As the 2020-2021 academic year approaches like the school bus that hit Regina George, it’s time to decide whether you’re the bus or Regina. Thankfully, psychiatrist Meredith Stanton of FirstHealth’s Behavioral Services is here to save the day with her strategies for caring for your mental health and your kids’ mental health as you attempt to navigate fresh notebook season through the lens of your laptop.
Focus on the good.
“I feel like we talk a lot about the stress and how to cope with it, but I think that not enough people are talking about resilience and how the trials and tribulations of our life shape who we are. Maybe this is the most difficult thing kids have dealt with, but why can’t we take this opportunity to learn and grow? That’s where we can focus on the positive. and focus on shaping this time into learning and growing.”
Give yourself a break.
- Embrace the imperfections
- Forgive yourself for not being perfect all the time.
“I feel like as a parent or as a kid we think ‘I am failing and I’m terrible and I’m not doing what I’m supposed to,’ but this can be a time to kind of learn self compassion and forgiveness. With kids we talk about not being perfect. But now as parents we can talk about taking perfection as a goal off the table.”
Foster an open environment for communication.
“In our society, stoicism — not talking about your feelings and bottling it all up is not good. Acknowledging your own feelings and your kids’ feelings is healthy. I think that it’s important to kind of help children learn how to express emotions. We need to teach them that being honest about your feelings is a way to heal and grow.”
Give your kids some space and allow time for creative play.
- Avoid “lawnmower parenting” — AKA mowing down any adversity or impediments so your kids can have an easy breeze through life.
- Let your kids run loose.
“At school they don’t get this microscopic focus in a group of 25. So letting them go and have free play without listening in on them or micromanaging them is important. Who cares if they scuff their knee or throw sticks? You have to find the line between watching them and not letting them be themselves.”
And allow yourself some space.
- Create a safe haven for yourself.
- Don’t allow any work in that space.
- Don’t allow your kids to play in that space
“Sometimes kids have to share a bedroom while you’re trying to work from home in your kitchen while watching the kids on zoom. It’s overwhelming. Do a toddler-style ‘Time out. Slow down. Pause.’ That’s something we all haven’t been doing enough. Just pause for a second, take some deep breaths and take time to regroup and energy in that safe space.”
- Understand you’re not going to be productive every second of the 8-hour work day.
- Establish a time frame where you will be productive and don’t let yourself be bothered during that time.
“Tell your kids ‘from 8-9 we will do this and from 9-10 you will not disturb me.’ It helps establish boundaries with kids. And it’s important to set boundaries with kids and work.”