Just when the naps became regulated, the ride to school didn’t involve screaming, and parents were settling into finding the balance of themselves individually and with each other again…a global health crisis plunges us back into the four walls of our homes that don’t seem to have enough corners to escape into.
The effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have touched citizens on a national and global level, springing many into survival modes of how we might learn to manage an indefinite amount of time apart. Families, especially those with small children, are faced with the task of an extraordinary role shift of parents and children alike.
The following article will hopefully create a sense of normalcy and validation of how we are all managing these changes, while also holding a light to what we can do to successfully overcome separation, together.
The Struggle is Real
It is difficult to pinpoint just how large of an effect social distancing, isolation, quarantine, and closings of businesses have on families with vastly different identities and circumstances. The realness of the struggle depends on the resources and privileges available to us. This means that those without a residual or steady income, reliable extended family or support network, facing the challenge of age-specific or ability-specific needs of children, or single-parent households are arguably enduring greater tangible and perhaps emotional consequences during this time. However, there are many challenges universal to parents that hinder the operation of familial business-as-usual.
1.Financial obligations without a steady income
The most apparent struggle is the painful necessity of income. Money has easily become a crucial part of survival in what feels like a looming economic depression, along with the stress of maintaining a thriving household. Many parents without employment are experiencing a greater presence of the need for it and scrambling to find the next opportunity; those who are employed might either be anticipating imminent layoff, struggling to find childcare in order to support a full or part-time job, or are exhausted from taking on the additional job of full-time kids. This is magnified by the circumstances listed earlier in becoming more aware of one’s lack of support, whether it be financial, social, or emotional.
As schools close their doors, homeschooling has become a sudden jolt in parental responsibility, patience, and intellect. Fourth grade math was hard enough the first time, and parental ability to exercise patience, repetition, and stamina can prove challenging for both parent and child to sustain. Thankfully we are moving into the summer months, and there is less pressure to argue with your teen over getting their math homework done, or begging your 6-year old to sit still long enough for you to help them or their older siblings with the daily workload.
3.Satisfying the (intellectual/emotional/physical) needs of children
Children of all ages, both elementary and adolescent, require an exhausting amount of internal and external stimulus. While homeschooling presents its own set of challenges, children are also struggling with the reality of the interpersonal learning that schools provide them with. For many parents, ensuring a balance of enough physical exercise, emotional conversation, and intellectual advancement feels like many jobs packed into one set of 24 hours, until it is time to do it once again.
4.Satisfying the (spatial/emotional/energy) boundaries of the parent
While parents hold space for their children’s intellectual, emotional, and physical needs, they also might struggle to make themselves a priority through creating boundaries of caregiving. This is an issue certainly not specific to a pandemic, as parents often omit their own needs for space, ventilation, or self-care for the sake of attentiveness to children. With an increase of time spent together, parents might be feeling especially more burnt out on the daily obligation of parenthood.
5.Traditional versus non-traditional roles of parents
In two-parent households, both parents are learning to take on roles or responsibilities not keen to familial values or dynamic. Many working mothers or fathers are coming home to nurture and clean, others who are already home are trying to stay connected to responsibilities in order to keep the family healthy, and the majority are all realizing the shift and dedication it takes to be uninterrupted (and constantly interrupted) caregivers.
6.Fear of infection and safety
The second most apparent struggle is the fear of risk for our health. We hear the news, read social media articles, and witness climbing rates of infection as a necessity for awareness while also holding fear and anxiety. Parents work tirelessly to defend not only themselves against infection but also their susceptible children and possibly elderly parents. It is in our nature to defend against external danger, and this becomes a more melancholy task when the danger is each other.
The Resilience is Real
While we can recognize the very real stressors and series of events that have brought us into what feels like a new reality, we can also hold space for the ways in which we can support ourselves and each other as parents, friends, and allies. Organizations such as The National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the American Psychological Association have put their efforts into action by providing key pieces of coping and health-related information that may hopefully create a sense of peace, control, and ease during this uncertain time.
While many events and places are canceled and closed, may we invite ourselves not to lose sight of the privilege of connecting with others and loving ourselves without condition as we build resilience for what will be an undoubtedly more powerful world.
If you or a parent you know is struggling with roles and responsibilities, please visit us at www.purehealthcenter.com for more information about our individual and family counseling services.