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Atara Malach M.A., PCC
Atara Malach M.A., PCC

Parenting During COVID-19: Are We on a Collision Course?

Three questions to help you navigate conflicting needs.

Source: iStock/964179934

We are in the midst of a global pandemic that has sent us on a tailspin and has created a new reality for parents worldwide. The familiar parenting challenges we have been struggling with for decades have been replaced by unchartered territory which has become our new reality. In the blink of an eye, no schools, no nannies, no familiar schedules, no outings, no manicures, no work, no conferences, no business trips, no restaurants, no income, no vacations... nothing is the same anymore!

The Way Things Were

Do you remember the way things were a mere few weeks ago? When working mothers were expected to do the impossible – do our jobs as if we don’t have children and take care of our kids as if we don’t have jobs? As a woman, you’ve been told that “you can have it all,” but when you have children, you begin to wonder if the present-day feminist culture has been selling you a fantasy which is rarely a reality.

You find yourself struggling to succeed in your career while also trying to be the best mom at home. You soon discover that trying to be everything to everyone is exhausting and when you can’t keep up, you feel guilty. It’s no wonder that when family conflict arises, you feel like it’s the last straw!

Parenting Challenges During the Corona Crisis

Now is our chance to be "the best mom at home." And. That. Isn't. Easy. We were catapulted into this reality, with no preparation, and because our professional/business lives are in total disarray, we aren't fully focused on the wonderful opportunities all this togetherness could, or should, offer us.

This generates tremendous stress for many reasons, the most pressing one being that now that we finally have enough time to be with our kids, we aren't spending all day interacting with them calmly, and to be honest, not all of us are really loving it! So, working mother's guilt (being out of the house too much) has transformed into corona-mothering guilt.... feeling guilty for not maximizing or enjoying being home with our kids 24/7.

Utilizing These Stressful Times to Practice Resilience

Having no privacy, no familiar work schedule, nowhere to go, and nothing "important" to do is bringing out the worst in us. Contrary to what we always believed (if only I would have more time home, I would feel like the best mother ever!) we are actually feeling worse. We are confused, worried, overwhelmed, bored, desperate, and realizing some truths about our parenting.

  • We constantly felt guilty about not spending enough time with our kids, and now that we have endless time to be together, most times we are not making the most of it nor are we enjoying it enough.
  • Under these circumstances, dealing with conflicting needs is more difficult than usual because nobody in our family is in their comfort zone.
  • Practicing resilience and conflict resolution would be a lifesaver!

Using the All-Way Stop Sign to Help Resolve Conflicts

Here is something I want to share with you from my GPS parenting method. Just as the red All-Way Stop sign indicates a road intersection where vehicles stop before each going their own way, think of this stop sign as representing the intersection of varying family needs.

So, when family conflict arises, imagine the All-Way Stop sign in your mind – and stop! Take a few deep breaths and try to identify the various needs of the family members involved, including your own needs. Your needs are important, so don’t feel guilty about paying attention to them. Then try to come up with the best plan or compromise that gives you the green light to move forward.

Examples of Conflicting Needs

Your son needs to be on Zoom at 10 a.m. to join his remote learning class, and your daughter made up with a friend to practice for a play at the exact same time!

Your baby just fell asleep and is in the room where your children keep their board games, and they are bored! Taking out the games will wake him and he will be cranky all afternoon.

Your older children aren't hungry but you want them to eat dinner now because you are tired of constantly being in the kitchen.

These conflicts can arise under the best of circumstances but are more prevalent and more pressing during our COVID-19 crisis.

Just as described above, when the drivers stop at an All-Way Stop sign, they make sure to notice who came first, who is inching forward, and how to make the wise decision when to press on the gas pedal. So too, in times of conflict, when keeping our eyes out for the most pressing need at that moment, it will be easier to find our way with confidence, preventing unnecessary collisions.

3 Helpful Questions for Conflict Resolution

1. What is the most pressing need? In the case with your son and daughter needing the computer for Zoom, your son needs to be logged on at that time to join his class, your daughter can practice with her friend at a later time.

In this scenario, her feelings should be taken into consideration by expressing the importance of her plans with her friends while stating the obvious. She might not like to hear it, and most probably won't be gracious about it, but expecting and accepting her annoyance will go a long way in calming the waters.

2. Can I teach a life lesson here? Yes: I can explain to my daughter that although what she is doing has merit, and I am very proud of her creativity and motivation, in life, business comes before pleasure: something we have to do takes precedence over something we want to do. That means that when something is time-sensitive (he needs to be on at 10 to learn from his teacher with the rest of his class) it trumps plans which can be put off (her practice with her friend).

I know that we have enough on our heads and in our hearts during this corona crisis, but when we utilize inevitable family conflicts to impart and emphasize an important life lesson, we can end the day (as unstructured and stressful as it might have been) with a feeling of great accomplishment. This is parenting at its best.

3. How can I turn a negative into a positive? No matter how much you love your children, conflicts are inevitable, especially during these challenging times. I have found that my clients often regard conflict as a negative happening and even feel guilty that a dispute has arisen in the first place. I do my best to make them see that sharing conflict with a person you love makes it inherently positive. Conflicts help to clarify the different needs of each family member and are opportunities for growth.

When you explain why you want dinner over by a certain time, and offer a menu of suggestions they can choose from (either eat when you are serving or warm up their food on their own and clean up the kitchen when they are done), you will have demonstrated self-care and invited them to practice being considerate to the needs of others. A win-win situation!

When you learn how to resolve disputes in a positive manner, despite the fact that you are short on time and patience during these difficult times, it builds trust. Your children will learn the valuable lesson that relationships can survive challenges and disagreements.

Opportunities for Growth

So, next time there’s a conflict, stop at the All-Way Stop sign and ask yourself these three questions. You might be surprised at the solutions you will find, and you will feel proud, instead of guilty, that even during such challenging times you are doing your best and utilized this road sign to steer your family down the road to success.

About the Author
Atara Malach M.A., PCC

Atara Malach, M.A., PCC, is the founder of Parenting University, an acclaimed author, and a psychotherapist practicing internationally for over 30 years. She empowers mothers and professional women to succeed.

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