The importance of mental and physical wellness for parents and how to find it.
Parents have always had to be superheroes: tirelessly raising their children and shouldering all the daily responsibilities this involves. But throughout quarantine it feels like parents have also had to become olympic gymnasts: balancing work, health, taking on new roles in their childrens’ schooling all while dealing with unprecedented levels of uncertainty.
When the day-to-day is this overwhelming, it is easy to let wellness fall through the cracks, leading to feelings of burnout and emotional and physical fatigue. But don’t turn in your cape yet - below are some ways that you can make your quarantine experience more sustainable for yourself and your family.
Let’s start with some day-to-day small things you can incorporate right now that can have a big impact on your physical and mental wellness:
Create routines. It doesn’t feel good when life seems chaotic and unstructured. One thing we can control, regardless of anything happening around us, is bringing structure to our day. Most experts recommend sticking to a bedtime and a wake-up time. I would advise adding a ritual or two that you can look forward to after rising: making a cup of coffee and sitting down to drink it, writing down a list of three things you’re grateful for in a notepad by your bed. Start with the mornings and build up to having planned, repeated moments throughout your day.
If possible, get outside. Being in the sunlight and fresh air can do wonders for your mood, but if you are not commuting to work or have cut out many parts of your daily life, you may not realize how little time outdoors you are spending. Is there a part of your routine that you can shift outside - lunch, reading your emails, making some phone calls? If exposure is a big concern, try to get outdoors for a quick walk first thing in the morning or later in the evening so there will be less people, and aim for 30 minutes outside each day.
30 minutes is another golden standard: daily movement goal. Whether it’s a yoga video to unwind at night, PE with your children in your yard or neighborhood, or venturing to a park or outdoor space nearby, set a goal to move your body for half an hour every day - and get your whole family in on it.
A big stressor parents across the globe are tackling: taking a much bigger role in their child’s education. A few tips for how to juggle this without pushing your child or yourself to a breaking point…
Before anything else can happen, children need to feel secure. The younger they are, the harder it will be for them to understand and process the emotions they are experiencing. Help them to name their feelings: sometimes just having the words for what you’re feeling is a powerful gift. It’s important as a parent that you also validate these emotions- assure your children that everything they are feeling is okay and even open up about your own feelings.
Remote learning is no joke, and no one - not students, teachers, or parents - is expected to have mastered it. Don’t put the pressure on yourself of becoming your child’s teacher - a better way to look at it is a learning coach or tutor. You are working in a partnership with their teacher rather than trying to fill all the roles a teacher plays.
Assignments and lessons can feel overwhelming for you and your student. A growth mindset is key for sustainability: learning through making mistakes, embracing challenges and setbacks as part of the journey.
Sometimes it is more important to focus on the purpose of the assignment rather than the assignment itself. If my child is supposed to read a certain book and summarize it but we don’t have access to the materials, can reading an article from a magazine that we do have and giving a summary still accomplish the same learning outcome? Have grace with yourself and remember the big picture.
Finally, focus on your own mindset. Having your child home with you all day can seem like a constant burden, but it doesn’t have to feel like this. Find ways to involve them in your daily activities- cooking a meal, working together at the kitchen table, taking a family walk for exercise instead of sneaking in a workout after they’ve gone to bed.
Finally, mindfulness can be incorporated into your quarantine experience for yourself and your family.
The core idea of mindfulness is focusing on the present, what’s happening right now without judgment. Try practicing radical self-acceptance: accept everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question or blame.
This idea of concentrating on the present can help make the situation in the world feel less overwhelming, too. Take quarantine in chunks: instead of worrying about what will happen in a month or a year, focus on what you plan to do that day or even for the next hour.
Repetitive movements like knitting, painting, or jumping rope can be calming for the mind and body. If meditating or journaling don’t feel like good ways to channel anxious thoughts or energy as it arises, try one of these instead.
Sensory bins are helpful mindfulness tools for children, but can work for adults too.
For kids: gather a few things in a container or section of your home that tap into one or more senses: something they can touch or squeeze like Play Doh/slime, something scented, a place they can visually express themselves like blank drawing paper or coloring sheets, headphones so they can listen to calming music or sounds.
For adults: try a stress ball, a guided meditation app, calming essential oils or candle you can light, and even adult coloring books.
In addition to all of this advice, it is important to remember that no matter what you are feeling in a difficult moment or period of time, you don’t have to go through it alone. Reach out to family or friends, administration at school, colleagues at work, or call a professional. Treat each day like a blank slate, and know that your best is always enough.