You are not alone; Pandemic stress and Parents of young children
Updated: Apr 28, 2021
The stress of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is taking its toll on families. It's clear that parents with babies and young children are struggling.
I've spoken to a number of parents recently about the stress of lockdown and the increase in feelings of unexplained anger and frustration.
Lack of access to typical sources of support like friends, family and playgroups can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Many are not behaving like themselves and don't feel like they have a reasonable outlet for their feelings. Depending on where you live in the world or the age of your children, outdoor activities may not always be available to you.
A recent CTV article reported an increase in babies with head trauma and fractures since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown.
“I've actually seen a doubling of the number of kids as compared to the year before … Babies under one coming with types of injuries that, really, they can't cause themselves,” said Dr. Michelle Ward, a pediatrician and head of the division for Child and Youth Protection at CHEO.
Life with a new baby is tough at the best of times, but the pandemic adds a whole new layer of stress.
My hope is that if you're noticing the stress is taking it's toll on you, you will see that you are not alone. You're not the only one struggling and help is available.
Here are a few strategies and tools you can start using to manage your Pandemic Parenting stress today. If you're need of immediate help, I've included local crisis information below.
How to cope with Pandemic Stress
The first step is always to acknowledge where you're at. Louise Hay said "If you are going to clean the house, you have to see the dirt.".
Only focusing on the positive and all you have to be grateful for could mean you're missing some key things that need addressing.
It's okay to admit that you're worried about what your feelings mean for you and your family. It's okay to acknowledge that you're having a hard time.
It's okay to admit you're scared of where your thoughts go sometimes. It's okay to not be okay.
Create a Safety Plan
Have a plan for what to do in the moment when you're feeling triggered.
One minute you may feel okay and then the next minute, you're not. The change can happen so fast that you may not see it coming. It's helpful to have a plan in place when that moment strikes so you can move to the next step as quickly as possible.
If you've got a baby under one, your body is still recovering from childbirth, you may not be getting enough sleep, or eating on a regular schedule. It's expected that your nervous system is dysregulated and your body may be more edgy than usual.
So, anticipate the next time you're triggered and decide on where you can place the baby safely so you can take a break to calm your body down.
Have a list of things you can do to regulate and keep it handy. Things like splashing cold water on your face, stepping out the front door for some fresh air, or accessing an app with some breathing exercises can be helpful tools in the midst of a triggering situation.
Utilize your support network
Next, have a list of people you can contact for support.
Keep a list of friends, family, neighbours or crisis lines posted so you don't have to search in the moment.
If you have a partner, discuss scheduling breaks each day so you can consistently rely on time for yourself, guilt-free.
Create a long term solution to process your thoughts and emotions during stressful times.
For someone who is used to dealing with challenges independently, seeking support like counselling may feel unfamiliar. However, this is an unfamiliar time in your life.
Having a trained, neutral person to talk to can be helpful to make sense of what you're going through. Therapists are more accessible now than ever before as most have shifted their practice online and are offering virtual sessions.
Speak to your doctor for a recommended counsellor, or search the profiles on Psychology Today for someone you connect with.
Local Crisis Lines
Here 24/7 for mental health support in the Waterloo-Wellington Region: 1-844-437-3247
ConnexOntario for mental health support in Ontario: 1-866-531-2600
Cambridge Memorial Hospital
700 Coronation Blvd., Cambridge
Grand River Hospital
835 King St. West, Kitchener
St. Mary’s Hospital
911 Queen’s Blvd., Kitchener