Measures introduced to combat the spread of COVID-19 mean that many parents and carers are continuing to work from home. And due to school closures and altered learning arrangements, many are having to juggle their work with their responsibilities as a parent or carer.
It’s an unprecedented situation that poses a range of unique challenges.
Here, we look at how parents and carers can support their own mental health as they navigate this difficult time.
It’s normal that you may feel overwhelmed trying to manage your workload at the same time as looking after your children.
- Set realistic expectations of yourself. Practice self-compassion and avoid putting too much pressure on yourself. Try not to aim for perfection, instead aim for ‘good enough’.
- Make your wellbeing a priority. Taking the time to look after your own mental health is important for both you and for your family. Self-care may seem hard right now, but doing something for yourself every day and making sure you’re getting enough good-quality sleep, will help you feel calmer, reinvigorated, and better equipped to manage this demanding chapter in your life.
- Be mindful of what you look at on social media. While social media can help you stay connected, try not to compare yourself with others as it can lead to you feeling under more pressure. This article provides some tips on how you can use social media in a positive way.
- Keep in mind that this time will pass. It may feel as if this situation is lasting forever, but normal life will return.
- Seek support. If you’re starting to feel like you can’t cope, speak to someone early on. The earlier you get support, the better.
Increased household tension
Whether it’s a reduction in personal space, increased stress, boredom or something else entirely, tension within your household may be higher than usual and your relationships may be under greater strain. You may also notice an increase in conflict with other family members.
- Listen and show understanding. If there are two or more parents or carers in the house, you’ll likely have different styles and ways if working. Embrace the differences and try to complement each other.
- Talk honestly with your children about how they’re feeling. Acknowledge that this is a difficult and uncertain time. Recognise that it’s natural for fear, anxiety and worry to lead to unhelpful behaviour.
- Set clear and consistent expectations of your child’s behaviour. Have actionable consequences in place, and if things go awry, have confidence in your ability as a parent.
- Reflect daily on what’s working and what isn’t. Come together at the end of each day as a family to share your successes, frustrations and concerns. Then discuss ways you may be able to adapt your approach tomorrow.
- Stay in touch with networks outside your household. It can help to have an outlet. It will also remind you that you’re not alone – many others are in the same situation as you.
If your children are of school age, it’s likely you’ll be assisting with home learning. This can be particularly challenging if you have a very young child or multiple children of different ages with varying learning requirements and abilities.
- Maintain a routine as best possible.Daily routines can help family life run more smoothly. Encourage regular mealtimes and make sure to take consistent breaks throughout the day but avoid being overly rigid. Keep in mind that each day will bring new challenges, so a willingness to be flexible is key. For those with children between 1 and 8 years old, Raising Children Network have developed a useful guide on using routines to manage behaviour, while Reach Out offer helpful advice on how to support teens during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Remember that you’re there to assist, not home school. You’re not expected to be a schoolteacher. Become familiar with how educators are conducting the school day and make sure your child has access to the necessary resources. Remember that the daily tasks are there as suggested resources, you don’t have to do them all – do what you can, when you can.
- Support your child’s educators. Remember that they are doing the best they can during a challenging time and that they may well have their own children at home. Try not to become too involved by encouraging your child to seek their advice if they have questions about what they are learning.
- Stay healthy. Regular exercise and eating well will help both physically and mentally. Read our tips on how to stay active during a pandemic. Incorporating gratitude, mindfulness and meditation into your daily routine may also help.
- Recreation is key to a young person’s wellbeing. There are plenty of excellent online resources and ideas for staying active and entertained from home. This guide by Raising Children’s Network is a good place to start.
This content is proudly funded by one of Beyond Blue’s Major Partners, Future Generation Global Investment Company.