I am writing as a support to you now. You are doing the best that you can, while experiencing debilitating uncertainty, moments of hopelessness, and emotional exhaustion. You know that your children need more, but it doesn’t feel like you have the energy or the capacity to take on one more thing. It might be that maintaining a schedule, trying to decrease screen time, and keeping the house stocked with food is barely manageable now. I get it. Those are incredible achievements.
Thinking about their emotional health now days is so tied to their physical health. It takes hours and days, going back and forth with the information given, to decide what we should do. In the meantime, our children are anxious, angry, pushing back on everything, and it feels like maybe we have lost that relationship too. We have already lost so much. It’s painful to think about the long term effect of being the parent who has to make hard decisions, who has to enforce boundaries that could be a matter of life or death, and who ultimately could be blamed by our children for all of the things they have lost. You know that you are doing the best that you can, but it’s hard to be a parent right now.
The pandemic and changing landscape of our world has increased most people’s level of anxiety. People who have never struggled with mental health challenges are feeling low levels of depression. These all result from having little control over our own lives, feeling the threat of exposure to a life changing or life ending illness, and no end in sight. How can we continue this way?
I want you to know that I do see you trying your best and you are not alone. As daunting as things can feel some days, it’s possible to get through this without long term mental health problems. Many professionals are talking about resilience. How can parents be resilient so that they can support the resilience of their children? The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University encourages us to see resilience as a “see saw or balancing scale.” On one side of the scale is the negative outcomes and on the other is the positive. If you can give yourself the space to see that you have not lost all control of your life, you might be able to create a balance scale that tips to the positive and then help your children to self-regulate, feel safe and happy, and manage uncertainty and loss. https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/how-to-help-families-and-staff-build-resilience-during-the-covid-19-outbreak/
Thinking about the article, do you have a way to build, re-establish, or support your responsive relationships? Even though you are being safe, you don’t have to be entirely isolated. Do you have resources that can take a load off of your brain just hanging around your house? Are there benefits in your community that you could access to help you and your family? I know these things take energy and it might take some time to get them up on your scale but finding a starting place can sometimes be the hardest part and now you have one.
Now that you can think about where to begin, you can also think about how to help your children. They will respond to your balancing scale as it shifts up and down. They have their own see saw too. If it seems like additional support is needed, I am here for you as well. Please don’t hesitate to call if it just feels like you are stuck and don’t know what to do to help your children. I know that we have all heard the encouragement and slogans, but I truly believe you can make it through this, and I understand you are overwhelmed and unsure. The world is shifting, and we are all trying to find ground to stand on. I wish you all the best.
April Galligan, LCSW, IMH-E®