Surviving Parenting During Social Distancing

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It is cliché, but the struggle is real. We are currently figuring out how to manage our new reality. Our temporary reality. As parents, our everyday lives are anchored with school, homework, sports, and carpool. It is always chaos; however, we are generally accustomed to the frenetic pace. OK, so now what?

In a blink of an eye our controlled chaos went to unprecedented mayhem. And the trickiest part? This mayhem has no timetable. Is it 15, 30 or even 60 days before we go back to normal? And our new normal is figuring out how to adequately manage our kids’ education from home, managing our jobs remotely (if that is even a feasible option), ensuring financial security, and possibly caring for loved ones who may be ill. If you are a parent – it will also involve learning how to maintain some semblance of stability while your kids are driving you insane.

There is a natural push-pull around how we could love our children as much as we do while also wanting them to go away. Anybody else love the book “Go the F*** to Sleep?” It is like we are reliving the experience of making our children stay in their beds at night while we desperately try to have that one glass (ok three) of wine.

We are currently being inundated with practical information around how to structure our kids’ days, encourage mindfulness, obsessively wash hands, set up their online school, and feed them three nutritious meals a day. That information is important. I should know because I am regularly peddling it. But I think we need to get real. There are only so many roles that parents have the time, mental energy, or emotional bandwidth to tackle.

Despite the fact that there is an abundance of advice out there, as well as lists provided by the CDC for safety measures, and psychologists discussing proper ways to manage your children during crisis, we all know the best made plans can go awry.

I am on day five of homeschooling a child I had no intention of homeschooling… EVER. To be crystal clear, it would rank right along with going back to changing dirty diapers. So, all hail to the teachers out there, the parents who rock homeschooling, and pretty much any stay-at-home parent. I went back to work when my kids were 18 months leaving them in more capable hands of the nanny. Don’t judge me, I love them to pieces, but we all have strengths and weaknesses.

Let’s throw out the politically correct tips for a hot minute and get down to business.

Here’s my real-life tips on how to manage parenting and children while being confined to the comforts of home:

  • It’s ok to say you can’t stand to be in the house with your kids for one more second. Send them outside. They’ll be healthier for it anyway.
  • Let go of your kids not completing every homework assignment. Trust me they’ll either go to Harvard or they won’t. That decision was already in the works.
  • Embrace eating all the pantry food that has more than 5 ingredients. I know. I know. Gluten is the devil. I think I heard the powers-at-be have just adjusted dietary guidelines during a quarantine.
  • Wear your pajamas to your heart’s content. Don’t judge yourself; there is no need to wear work clothes. I had on pajama bottoms and a button-down shirt for my last online therapy session. They can’t see my pants!!
  • Create official times to have gripe fests with your friends and family. You don’t sound crazy because I promise they are feeling it too!
  • Rediscover your own inner child. Play games with your kids. And don’t let them win. That was a huge parenting fail. They need to learn how to lose at blackjack before their first trip to Vegas.
  • Be honest with your kids. After doing years of family therapy and divorce mediation, I learned that kids know when we are full of it.
  • This isn’t the end of the world; it isn’t the apocalypse; no need to make them think that it will be. Their emotional stability responds directly to what we are putting out there.

Parenting right now is rough. Being a kid right now is also rough. I have the luxury of parenting six great kiddos. Which leaves me in a position of offering multiple perspectives. I polled my gaggle the other day in order to find out what has been the hardest thing for them during this social distancing. Their responses went from, “Not socializing. I miss my friend,” to “We can’t have fun anywhere but our house. And our house is getting less fun.” to “I miss the family we are separated from and want to give them hugs.” So this shows we are all feeling it. In the same and different ways.

All of the tips about exercising, creating structure, eating well, and connecting with your kids and other people still apply. I’m not advocating that we disregard the good advice that’s out there, but I am saying that its ok to be lighthearted, its ok to be frustrated, and its ok to lean on each other. It’s all we have. And make sure to spend some time laughing. With and without your kids.

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