Stress Management During the Pandemic for Parents & Caregivers

Social distancing and quarantine requirements have transformed the lives of individuals, families, businesses, and communities. When this all started a few months ago, many of us envisioned a very temporary circumstance that we believed would surely return to normal. However, we immediately felt the effects of staying home, avoiding outings, and being unable to enjoy the entertainment and activities we once took for granted. As soon as kids learned that school was out, there were collective cheers shouted nationwide. But it wasn’t long before children began wondering when they would be able to go back to the routine and structure they didn’t realize they valued so much.

For mothers, the change of having the kids at home was welcomed at first. It allowed many parents to cherish the extra family time they were able to enjoy. Especially in the midst of so much uncertainty, it was nice to hold your children close and keep them safe within the confines of home.

As the weeks and months have gone by, the uncertainty we recently felt has shifted to an eye-opening awareness that life is certainly different and may not ever be the same again. But different doesn’t have to carry a negative meaning. We can adapt and find value—and even joy—in the changes we have had to make and the new way of life we’ve been introduced to. In fact, managing day-to-day stress is so much more effective when you are able to see circumstances in a positive light. As a mother, our ability to learn this strategy will make all the difference in terms of how our kids adapt to change and cope with the current circumstances.

This concept is borrowed from positive psychology, which is a strengths-based approach to learning and behavior change. The idea is that oftentimes, we try to make changes by looking at the negatives; by looking at all the things that need to be improved. Positive psychology tells us: Why not look at the many positive aspects of ourselves and our lives and build up and strengthen those positive things. There is a lot of research to support the idea that strengthening our strengths makes us even stronger, better able to manage stress, and, to top it off, our self-esteem and personal development will flourish as a result. Positive psychology practices will not just benefit you, but it will also greatly benefit your family and your home environment.

Once we adopt this mindset, stress reduction strategies become easier to practice and implement at home. Below are a few stress reduction methods based on positive psychology that will transform the way you cope and help you to support and guide your family during these tough times.

Interpret children’s behavioral problems as a communication of their emotions.

If your kids have been more defiant or oppositional than usual, know that it’s likely that they feel the same level of stress, worry, and fear that you do. Not to mention, cabin fever strikes people of all ages. Allow your child ample room to express himself or herself. Make sure to do more listening than talking and or lecturing. Praise your child for being honest and open with their feelings. This way, they will be much more likely to come to you in the future when they are struggling with their emotions rather than acting out to either get your attention or release any inner tension they have. For younger children who are not as verbal, allow them to express their feelings on paper. Ask them to draw, paint, or color how they feel about the virus, about the quarantine, and about being away from school. You can point to various parts of their drawings, ask them questions, and encourage discussion about feelings. When children have a healthy outlet for their emotions, they are much less likely to display behavioral concerns.

Encourage alone time.

Everyone in the household needs time alone to reflect and de-stress. The quarantine has led to families inevitably spending a lot more time together and this can create greater stress, tension, and in some cases, utter chaos. Encourage independent activity time for everyone, every day, including younger children.

Make sure everyone gets some movement and exercise on a daily basis.

We all know the importance of regular exercise for physical and emotional health. Especially among children, a sudden decrease in physical activity will show in their mood and behaviors. Get creative, turn on workout videos on YouTube developed for kids, and make sure everyone in the house is able to release pent up energy. If you can also add in some time outdoors in the sunlight, this would be ideal. Sunlight on exposed skin is the best source of Vitamin D. There are many physical and emotional health benefits from ensuring you and your children get the right amounts of this essential vitamin.

Encourage and reinforce healthy eating.

Long hours at home, and the accompanying boredom that results, can lead to overeating and cravings for junk food. This happens to both adults and children alike (hence the term coined quarantine-fifteen, which refers to the extra weight many people have put on during social distancing). Unhealthy foods can trigger irritable mood at all ages, as well as hyperactivity among children. Make sure to praise your child any time you see him or her choosing a healthy food or snack option. Interrupt boredom by encouraging activity so that you avoid everyone wanting to eat in between meals. And most importantly, choose healthy foods during shopping trips so the unhealthy, processed items aren’t around.

I'm curious, how are you managing during this pandemic? Have you been practicing any of the tips shared in this post? I'd love to hear from you. Hit that heart button below or leave a comment over on our Facebook Page. Be sure to like our Facebook page or subscribe to our website below to get all the latest updates on our book club.

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