Parent to parent: Let’s take care of ourselves and our children during this uncertain time

April 9, 2020

Photo: Getty Images

These are stressful times. It can be overwhelming to be at home 24/7 homeschooling your kids and working from home while keeping up with your household and trying to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19.  

It is normal to be stressed out right now. Many also have uncertainty about their income and how to stretch things to make ends meet.

For your children, it is normal for changes in usual routines to cause behavior challenges.  The combination of stress from parents and behavior challenges from children can make everything feel as if it is out of control. Even if you feel out of control, isolated and stir-crazy, you are not alone in these challenging times.

As a pediatrician and parent, I want to take this opportunity to normalize what you may be experiencing now. It’s hard for everyone. You are not alone and even though most of us are currently homebound, there are resources available to help parents get through these challenging times.

  1. Know that your stress affects your child, so taking care of yourself is also important.Give yourself small breaks from the stress of the situation, try to spend a few minutes alone each day.

    • Safely spend time outside every day
    • Take a relaxing bath.
    • Nourish your body with healthy foods.
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Journal your thoughts.
    • Develop daily routines.
  2. Safely disconnect from all the news and media.

    • Limit screen time for you and your family members.
    • Stay informed about what is going on, but make sure you are getting your information from credible sources.
    • Try to avoid listening or watching the news repeatedly, as this can cause more anxiety and worry in both you and your children.
  3. Promote good behavior.

    • Praise your child’s behavior that you like—reinforce good behavior.
    • Prevent boredom with routines and activities.
    • Establish ground rules and communicate them to your children.
    • Use time-outs when needed. Remove your child from the situation for a pre-set length of time (1 minute per year of age is a good guide).
    • Avoid physical punishment. Spanking, hitting or shaking your child can increase aggression and does not teach children to behave or have self-control.
  4. Recognize when you get overwhelmed or frustrated with your child/children and take a break. It’s OK to make sure your child is in a place where they cannot hurt themselves, step away and calm down.

    • This is particularly important if you have an infant and are overwhelmed or frustrated with their crying.
    • Now is probably not the best time to expect big developmental accomplishments in your children, like potty training. Even though you are stuck at home with your children 24/7, the stress and unusual situation is likely not the best situation for children be successful at this. In fact, this unusual situation may even be a time where your child might have more accidents or a little developmental regression due to the stress and uncertainty surrounding them. This is all a normal child response and will resolve after life gets back to normal.
  5. When things feel overwhelming, call someone close to you for emotional support. Also, reach out to supportive resources in our community. 

RESOURCES

Family Advice Resources:

  • Texas Children’s Hospital Health Library – texaschildrens.staywellsolutionsonline.com
  • Texas Children’s Pediatrics Parent Advice Center Phone Application – texaschildrenspediatrics.org/sick-kid-we-have-app
  • American Academy of Pediatrics – healthychildren.org

 Family Activities Resources:

  • Children’s Museum Houston – cmhouston.org (Click on “Learn from Home”)
  • Children’s Learning Institute – cliengagefamily.org
  • Zero to Three – zerotothree.org

If you find that you are depressed, anxious or fear that you or your child may be hurt by someone or that you may hurt someone or hurt yourself:

  • Harris County COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line: 833-251-7544
  • ChildHelp Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD

Post by:

Angela Bachim, MD, FAAP

I believe that all children deserve a safe environment.

Clinical Interests:

Accurate diagnosis of all forms of child maltreatment, prevention

Research Interests:

Early detection, screening, and accurate diagnosis of child...

Read More
Cary Cain, PhD, MPH, RN

I am interested in understanding and addressing gaps that result from familial, educational, and societal systems that fail to create conditions that promote healthy development for young children.

Clinical Interests:

Public Health Nursing, Injury and Violence...

Read More