Since COVID-19’s complete disruption and reorganisation of everyday life, parents have become the unsung heroes of remote learning. Many of us initially described it as a way to spend ‘extra-bonding’ time with their kids, and while that is true, it is clear that this is a task requiring skillsets and preparedness that might not have been at everyone’s disposal initially.
The added pressures of unexpected homeschooling is leading to situations where parents are getting overwhelmed with maintaining their work obligations, learning how to homeschool their children, and managing the added anxieties that their children might have from being apart from classmates, friends and regular interaction, which ultimately can leave little time for parents to take care of their own mental health and emotional stress levels.
Perhaps many of us have also set the expectation level too high, assuming that, as parents, we must turn into superheroes to save our children’s days. Thus, mental health experts are expressing that it is essential to understand our limitations and set realistic expectations in order to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle during the pandemic. And thus a critical expectation is that parents need to keep in mind their own mental health whilst also looking after their children.
While the above is true for all of us with school-aged children at home, there are some households that will be affected more than others; for example, those with multiple children spread across different age groups and class levels (i.e. meaning different levels of homework and competencies to manage), households with single parents, or parents that are essential workers and are not able to be at home in the first place. However, the unifying lesson here is the common need for compassion for ourselves and for one another. In other words, if parents solely focus on spending time with their children without academic advancement as part of it, in order to better manage the time and resources they have or to strengthen their mental health, then they need to understand that this is still time well spent.
Now, if you have found yourself to be in a situation over the past 2-3 months feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or overly self-critical, it should be emphasised that this is both, natural and acceptable. A productive coping mechanism starts with taking a moment to acknowledge these feelings and then remembering that ‘we are all in this together’. The intention of doing so is to manage our emotions in a way that is less serious and less personal. Furthermore, realising that we are not in control of force majeure events ultimately allows us to focus attention to what it is that we can control.
In parallel, parents should also reach out for help when needed to maintain a stress-free environment at home. The needs of parents – recognition, empathy, understanding, patience, love – are akin to those of their children. When managing stress, it is harder to provide sympathetic awareness to our spouses and ourselves. Hence, remembering that ‘we are all in this together’ will help cultivate a sense of compassion for yourself and others.
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