October 21st, 2020

Mental health for parents


By Submitted Article on April 23, 2020.

Brad Moser

ASSOCIATED COUNSELLING SERVICES

Everyone’s mental health is being impacted by COVID-19, especially children’s. Here are some strategies that parents can use to maintain their own mental health while supporting their kids as well.

Re-framing the situation. Every crisis has opportunities. How could this improve your relationships with your kids? How it can bring your family closer together?

Shifting expectations. Think about and be flexible with changing your expectations for yourself, your kids and your family as you go through this crisis.

Taking media breaks. You only need enough information to know how to keep you and your family safe. About one to two times per day is adequate. Also, take a break at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

Routine. If you can claim a degree of certainty among the world of uncertainty, then you will feel more in control and calm. Make it simple, fun and flexible.

Gym class (at home). Moving your body each day can make a big impact on your physical and mental health.

Navigating emotional energy. Emotions are energy and they need to be moved or released. First, we need to be aware of our triggers and those of our kids. Second, when we are being triggered as parents, we need to take a breath and tune in to where we feel it in our body and what the sensations feel like. Third, we need to do something to bring ourselves back to calm. We need to be in a calm place in order to support our children’s escalating emotions.

Your social support network. Connect with your social supports outside of the home through phone, email, social media and encourage your children to do the same.

Coping with conflict. When conflict does happen, a healthier choice is to talk about your concerns rather than sweeping them under the rug. Use “I feel” statements: “I feel _____” (feeling word such as upset, frustrated, disappointed, sad) “when ______” (the situation). When talking about the other person, talk about your senses – what you are seeing, hearing or noticing. (e.g., “When I hear you disagreeing with my parenting decisions in front of the kids”). “I would like _____”. (Talk about what you would like instead. e.g., “I would like us to talk about parenting when the kids aren’t around”).

Label behaviours, not people. Change comes easier to kids and adults when their behaviours are addressed rather than their personality or character. If you’re concerned about your kids, then talk about your concerns with what they are doing or not doing, listen to their concerns and help them learn how to behave appropriately.

Giving to others. A great way to combat social isolation as a family is to give to others. This could include pictures or videos for social media, drawings on windows, or sidewalk chalk on sidewalks, driveways or walking paths, with positive messages of love, health, staying healthy, etc.

Quality time. Kids generally behave better when they have strong relationships with parents and other family members. Quality time as a family and one on one with each person helps everyone feel closer, happier and more connected.

Self-care (me time). Our kids are depending on us to support them through this crisis. In order to have the strength to do that, we need to invest in time for ourselves to refill our tank. These can be activities that are stimulating, relaxing or help us feel a sense of purpose, happiness and joy.

Parental role-modelling. Children look up to their parents for guidance on how to cope with stressful situations. We need to set the example for them.

Reaching out for help. Help is available for you, your children, your relationships and your family. Reaching out can be challenging, but you may feel relieved and like you’re on the right path, when you do. There are various mental health professionals within Lethbridge and area, and many are providing telehealth opportunities during the pandemic.

Brad Moser, registered psychologist, works at Associates Counselling Services, 239 12B St. N. Associates is now providing online therapy through a secure, HIPAA-complaint platform. (403-381-6000, https://talkinghelps.ca/)

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