It is challenging in the best of circumstances for parents to prioritize their own mental health and wellbeing. Add a pandemic and it can feel increasingly impossible to fill all the roles parents are being asked to fill. It is important to remember that self-care is not a privilege but a necessity. If parents do not fill their own bucket first, they will have nothing to give to others. Children demand a lot of parents’ resources, but now parents are being asked to be full-time caregivers, teachers, coaches, and playmates on top of their own already demanding schedules. In these circumstances, it is even more important for parents to take care of themselves so they can take care of others. It is no accident that we ask adults on airplanes to adjust their mask before helping children, or others. If they do not, they will not be helpful to anyone.
Here are some suggestions to ensure time is devoted to self-care throughout the day:
Commit to health:
Try to make time for 30 minute of exercise a day, such as going for a walk (alone or with the kids), playing basketball, doing lunges and squats during nap time, or trying something new, like yoga. There are many free activities on YouTube and other sites that can encourage movement. Aim for 6-8 hours of sleep a night and try to include some fruits, vegetables and whole grains when possible.
It is impossible to fulfill all the roles being asked of parents without any assistance. Being compassionate with yourself during these unprecedented times and focusing on being “good enough” will go a long way in keeping feelings of anxiety low. Some screen time for your children will not be devastating and focusing on building the relationship with your kids instead of fighting over schoolwork will be beneficial in the long run.
Stay in touch with your tribe:
It is easy to feel isolated with social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Luckily, we live in a time of incredible technological advancement. Try carving out time on that walk to talk to a friend on the phone or reconnect on FaceTime with grandparents. Ensuring you have some social interaction when possible will help decrease feeling of anxiety and isolation.
Alexandra Reed, M.A, M.S.