"One day my child had this routine that they, my wife, and I had worked so hard on creating, and it felt like the next day it was gone. I watched my kid grow more and more anxious as they were hearing about the pandemic on their phones, and from their friends. They were unsure when they would see their friends again, falling behind and distance learning was taking a toll on their self-esteem. My child has ADHD and bipolar disorder and all of these sudden changes have negatively impacted their mental health in a lot of ways. It was a struggle to get them out of their room to socialize with the family without a fight, let alone trying to get them to partake in a socially distanced activity to get some fresh air. Switching to telehealth and distance learning was really hard for the whole family and I felt like a shell of myself throughout a lot of it just trying to keep everything together." said one Cumberland County mom, Michelle Jones.
Jone's experience is on par with what a lot of other parents and primary caregivers we have been talking to throughout the year are saying. She explained to us that while she knows distance learning is not going anywhere for the time being getting past this year is going to be a sense of relief for her. "It was too much in one year. My wife lost her job, I was switched to remote working, and our kids all began distance learning. We don't have room in our house to create a bunch of separate workspaces for everyone so it was chaotic, loud, and stressful. When my wife lost her job it was scary financially but I don't know how we would have been able to handle distance learning without her being available to help our kids get in and out of their classes, and break up sibling arguments throughout the day. By the time the holidays came around, we were all constantly irritable and tired of being in the house and having to tiptoe around each other's school/work calls. I never thought I would say this but I would be happy to sit in a rush-hour right now to go to my office, 45 minutes of alone time with just me and my radio sounds like bliss."
For some tips on how to best set up, or make your child's distance learning set up more efficient for your home check out our article here.
"To be honest with you I haven't had the time to think of a New Year's Resolution. I don't know, I am just happy we got through the year and want this next one to be less; everything. Less scary, less stressful, less time in the house, less time in video calls, less arguments. I am grateful for the health of my loved ones and just want to move forward. I want my children back in school, and back on the trajectory that they were on before this all happened. My own anxiety has been overwhelming at times about whether we will be able to stay healthy, stay on top of bills, and worrying about the mental health of my partner and my children. I just continue to remind them that I am here for them and try and be open about my own struggles in the hopes they will be open with me. So, I am sorry for rambling but I guess I have figured out what I want my resolution to be. Taking the lesson of being open about my own anxiety and mental health with my family and loved ones with me into 2021. I think it is a good lesson I learned and it has brought us closer. After a year like that nobody has time to put on the fake facade of perfection that we cared so much about before this all happened."
Did you have a similar year to Jones? If you are feeling overwhelmed right reach out to one of our FREE and CONFIDENTIAL Family Support Partners here.
We agree with Jones; who has the time to make a resolution this year? It is enough that you got through 2020, you do NOT need to set a goal and make yourself feel bad if you don't meet that goal. No more faking that you've got it all together because nobody does. You did it, you got through the year, and that's more than enough.
The Parent Alliance wants to continue to remind you of what you accomplished in 2020 with social distancing, health anxiety, financial stress, and distance learning is remarkable. While a New Year's resolution is an outdated and unnecessary idea, we do agree with one thing; the new year should be a celebration. Not because we think 2021 will miraculously be better, but because we need to take the time to celebrate ourselves for getting through this past year. Day in and day out we hear stories from the families we work with about the challenges you are facing and we are astounded by your strength. As a parent raising a child(ren) who is struggling, you know what it is like to face uphill battles, but this year felt like Mount Everest; and you made it to the top.
If you do still feel that pressure to reflect on your year and make a resolution to change something as the calendar changes; we have a few ideas on what some good resolutions could be:
Create an Emotional Safety Plan for yourself and your family- When you are in a heightened moment of stress it can be hard to think straight. Sit down with your family and fill out an Emotional Safety Plan (you can do this by filling out our tip sheet, linked above, or by taking out a piece of paper, or even the notes app on your phone). When you are relaxed and at ease think of things that help you feel calm. Maybe a walk around the block helps you to recenter; maybe you hate it and would prefer to pop in your headphones and play a favorite podcast or album. It is 100% customizable and easy to create. Now when you are feeling overwhelmed you can take a look at that list and be reminded quickly about ways to calm down.
Prioritize your own mental health and take time for some self-love this year. As a parent or primary caregiver to a child who is struggling your life is busy, to say the least. If you do not do so already; make it a priority in 2021 to carve out some time for yourself. For some ideas on ways to practice self-care check out our article celebrating Caregiver's Awareness Month.
Give yourself and your family grace- last year was difficult, don't be hard on yourself. In 2021 think of all of the things you HAVE accomplished and all of the wonderful things you do, and not the things that did not get done.
**the names in this article have been changed**