How to Cope With Stress During COVID-19

Outbreak has disrupted every family in America. Here’s how parents can cope
April 1, 2020 Updated: April 1, 2020

In a matter of two weeks, it seems life for American families has completely changed. Parents are working from home, and schools are closing, as well as restaurants, coffee shops, and playgrounds.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, life in our country looks very different, and every parent is wondering the same thing: Now what?

This pandemic is unprecedented compared to recent viral outbreaks, such as SARS and Ebola. COVID-19 has now spread across the globe, and the U.S. is cracking down, trying to flatten the curve with rules against gatherings of more than 10 people and the closures of schools and countless businesses in most states.

While these precautions are good and necessary, they come at a cost, especially for parents who are now trying to homeschool their children while working from home and only leaving the house to run necessary errands.

Although the situation is changing daily, and we don’t know what the future will hold, there are some things you can do now to help ease your fears, anxieties, and cabin fever, even with your entire family in the house all day.

Embrace Boredom

Even though your child might be homeschooling or taking classes online, their sports have been canceled, along with their plays, music class, and time with friends. With this lack of access to activities, they will get bored. But don’t fight it. Embrace it. Boredom is good for kids. It forces them to use their imaginations. It sharpens their sensibilities. And it teaches them how to be comfortable with themselves.

Don’t try to fill every minute of your child’s day. Let them figure out what it feels like to be bored and learn how to fill the time productively.

Don’t Try to Be Supermom

I focus on moms here because we mothers tend to put a lot of expectations on ourselves throughout the year, but during a quarantine, this is even more tempting. Do not expect to parent perfectly during this time. If you are a working mother, this will be a big adjustment. Work will suffer; your parenting will suffer. That’s OK. You are navigating new territory, there is no map, and we are all just trying to find our way through a new norm.

Now is not the time to be comparing yourself with your friends. Even if it looks like they’re holding it together on social media, the reality is probably much different. Give yourself extra grace during this time.

Keep Conversations Open

Your kids probably have a lot of questions right now. Even if you were able to shelter them from the news of the virus at first, now that school has been canceled or postponed, this is probably not possible, and that’s OK. Kids need to hear the truth, and they need to hear it from you. Don’t alarm them but tell them the necessary facts. Tell them that a virus can’t be killed with antibiotics, so the best we can do is avoid getting COVID-19 while the experts work on testing, treatments, and vaccines.

Younger children might be especially fascinated to see a picture of what the virus actually looks like. That picture may make the virus much less scary for young children. You can also talk about how the virus spreads. This will help children take smart precautions to avoid it. The CDC website has all the updated advice.

Lastly, I want to remind you that you are not alone. Most parents are in the same situation as you and your family and are experiencing the same fears right now. In a strange way, this has united all of us, and that can be a beautiful thing. Reach out to your community. Stay connected, even if you can only do so virtually, and give yourself grace and time to navigate a new normal for yourself and your family.

Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the new book, “Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture.” You can discover more at MeekerParenting.com