a 5-mile run or swimming 50 lengths in the pool. Even five or 10 minutes of exercise is better than no minutes of exercise, and approaching exercise in this way will make an individual more likely to exercise. By setting a small but easily achievable goal, people will be more likely to attempt to achieve it. To reiterate, if you are not a natural exerciser, set a goal to do five or 10 minutes as opposed to no minutes. The golden rule is that any exercise is better than no exercise.

Appropriate verbal discharge of negative feelings

In addition to exercise, verbally venting negative feelings can significantly reduce stress and a sense of isolation or loneliness. The mere act of connecting verbally in this way increases an important sense of connection. While parents should avoid expressing the depths of angry or sad feelings they have with their children, they should take the opportunity on a regular basis to express some of their negative feelings to an appropriate adult figure. Taking some time to connect with a friend and share overwhelmed feelings can improve mood. One example is to call a friend and ask, "Would it be OK if I just vent for five minutes?" Opening with this statement with a friend is a helpful way of letting a friend know that you are upset, but not actually requesting unsolicited advice. Giving a friend this heads up, they understand that they are simply being asked to listen and offer support.

A simple walk around the block

In session recently with a client who is struggling with anger management issues, he shared that one of the most helpful things he can do when he gets frustrated or angry is to remove himself from the present environment and take a brief walk around the block. When parents feel frustrated during the pandemic with their children at home, remember that giving yourself permission to simply take a 5-minute walk around the block can sometimes be enough to help you reset your mood.

Talking to a therapist, a religious leader, or coach

Aside from coping mechanisms that can be practiced on one's own or with a friend, there is undeniable value in reaching out to a professional who has your well-being in mind. Talking to a therapist, a church or similar religious leader, or even an athletic coach or personal trainer can help to reduce stress. The crucial point of this dynamic is that it requires being emotionally vulnerable and sharing negative emotional feelings, and such connection with someone who wants to help you improve your mood can significantly improve your mood and reduce an overall sense of social isolation or even hopelessness.

The takeaway message

Parents, without doubt, are under extreme stress as a result of the pandemic. The impact of COVID-19 is rare, in part, in that it has had negatively impacted every member of society. While those who have lower or no incomes are undeniably more impacted, COVID-19 has caused stress and unprecedented challenges for every socioeconomic group. In addition to the obvious tangible ways the pandemic has caused challenges for parents, the pandemic has brought yet another challenge and item for parents' to-do lists: to practice even better self-care.

If you're a parent, my hope is that you develop a middle-ground mental approach to self-care. When you don't have a half-hour for exercise, my hope is that you exercise for even 10 minutes; if you don't have an hour for a call with a friend, my hope is that you have at least five minutes. The key for parents' coping—and what will benefit their children, as well—is to find ways to vent your negative feelings so that you don't find yourselves turning your frustration onto your children, individuals who are struggling, too, but don't yet have the life experience or the wisdom to manage as well as adults.

References

Mental Health Weekly. 2020 Jun 1; 30(22): 3–4. Published online 2020 May 29. doi: 10.1002/mhw.32385