By Richard Solomon, PhD, Clinical Director, Delta Consultants
Without time to prepare, parents, grandparents and caretakers have been asked to assume a multitude of roles throughout the past five weeks—teacher, recreation director, counselor, executive coach and….parent, all while remaining at home. While most parents are not trained for the first four (and most are only “trained” for the fifth through on-the-job experience), they have been doing a yeoman’s job, entering into unfamiliar territories, redefining their family roles, and courageously moving forward with determination as the world outside remains uncertain.
Taking Care of the Caretakers
What are ways in which parents who are suddenly assuming more diverse roles in their children’s lives can cope? What are strategies parents can use to manage the demands of each day? How can parents better manage so much “together time”? Here are several ideas that may be helpful:
Families will only be as successful as their leaders.
The executives of the family need to be self-aware, alert to their own psychological needs, giving themselves, whenever possible, enough time to “recharge.” Each parental executive may do this in a different way–reading, television, music, a workout, engaging in a new activity, developing a new skill, reaching out to family and friends for daily connection. The point here is that, at this challenging time, balance is critical for sustaining the patience and perspective needed for parental executives to successfully manage and juggle multiple roles each day.
Every day should have a plan.
A daily plan, committed to paper, should include the goals for the day, both for the adults and for the children. The plan could include academic/school tasks, household chores and allotted time for recreation. Spend some time discussing both family-based recreation and individual recreation options. Both are likely necessary to help all family members move through the day and handle their respective roles. Engaging group activities support a sense of family, while solo activities for each family member allow for important individual “down” time.
Social connections are vital to familial well-being.
While social media certainly has potential areas of concern, currently, it is a vitally important medium with its own role to play. Social media helps parents and their kids remain connected, which can extend to family members and close friends and to the broader community. In turn, a sense of isolation is diminished. Still, it is important to understand that being alone from time to time does not equal loneliness. Learning to be alone on occasion helps us develop the skills for productive time management, useful introspection and self-awareness.
Get outside on a daily basis.
This is not always possible for all families. It can depend on where the family lives and who is home with the children. But, when possible, daily outside activities provide fresh air, a change of scenery, and the opportunity for movement. If getting outside isn’t possible, make sure to incorporate some kind of indoor exercise activity. Add movement to the job list! Studies show the strong connection between movement, full-body activity, and improved brain function and mood.
Remain optimistic and hopeful.
Our society will find a way to overcome COVID-19, likely fairly soon. Equally significant challenges have been overcome before, and though this is undoubtedly one of the most momentous crises of this era, it will be addressed. While remaining connected to the news and important events can be beneficial, interact with individuals and social media outlets that support your optimism. This, in turn, will permit you to be a helpful resource for your family. Eventually, when you return to focusing primarily on your role as parent, you will have the benefit of successfully managing and coping with these more challenging times.
In our next article, we will focus more directly on communication with children, especially as shelter-in-place guidelines continue. We will look at different age groups and their respective communication and social needs. Until then, shelter in place, be kind (to yourself, as well as others) and stay patient.
Richard Solomon, PhD
Clinical Director, Delta Consultants
Looking for more support? Tele-therapy with Delta Consultants is now available. Contact Delta at (401) 421-1405 for more information and to schedule an appointment.