By Paul Walia, Guest Writer
Parenting is traditionally a highly rewarding but challenging job that requires insight, flexibility, and organization. Parenting during the current pandemic has placed many new demands on parents as they have to shoulder much of the burden in terms of helping their families adapt to changes related to schooling, scheduling, and general safety precautions. While parents have taken on the role of emotional caretakers of their families, they often neglect to care for their own mental well-being and face many challenges related to daily stress management. This presents a challenge for many parents as they try to manage their own stress levels in the context of isolation, social distancing, and a diminished number of recreational activities. Below are several useful tips to promote parental health, wellness, and self-care.
- SELF-CARE IS A NECESSITY, NOT A LUXURY
Parents are amazing people and are the bedrock of our families. However, it is important to remember that parents are also human beings. Parents are vulnerable to the many stressors that they often seek to deflect from their own families. Stressors such as dwindling financial resources, increasing health risk, and lack of job security are some of the more relevant challenges that parents must wrestle with today on a daily basis. We know well that at some point, exposure to high levels of stress will eventually take its toll and can result in a number of physical and/or mental health issues. It is important that parents accept their own vulnerabilities and make self-care a point of priority.
- FAMILY SCHEDULES SHOULD INCLUDE DOWNTIME FOR PARENTS
While robust family routines and schedules are often the product of intense parental planning, they often neglect to include a specific time for parents to step away and recharge their batteries. Family schedules should include time for parents to “get away” and enjoy some time to themselves. More importantly, all members of the family should recognize the importance of parental downtime. This allows parents to maintain and sustain a higher quality of life for themselves and their families.
- SHARE THE WEALTH AND THE CHALLENGE
You don’t have to do it alone. Parents should share the burden as well as the glory of parenting. Regardless of familial structure or status, parents should assess their own family’s resources and potential contributors. Parents should find ways to allocate responsibilities to family members when available. For example, assigning chores to older siblings can provide valuable relief and free up time for other activities. This will also build a sense of family investment and engagement. Do not overlook the value of reaching out to extended family and other parents for support and guidance.
- QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
With the many social restrictions in place and decreased amount of free time, planning self-care time must be calculated and purposeful. Plan for high bang for the buck activities based on your interests and preferences, such as reading a book by your favorite author, or listening to music by your favorite artist. Take advantage of modern technology and make the world your oyster. A 30-minute virtual visit to a museum in Spain or a virtual chat with family members overseas can really improve your mood and motivation.
- SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP IF NEEDED
An important part of self-care is frequent self-assessment. If you believe that the daily grind is becoming too taxing for you, do not be afraid to ask for help. You are not alone and you do not have to suffer in silence. There are numerous available resources ranging from support groups to individual counseling sessions that are available to parents. In many instances, support services are provided either free or for a minimal charge. Also, do not be afraid to call your insurance company and see what is available. In fact, many insurance companies are waiving co-pays for families in need of support services.
Finally, always remember-that parenting is not easy. Parents, you are the very definition of real-life superheroes; it is okay every once in a while take off your capes and just take a nap! Self-care is essential not just for yourself but for those you love. As role models and exemplars for coping with life’s many challenges, parents must be able to maintain and sustain their own sense of well-being. But no matter what, let your mantra as parents always remain—SMILES ARE FREE AND LOVE IS PRICELESS.
About the author
Mr. Walia has served in public education as a school psychologist and as a special education administrator for over 15 years.
Currently, he is an active member of several professional organizations and serves as an adjunct professor for coursework in psychology, special education, school counseling, and mental health counseling.