In 2020, American parents reported far higher levels of stress than adults without children.
Whether it was due to remote learning, missing out on major milestones or a number of other factors, anxiety seemed to be everywhere, says Dr. Kelly Askins, medical director at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
“If you look at education alone, so many parents were trying to work from home and getting interrupted constantly,” says Dr. Askins. “That makes sense: Younger kids simply don’t have the attention span to make remote schooling work on their own, and that’s really challenging for parents.”
School, of course, was just one obstacle parents faced. And while many have found some relief as things return to a “new normal,” stress isn’t going away anytime soon.
Here are 5 tips for parenting during difficult times like COVID-19
1. Mind your mental health first
“In very stressful times like this, studies show that more than half of parents suffer from significant depression or anxiety,” says Dr. Askins. “That affects kids, whether they’re picking up on your stress or they feel like they’re not getting enough attention.”
If you think you might be experiencing mental health challenges:
- Explore the signs
- Talk to your primary care provider
- Ask your HR representative about employee assistance programs (EAP)
“Employee assistance and telehealth have expanded so much in the past year,” says Dr. Askins. “That’s great for anyone who has questions about mental health because you can talk to someone from home. It’s convenient, confidential, and it can make a huge difference in your life.”
2. Look out for your child’s mental health
“Lots of kids are going to have problems with the pandemic as far as changes in mood, sleeping habits, irritability and so on,” says Dr. Askins. “But true despair is really troublesome.
“The thing about depression — in kids and adults — is that people have a difficult time imagining things will get better. When you get to that level, you have to ask for help. Kids can’t always verbalize that, so parents have to look out for the signs.”
- The signs your child is struggling with mental health
- How to identify and stop self harm
- The warning signs of suicide
- Tips for parenting teens
3. Get moving
“Physical activity is huge for parents when it comes to reducing stress,” says Dr. Askins. “If you don’t exercise regularly, start simple. Plan an afternoon walk for the warmest part of the day, and involve the kids. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel with even 30 minutes of movement.”
4. Write it down
“This pandemic is something that’s happening worldwide, and in 50 years, people will look back on this as an important time,” says Dr. Askins. “Write down your experiences. Write a letter to yourself, or to your grandchildren. At some point, it will be important to remember what you felt, good and bad. And writing it down can help you process and release those feelings.”
5. Don’t give up
“When it comes to COVID-19, we really are going through the worst part of it right now, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” says Dr. Askins. “It’s tempting to think, ‘Well I’ve done okay this far; I can let my guard down a little.’ We can’t afford to do that.
“Help really is on the way in the form of the vaccine, but the risk is still there, and what we do in the meantime will save lives.”
Stay diligent by refreshing your memory on how to:
Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.