Care for Parents in the Time of COVID-19
By Andrea Haffner
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Secure Beginnings Senior Clinical Advisor
In this extended time of social distancing, you and your family may be experiencing a huge range of feelings, and those feelings may change from day to day and minute to minute. There may be times in which you feel greater quiet, appreciation, connection with family, as well as a sense of commitment as we collectively work to keep our big and small communities safe. At the same time, you may be feeling worry for loved ones, for your family’s financial security, and for the many unknowns of our current situation. Your family may include essential workers who work away from home, and you may be feeling concerns about preserving safety for the whole family. For other families, it may feel hard to cope with so many days at home and nearly impossible to navigate the need to work from home while caring for young children and perhaps helping older children with remote schooling. In this extended time with everyone under one roof, emotions can get frayed and it can be hard to take care of your family’s needs and feelings, including your own. You might be feeling like your energy and motivation are lagging. These are all normal and reasonable responses you might be having to this unprecedented time, and increased stress is to be expected. We are here with you.
More than ever, this is a time in which the caregivers also need care. It might feel selfish to focus on self-care in the face of so much need around you, but know that your ability to find care and calm is directly related to the care and calm you’ll be able to provide for others. Children depend on parents to regulate their nervous systems, and a more regulated parent can more effectively help regulate their child. Regulation happens through connection, and connection is what may also be a helpful support for you:
Connect with yourself: As you are able, see if you can find some moments of presence and care for yourself in your daily life. Check in with yourself and give yourself full permission to experience whatever feelings may be present. As you are able, slow down and try not to overextend yourself. Finding a little time for things like focused breathing, yoga, journaling, a walk, or a hot shower can be helpful for reducing overwhelm and finding greater regulation. Each of us is different in what helps. Give yourself permission to make mistakes, to be imperfect, to not be productive. We are in uncharted waters. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Trust that you are doing your best.
Connect with others: As author David Kessler shared in a recent article on grief in the time of COVID-19, “emotions need motion.” We are relational beings by nature, and sharing our feelings with others can make a big difference in how we experience and release grief, anxiety, and other emotions. Connecting with loved ones near and far by phone or video can help to reduce feelings of isolation, affirm connections, and remind us that we really are all in this together. Many families are finding that this time at home, while sometimes stressful, is also one of increased connection and comfort. Play and touch can be reassuring for children and parents alike, as can singing, talking, and settling into new life routines and rhythms together. But, also, give yourself permission to take a break from connection when you need it, or support others in your immediate life in finding the space they need.
Connect with Secure Beginnings: We are here for you. We are in the process of creating online classes and workshops that we will be sharing with you soon. We continue to offer parenting support through consultations as you navigate this unique time with your family. If you are finding yourself overwhelmed by worries or despair, calling our counseling line can be a first step in getting professional support. We are here to listen, to help you determine what type of support might be best, and to help connect you with specialized support. The therapists in our local network specialize in a range of areas, from postpartum support to grief to couples therapy, and offer confidential support via phone or video sessions. In addition to the resources offered by Secure Beginnings, please see below some additional mental health supports for California residents. If you’re not sure of the support you need, please call us and we can help you find your way.
Give an Hour is offering a Help and Support Line in both English and Spanish for Ventura County residents, several days a week. They also have a network of therapists who offer free online counseling. More info can be found here: https://giveanhour.org/initiatives-and-programs/covid19-ca/
The Disaster Distress Helpline offers 24 hour crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress due to COVID-19. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
The California Peer-Run Warmline is a non-emergency resource for anyone in California seeking emotional support. They are available for phone or web chat 24/7 and can be a place to share feelings and challenges with peer counselors. More information can be found at https://www.mentalhealthsf.org/peer-run-warmline/, or call the Warm Line at 1-855-845-7415.