Parenting in a Pandemic: Maintaining Family Well-Being Amidst COVID-19

As families grapple with a global pandemic along with current political tensions and racial trauma in the U.S., it can be tough to maintain mental health and well-being at home. Beyond the basic needs of food and shelter, both children and adults need to feel safe. How can we successfully parent and support our family’s health and resilience amidst fear and uncertainty? Calhoun invited Catherine Steiner-Adair, clinical psychologist, school consultant, author and teacher, to speak to our faculty about bolstering emotional well-being in ourselves and our students. Here are some of her suggested strategies.

Cultivate family and interpersonal connections

Our social supports are key to bolstering our resilience and helping us get through difficult times. Find ways to remind your loved ones that they matter to you; we all need to feel valued. Keeping in touch with friends and relatives and maintaining connections, even virtually, can remind us of what is truly important and help us to stay hopeful. 

Student wearing mask in class

Create space to process and manage feelings

Recognize that feelings of hopelessness are normal while appreciating the need to name and acknowledge all feelings. Some families have a practice of sharing a high and low point of the day. This can be a helpful opener to talking about the feelings all family members experienced throughout the day. Journaling is another helpful venue for reflecting, identifying and naming feelings. For younger children, drawing and art activities can often be an important outlet for expressing emotions.  

Stay conscious of how you consume media and information

Too much time focusing on painful or dismal events can result in compassion fatigue, so limit exposure to news outlets and social media. In addition to what you’re consuming, how you’re consuming information is equally important. Be aware of the fatigue that comes from too much time in front of a computer screen. In this time of virtual learning and work, some expectations of performance may need to be lowered. To reset focus, try taking breaks for physical activity.

Take meaningful action

Ensure that you and your children spend time in meaningful work or activities to create positive outlets and a sense of purpose during a stressful time. Additionally, find ways to express compassion and optimism. Helping others can often aid in healing the pain of our personal troubles.

Relieve stress and build resilience

Cope with stress and anxiety through positive, research-based strategies, such as mediation or practicing gratitude. Studies have shown that mediation and mindfulness practices are an effective way to reduce stress, and can also help us be more conscious of the areas of tension we’re holding in the body. Practicing gratitude and optimism also helps us to develop resilience to life’s stressors. Adults can model gratitude by sharing what or whom they were thankful for during their day and then invite children to follow. Finally, sometimes drawing on an opposite emotion during an emotionally charged situation may help to diffuse the tension and create calm.