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RE-ENERGISING BURNT OUT PARENTS

A day in the life of a parent….

The outer parent in us “Ok fine, take the phone and please don’t disturb me for at least 30 mins”

The inner parent in us “He just got over with his online class, Argh! So much of screen time, but I need to finish my presentation before serving them lunch”

We call it the “Lockdown Guilt”- A guilt that ties itself around our heart like a tourniquet. Even if we don’t want to, it still bothers and stresses us to an extent that we start doubting our ability as a parent.

This blog is exactly what Vega Schools, one of the best CBSE Schools in Gurugram (Educationworld Schools Ranking 2020-21), want our readers to know: LET US NOT BEAT OURSELVES UP FOR WHATEVER HAPPENING AROUND US.

The life of a parent has always been hectic. Prior COVID-19, we had the weekends and holidays to manage our whirlwind lives coupled with park visits, malls, movies, playdates, extra-curricular classes, lunches with friends/extended families but we had support from domestic help. Then came Monday and children went back to schools while we headed to our offices. Stay at home parents got their ‘me-time’ and did their daily chores in peace. WOW what a relief that wasf! But this is one working weekend that just never seems to end!

Parents’ well-being has taken a downward turn during the COVID-19 pandemic. Calling this situation ‘stressful’ is an understatement. It has crossed the bridge of stress and onto a path of yet another pandemic of ‘mental health issues’ among parents, which, if not addressed at the right time, will be harmful not only for the parents but also for their children.

In order to help we first need to first acknowledge the major causes of parents’ stress.

  • Stress from juggling multiple chores. Between entertaining and teaching their now homebound kids, household chores and working from home, parents can hardly catch their breath!
  • The pain of watching their children suffer emotionally and mentally during this pandemic and the helplessness that is harming parents from within
  • Online classes and office work depend on connectivity, and we all know how our Wifi/Mobile Data are unpredictable leading to chaotic stress
  • Stress occurring due to the near-complete absence of social life
  • The stress of contracting the virus, or learning about someone close who has been infected or has lost a life
  • Reduced ‘in-family time’ despite staying together 24*7
  • Lack of ‘me time’ and ‘couple time’
  • Tired of living the same life over and over again. Tired of staying home, tired of being scared of the virus
  • Some parents lost their jobs or suffered salary deductions – which significantly adds to stress
  • Tired of matching up with our childrens’ uncontrollable energy levels
  • Uncertainty about the vaccine and uncertainty that the years to come with bring

Looking at these alarming factors, we need to quickly bring in measures to help parents reduce some of their stress as the long term consequences on both parents and children could be serious and severe. Researchers say that children exposed to sustained stress are likely to experience mental health issues themselves.

 Why do we need to address this issue?

  • Burnt out parents could have negativity in their interactions with their children, unintentionally though, but it could trigger negative emotions in children too. 
  • Parents could, as a result of their own frustration, employ harsh disciplinary measures and rules. This could make children feel unsafe and uncared for
  • Parents could become less responsive to children’s needs.
  • Stress leads to poor eating habits which in turn could affect the health of the family members. 
  • Constant feelings of nervousness, anxiety and frustration could undermine feelings of well being
  • Parents’ negative moods cycles could undermine moods of their children

What can we do to address this issue?

ACCEPTANCE: First and foremost, we need to accept and acknowledge that we are not to be blamed for the pandemic and the current situation. WE ARE NOT TO BLAME OURSELVES. This is the most important first step towards self-help is understanding and accepting the situation

CREATE A ROUTINE:  Routine is the answer to chaos and confusion. Planner and activity logs can be very helpful in keeping a track of daily chores. Weekends can also be planned well in advance and can help strengthen the parent-child bond. Vega Schools, Top 5 schools in Gurugram (Education World 2020-21), have published an informative blog on ‘Need for a Routine’ dated 13th July 2020. https://vega.edu.in/need-for-a-routine-need-of-the-hour/

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: Researchers say exercise leads to a release in ‘happy’ hormones and significantly reduces stress. Something as less time consuming as a 10 mins dance could be a great start. Ideally we should incorporate 30 mins of physical activity in our daily routine. We could also dance, exercise or play a sport with our children, something that can also deepen our bond with our children. Not to mention, exercise also strengthens our immunity, which is the need of the hour at this time.

GO OUT-GO CRAZY: Let’s go out and experience nature a couple of times a week. A break from our mundane life can be a breath of fresh air for us and for our children. Of course, we will need to follow all the safety protocols and visit accessible places only. We have been getting positive responses from parents who went out for a staycation or weekend getaways. Multiple studies prove exposure to nature evokes positive emotions and strengthens our resilience during tough times giving us a natural boost!

NO COMPROMISE WITH BEDTIME: Let’s keep aside our gadgets and hit the sack right on time. Quality sleep – and getting enough of it at the right time is as essential to survival as food and water. Research shows that a chronic lack of sleep or getting poor quality sleep, increase the risk of disorders, depression, mood swings, anger and frustration.

QUANTIFIED NUTRITION: A good diet helps in reducing stress, but junk food (once in while) can be a fun “stress buster”. So order your favorite bugger/pizza and have it guilt free along with your children.

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT: This is the time to seek emotional support, from families, relatives, friends and even from our own children as it can help mitigate stress levels.

PANDEMIC FRIENDLY FAMILY ACTIVITIES: We need not be playing, dancing or singing with our children all the time to keep them engaged.  There are lots of board games we can play that require less energy and will still keep our children busy. Board games, book reading, indoor treasure hunts (where we just need to make notes and riddles), pretend play (we can pretend to be a lazy crocodile & sleep while our child runs around the “pond”….no, not kidding! We can think of creative ways to involve ourselves in a game that don’t require enormous energy.

STAYING SOCIALLY CONNECTED: We are distant physically, but we can still remain connected socially through social media, video chats, and WhatsApp, Zoom, and FaceTime, or simply saying hello to our neighbor through the window.

DIGITAL DETOX: Knowingly and unknowingly, we all are getting addicted to extra screen time during this pandemic. Once a week (at least for a few hours) a total tune out from all devices can be therapeutic. Offices and schools need to be in on this and fix specific detox times. Read our blog on DIGITAL DETOX by clicking on this link https://vega.edu.in/digital-detox/

COUPLE TIME: A candlelight dinner, a date night in a nearby restaurant, or a quiet Netflix session with popcorn can do wonders in providing emotional support to our partners because we all may be struggling. 

NO BOTTLING UP OF EMOTIONS: Life is too short to hide our feelings, so we should share our feelings gently, honestly and clearly. This is where seeking professional help can also play an important role. We should not shy away from addressing our mental health issues and getting in touch with family counselors.

We are into the eighth month of the pandemic and its mental health impact on the parents remains significant, with no signs of abating. The guilt and frustration are natural however it is important to know that we should not blame ourselves. This is a temporary rough road in our journey and we all shall move on to better roads. 

This too shall pass!