What Parenting in a Global Pandemic Has Taught Me
Written by Lindsay Gerber
Right now, we are in the middle of a global pandemic. I think we can all agree that 2020 has been one heck of a year in terms of the unknown. There has been so much confusion, loneliness, sadness, and fear. It will go down in history as a time where people everywhere had to make tough decisions they thought they’d never have to make. Most of the tough decisions I have had to make are in regards to parenting. Parenting in general comes with highs and lows, and everything in between. What about in the middle of a global pandemic? It’s all of that and more. These are crazy times indeed, but the reality is that emotions are always there to be dealt with or worked through. If I’ve learned anything these past several months, it is that a global pandemic definitely helped me to prioritize the emotional well being of my family.
When we started hearing news of COVID-19, everything changed. All of the sudden schools were online, kids could no longer see their friends, working parents were at home, and activities for adults and children alike were shut down. Some people were quickly out of work and facing financial turbulence. Working parents were now expected to work full time and keep their kids engaged in online school. Stay-at-home parents were also taking on the homeschool teacher gig while managing the other daily tasks on their to-do list. Some gave birth to babies and were unable to have a support person with them in the delivery room, followed by a no visitors rule. There were also marriages that unexpectedly fell apart in the midst of all this. We all had less face-to-face communication, and there are so many that depend on that to keep them going. We didn’t ask for it, but we’re in it. We are still fighting the battle, and managing emotions through it all is of top priority. Regardless of what situation you are in, we can all agree that this has been one of the most challenging times in our lives. This a hard thing, but we can do hard things.
Writing this post is heavy for me. As the reality of the pandemic set in, I fell into a deep valley that, thankfully, I’ve since come out of. If I’m being completely honest, I have a hard time keeping it together as is. I feel deeply and passionately about a lot of things, which leads to me wearing my emotions on my sleeve almost all of the time. I am not convinced it is a bad thing, but it is definitely something that needs to be managed well. The biggest battle for me during all of this has been to be authentic in a way that does not represent fear to my family. However, because I believe in authenticity, I know that it requires honesty from me. I’ve been told before to not let my emotions show because my kids shouldn’t see me upset. In the past, I was under the impression I needed to represent a strong woman who can handle anything that comes my way. Truthfully, I believe strong women are honest women! I don’t want to speak for everyone, but many have just so badly wanted to shield their children from reality to protect them. I am one of them! It comes from a place of love, but not necessarily a place that creates growth in them. Now, I believe there’s a balance somewhere between coming in like a wrecking ball of emotions and pretending like you don’t have feelings. Believe me, pretending like you don’t have feelings is too big of a weight for anyone to carry. I’m not arguing that we, or our children, aren’t allowed to be resilient. I am saying that feeling with emotions and facing them head on leads to a healthy way of resilience. Feel, deal, and move forward. Yes, even in the middle of a pandemic. Our kids need the tools to deal with real world problems. I’m not talking about scraped knees, although I feel strongly that kids can feel pain yet “shake it off”, as many parents say. I’m referring to deeper, emotional confusion and hurt.
Our children will ask us many questions along the way. We need to answer them honestly. If you don’t know the answer, find it or ask someone who does know. If it’s simply too big for their little heart to understand, say just that and communicate that you’re glad they are inquisitive. If you feel sad, it’s okay to let your kids see that. Show them how to healthily handle emotions. When you’re happy, show that too. Celebrate it and show your thankfulness! It’s important that our kids see us feel things honestly, as long as we handle them with maturity and grace.
With all that said, we need to avoid negativity in terms of the language we use around our kids. When I say to manage your emotions healthily, I mean to use language that your kids know will get you through the situation. Instead of saying, “I won’t ever be able to do this”, say “even though it’s really hard for me right now, I will get through it eventually.” Another example would be seeing a counselor. If our kids know we are seeking help for our struggles, they will know that it is good to utilize resources when they themselves need to. We need to normalize taking care of our mental health.
The truth that remains through all of this, is that we are human. Therefore, we will make mistakes. This is where grace comes in. If you know me, you know how strongly I feel about GRACE. Part of being an authentic parent means we will be apologizing a lot. It also means we will be continuously bettering ourselves. Teach your kids these responses by your healthy and honest behavior. When I say that, I want to be sure and emphasize that this can be done without gossiping, name dropping, and negative self talk. Doing it without those things is absolutely essential to long term emotional wellness!
Choosing to live a life in hiding is way harder and less fruitful than a life of authenticity. I say this very honestly from experience. Hiding our emotions builds a huge wall that is always on the brink of falling hard and fast. It also shows that we aren’t open to receiving help. News flash! Again! We are HUMAN. We ALL need help. Let’s start by being honest with ourselves. We’ve heard it before, but do we believe it? Do we truly believe that authenticity is more important than the “so-called” image of how well others think we can succeed flawlessly in life? What does that mean for us as parents? If our kids never see us earnestly, how will they be able to manage their own emotions? It’s less about how others view us (who cares what “they” think anyway) and more about how this affects our individual child’s own sense of self. I don’t know about you, but when one of my kids feels hurt I want them to feel comfortable sharing that with me. If my son didn’t make the team and he feels down, I want him to feel those feelings and let me comfort him. If my daughter feels betrayed by her friend, I want her to be able to tell me that it’s painful. Behaving in a mature, transparent way will let your kids know that they can come to you with their feelings because they know you have them too. Ultimately, I feel they will come out of each situation stronger by being honest with themselves and those who love them. It begins with us, as parents.
I’ll be the first to admit that I still struggle with this. All of what I’ve mentioned above describe things that I have not perfected, nor will I ever. I have just made a promise to myself to simply become better. When I fall, I vow to pick myself back up and continue onward. As parents, we can’t fix most of the issues our kids have these days. What we can do is empathize with them because we’ve felt similar feelings before. Being hypocritical and shielding our kids from the realness of life will create a much bumpier path for them. Their lives will require many hard lessons no matter what. How can we make it so they have a stronger foundation when it comes to their problems? We need to listen earnestly to them now and allow them to have feelings. We have the credibility to help them overcome their life problems by showing them we can overcome ours. Value your kids opinions and include them in decision making. They ARE valuable. Parents, be patient with yourselves and work to keep authenticity at the forefront of your family. As we continue to go through the trials of COVID-19, the schedule changes, and the discomfort of it all, choose to live your life maturely, transparently, and lovingly. Give yourselves grace, allow yourselves to learn from your mistakes, and never give up on creating a better version of yourself.
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