Is it over yet? A few words for exhausted parents.
I’m sorry to say it’s not over yet. This virus seems to be tenacious and will take a while to get past. I’m sure that after a week or more of being stuck at home with the entire family 24/7, you’re tired. You’re doing more for your kids than ever—trying to be their teacher, playmate, referee, coach, and counselor—to say nothing of all the cooking and cleaning they require! Oh, and then you’re working from home on top of all that? I’m sorry. I’ll speak to your boss if you like. It’s too much!
Are you ready for an attitude adjustment? Let’s declare this pity party officially over. As a parent, you’ve been through hard times before. I bet you could name lots of difficult times you’ve overcome. Parents are tough! Here’s a disgusting example. My kids are now grown up and balding, but I distinctly remember the smell of one awful night when they were six and seven. They both started throwing up hot dogs after going to bed. Not only did the vomit get all over them and their beds, but it also covered the wall and floor next to their beds. I never thought I could clean up all that mess without getting sick from the revolting smell, but I got through it, and so did the kids (although I’ve never looked at hot dogs quite the same way since). And life goes on.
So how can you buck it up and smile your way through the coming weeks of 24/7 forced family togetherness? I have a few suggestions you can try and see what works for you.
Take care of yourself
You’ve heard the flight attendant say, “Put the oxygen mask on yourself first.” That’s critically important here. That means:
Sleep on a regular schedule
Sleep seven to eight hours a night. If you stay up watching movies until 2:00 AM, you won’t be happy to see your toddler bounce out of bed at 7:00 AM. Quality sleep makes the world a rosier place, I promise.
Get some exercise
Exercise is a great stress reliever. I know the gym is closed, but you can have a dance party with the kids. Go outside for a nice, long walk and look for signs of spring! Or find a yoga or pilates video on YouTube. Do something physical every day.
Don’t try to drink your problems away.
I’m not saying that a Friday night “Happy Hour” wouldn’t be nice, but find a better solution than alcohol for your daily pressures. (See “exercise” above.)
Eat something healthy
I know the kids want cookies and chips, but, as an adult, you know you won’t feel right eating anything but carbs all day long. Remember, protein, fruits, and vegetables make your body happy. Try to maintain a routine meal schedule to keep your body in sync.
Keep a gratitude journal
Nothing fancy, write down three things you’re grateful for each night. Ask your kids what they are thankful for, especially in these times. We have more blessings than we can count if we take the time to notice. Do you have clean running water? Do you have a partner who smiles and pitches in to help? Did the sun come out this morning? Did the baby learn a new word today? Maybe you’ll list more than three blessings per night!
Connect with others
Reach out when you’re having a really bad day. Everyone has days like that and needs help. The telephone is our lifeline right now! Call and vent to a friend, family member or pastor who is a good listener. Blowing off steam is really beneficial to your physical and mental health. There is nothing wrong with admitting that your family is not doing well at the moment. The current situation is like nothing we’ve ever seen. Here’s a couple of 24/7 resources you can use. Call or text with someone who understands what you’re going through. Live chat is also available on most websites. All calls are completely confidential.
- Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: text or call 1-800-422-4453 (English or Spanish). Or chat at childhelp.org
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: call 1-800-273-8255 (1-888-628-9454 in Spanish). Or chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
- Domestic Violence Hotline: call 1-800-799-7233 (available in Spanish) Or chat at www.the hotline.org
Take care of others
Take a deep breath and smile! Now that you’re feeling a little more energized let’s take an outward focus. Instead of worrying so much about yourselves, talk to your kids about helping those in greatest need during these difficult days. Who is having a harder time than your family getting through this? What can you do—in a safe way—let them know someone cares? Even a small gesture will brighten the day of someone isolated and suffering from depression as a result.
- Do you have a neighbor who is over 60 or has a health condition? Leave your name and phone number on a large note taped on their door or window (wherever they will be sure to see it). Maybe they need pet food, cleaning supplies, or someone to talk to. Or leave one of the kids’ drawings, a home-cooked meal, a magazine, or a bunch of flowers at their door. They might be interested in trying Netflix or organizing a Zoom meeting with friends if you can explain it by phone.
- Check the website of a local nonprofit that serves the needy or homeless of your community. They may be looking for donations or volunteers for an urgent project. They may need someone to make phone calls. Contribute online if you can, as most nonprofits will need extra support at this time.
- Call a relative you haven’t spoken to in a long time. Aunt Suzy may enjoy a video chat with your kids right now. Stronger family connections may be the best outcome of this whole situation.
- Write a note or send one of the kids’ masterpieces to a friend from church, a coworker, or a grandparent who needs encouragement. No stamps? Check the USPS website to print postage or buy stamps from the 24/7 machine at the post office (and use your hand sanitizer after touching those buttons!).
- Call another parent who’s stuck at home and ask how they’re faring. Listen to their concerns. Let them know they are not alone.
I’m sorry none of these is the magic cure capable of releasing you from your confinement, but I hope these suggestions help you refocus and shift to a more positive attitude as this virus runs its course. Maybe a friend has a better idea to help you weather this crisis with a smile. We are all in this together!
For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges