Our world is in crisis, and we are in the middle of a pandemic. In one swoop, at-home orders were enforced, schools were closed, and parents were asked to work from home, while teaching their children simultaneously. Parents are stressed, confused, and tired. In an effort to restore normalcy, and bring rest, here are ten tips for tired parents:
1. Keep a Routine: Children (and many adults) thrive with schedules. When things are not in order, their world feels out of focus, and it causes confusion and increases anxiety. Children are used to waking up at a certain time, getting ready for the day, following a school schedule, going to scheduled practices, following an evening routine, and going to bed at a set time. The season we are in has stripped children of their routines, but we can restore some order.
Try this: Make a simple schedule including a regular wake-up time, prescribed school hours, and bedtime. Having a predictable schedule will bring a sense of order to your family and restore some normalcy.
2. Take a Time-Out: Most parents are accustomed to having scheduled breaks from their children. They drop their kids off at school and have nearly a full day to work, attend appointments, and interact with other adults. But this pandemic has removed the away-from-home school day, sports practices, and other extracurricular activities. In this absence of breaks from our children, it’s important to take time-outs to keep your sanity.
Try This: Take a bubble bath, enjoy coffee on the porch, or read a book.
3. Ask for Help: Teachers, children’s pastors, and therapists are looking for ways to help weary parents. Sometimes their way to help is to send you more–more school work, more Zoom links, more things to add to your to-do list. They mean well, but don’t know what you need unless you tell them.
Try This: What do you really need? Do you need help explaining a math concept to your third grader? Do you need someone to video chat with your child so that you can have 15 minutes to yourself? What do you need? Make a list and ask for help.
4. Be Imperfect: Are you a teacher by trade? Unless you hold a degree in education, or have chosen to acquire the necessary training to homeschool, than you are likely a bit uncomfortable taking on the role as your child’s primary educator. Many parents now work from home, with little to no privacy, and are now expected to ensure that their children are educated by them for the remainder of the school year.
Try This: Give yourself permission to be imperfect. If the schoolwork is incomplete, it can be completed later. If you can’t answer all of your children’s questions, you can ask someone else for the answers or have your child to research. There’s no need to be perfect. Only Jesus holds that elite status.
5. Develop Healthy Coping Tools: Many memes and videos have granted permission for parents to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. They joke that it’s permissible to begin drinking at 10 am. While these provide a good chuckle, liquor stores are considered essential businesses, and alcohol sales are up. Therapists remain concerned about how their clients will cope during social isolation, and alcohol, non-prescription drugs, and food have become unhealthy coping mechanisms for some.
Try This: Consider what brings you joy, calms your mind, or soothes your anxiety. Watch a movie from your childhood, light a scented candle that reminds you of your favorite season, listen to ocean waves, or bake a cake. Spend some time doing what brings you joy.
6. Have Some Fun: You’ve heard it said that laughter is the best medicine, but did you know that there is evidence for this? Research indicates that laughter can help blood flow to the brain and heart, take away pain, and help people be more productive. This season has certainly produced anxiety, loneliness, and pain, yet having some fun is sure to alleviate some of this.
Try This: Watch a silly movie, built a fort in the living room, schedule a family game night, or have a theme day (Christmas in April, Disney Day, All Things Green, etc.) to make your family smile.
7. Connect with Grown-Ups: Although we can’t get together in person, there are virtual ways to connect with family and friends. To see the faces of others, and to share experiences, is a great way to escape from our current reality.
Try This: Set up a Marco Polo group with friends and share short videos about what you and your family are doing as you socially distance. Video chat with your best friend or a family member while you make dinner. Participate in your church small group videos. Set up a weekly Zoom meeting with your extended family and have a theme each time you meet (crazy hair, family meal, etc.).
8. Get Active: Parks, pools, and gyms are closed, and families are urged to stay home, but sitting at home, inside all day, can be depressing. You may begin to feel trapped or stir-crazy. Exercise increases endorphins, a happy chemical that helps you feel good. Although it seems counterintuitive, exercise also gives you more energy. so, get moving.
Try This: Have a family dance party, go for daily walks after dinner, or try a new online exercise routine. Encourage outside play time for your children, and schedule stretch time before bed.
9. Invest in Your Marriage: Stress can cause tension in relationships. Particularly in marriages, when children are home and stress is high, problems can develop. It’s important that married couples avoid becoming roommates and bring deliberate focus to their marriage.
Try This: Schedule a date night, complete with candles, a private dinner (maybe even after the kids go to bed), and time to talk about things unrelated to the pandemic. Watch a romantic comedy together as you snuggle up with each other (and popcorn).
10. Spend Time with God: Whether life is relatively normal or we’re in a pandemic, we cannot do this alone. We may feel alone, or we may be alone at home, but we are not alone. We depend on the One who can bring order to chaos. Just as we must invest in our personal relationships with people, we must invest in our relationship with God.
Try This: Pray before you get out of bed, throughout the day, and before you go to sleep, like a continuous conversation with God. Set a daily time to read a passage from the Bible, whether you use your favorite Bible app, a video from Bible Project, or a daily devotion.