Coronavirus: Parenting Through Your Own Emotions
There’s been many a moment over the last Covid-19 filled months where I’ve lost myself in negative thoughts, or just plain old worry, only to be brought back to reality by one (or several) of my children behaving poorly. I immediately try to remedy the situation by reacting appropriately but, since I was not even fully present when things started to go south, I feel ill-equipped to give advice or administer discipline.
I see my children needing me to offer them tokens of truth, or possibly just to cook a hot meal, and I feel too overwhelmed (and too flat out tired) to meet their need.
Sadly, I fear I’m not alone in these emotions, as many of my friends and family have expressed similar sentiments. And, no matter the belief system one holds, I think almost all parents would like their child to feel comforted by their presence and encouraged by their guidance—especially in strange circumstances like a global pandemic.
While clearly I don’t have all the answers, I do have a passion for parenting and a desire to raise my children with grace and compassion. So, after some reflecting of my own, I came up with several ways to hopefully stop the vicious cycle that ensues when you are at the bottom of the barrel emotionally.
5 Ways to Help You Interact with Your Child in a Gracious and Compassionate Way, Even When You Feel You Don’t Have the Capacity To Do So:
1. Identify Your Own Emotions and State Your Need
Sounds like more work I know but don’t over think it. Identifying your own feelings can take literally less than a minute of your time and, by doing so, you are able to move forward with more clarity and energy to parent productively and lovingly. Make a short list on your phone or on your fridge so that you have easy access to a range of emotions that you may or may not be feeling at any given time. Try to be specific. Instead of selecting words like “good” or “down”, try using words like “calm” or “burdened”.
Next, state a need based on the emotions you feel. For instance “I feel overwhelmed and I need to take a few minutes before responding to my child” or “I feel exhausted and I need to let them watch a movie this afternoon rather than going to the pool.” It’s kind of like when the flight-attendants tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others. Do a quick check in… are your emotions being triggered by your child’s negative behavior? Acknowledge those emotions and decide what you need to do to literally move forward.
Sometimes, the situation may not give you the opportunity to even take a minute to yourself. Even in this instance, the above methodology works because you can verbalize (even internally) that you feel “overwhelmed”, “stressed”, or “annoyed” and that you will need to process these emotions before bed.
2. Receive and Extend Grace
I encourage you to think of a time that God or another person showed you love and compassion when you knew you didn’t deserve it. How did that change you?
After identifying your own state of mind, step back and look at the big picture. What does grace look like in this situation? Grace is defined as “giving something undeserved”. Ask yourself what your child may be feeling right now. How can you extend undeserved patience or time or even discipline to meet them where they are.
Ironically, a practical way to show your child (of any age) grace is to implement the practice I mentioned above as you dialogue with them. Instead of yelling at them or ignoring them when they are acting out, ask them what they are feeling in that moment and then subsequently what they may need based on that feeling. You may be surprised at how quickly your child responds to this.
3. Find and Use Supports
“We all need somebody to leeeeeean on!” Who are friends or family in your life who will listen to you share your frustrations, sadness, victories, or excitement? Let these people, or this person, know what you are working on and ask for prayer and encouragement. I would encourage you to even invite them to lovingly confront you or challenge you in areas where you may have a blind spot or have an opportunity for growth.
***Please note: I am not referring to a gossip partner or someone who enables you to vent constantly. Confide in people who listen well, rarely project, and positively encourage your growth and your family’s growth.***
Ultimately, the strongest support we have is in Jesus, who wants to hear us process these struggles and bring our difficulties to Him. He knows we cannot do it on our own and He glories in giving us the strength and wisdom we need for these moments.
4. Rely on Scripture to Keep Yourself Focused on Truth
In parenting our children, we often need to pause and set our minds on all that our heavenly father has done for us. When we do this, we are able to see clearly our own need for grace as parents. This acknowledgement then gives us the freedom to extend compassion to our precious little ones (especially when they’re tugging at you because they need to use that port-a-potty at the park for the 3rd time since you got there 30 minutes ago…don’t their bladders know we are in a pandemic?!).
Some of my favorite versus to memorize and/or tack on the fridge are:
- Philippians 4:13– “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
- 2 Corinthians 12:9–“Each time he said, My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
5. Take Action to Connect with Your Child in Fun Ways
Scheduling “fun time” with your child is crucial for bonding and honestly gaining perspective. Begin by aiming for 15 minutes a day where you engage with one-on one time where you are simply playing whatever your child wants to do. Again, don’t over think it. Just PLAY! Will it be exhausting? Possibly. Will it be messy? Maybe. Will you see rewards? Most definitely. Need ideas? See below…
- Have a shaving cream fight outside, then run through the sprinkler together for clean up.
- Have a popsicle eating contest (win/win here am I right?).
- Throw a tea party with guests (any stuffed animal will do).
- Build a fort.
- Watch a show with your child.
- Go on a walk— no cell phones allowed.
When all else fails, remember that parenting is hard and the current state of our country is a turbulant one—to say the least. You are not alone in feeling a range of emotions throughout the week, or even throughout the day.
Galatians 5:13 says, “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for yourself, but through love, be servants of one another.” God has set us free from our failures and sin so that we can offer grace and love to our children. He consistently looks at us and says ,“I know this is hard. You are allowed to express the emotions you are feeling. I’m here to accept you and hold you. You can always find comfort in me.’’
Until next time,
Parkside Behavioral Health Provider, Bernedoodle owner, and coffee connoisseur