One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a parent in this pandemic is how uncertain and ever-changing things are. My decisions for my child are constantly evolving as the science, the virus, and our society’s response to both are also evolving. Change is part of the human experience, but these particular changes are hard to navigate with so many unknowns about the future. So when I find myself or another parent worrying about the future our children are going to live in, it’s hard to make any guarantees as to what comes next. What I can say is that any anxiety we may be feeling about the future is normal.
Many of the parents I have worked with continue to express concerns about screen time, developmental delays, and long-term health concerns. Some have experienced fractured relationships with friends and family members over their parenting decisions. It’s been hard and all of us are continuing to do the best we can for our children. Since I can’t tell you what is coming next for your child, I want to help you know how to best cope with the uncertainty of the future.
Advocating for Your Child
It really is true that you are the best parent for your child. If something feels different about your child, trust your instincts and find someone to help. You may have limited resources or already feel pressed for time. If your child needs any form of therapy, it can be really challenging to navigate the logistics to schedule an appointment. However, if you know something is wrong, find resources in your community to help you navigate the barriers to receiving help. It can be incredibly difficult to ask, but once you do, the answers you find can alleviate your anxiety.
Create Your Boundaries
As the pandemic carries on, everyone has an opinion about how we should make decisions for our children. It is exhausting to fight misinformation, say “no” to people, or prepare our children for new COVID challenges. Many of us are fatigued because we are constantly having our boundaries violated in person and online. That uncomfortable feeling in your body when you have to tell someone “no” or have an opinion forced on you is typically a warning that your boundaries are being violated.
When this happens, it is important to pause and examine what is happening. For example, ask yourself if your boundary is being violated because you need to change something for yourself? Is it being violated because this person does not respect you? Is it being violated because you have not clearly articulated your needs? Whatever the reason, take the time to listen and decide what to do next. You may not be able to control everything that happens, especially with changing laws, but you can control how you react to your circumstances. These decisions may include muting someone on social media, changing how you interact with someone (i.e. no more DMs), taking the time to research what you heard from experts, or restating your boundary with that person. All of these things show kindness to yourself.
We do not know how COVID is going to change things for our children in the long term. The answers to our questions about the future would have been very different even three months ago. In this uncertainty, we can either focus on the future—which often leads to spiraling—or practice being present in this moment. Mindfulness is about more than meditating. It is centering your thoughts in the present moment and focusing on what is in front of you right now. If your child is facing another year of unconventional schooling, focus on what you need to accomplish for the first day or week. When you focus on your current circumstances it helps you work toward your goals with more intention, instead of worrying about things beyond your control.
You may not know what the future brings, but that doesn’t mean your family has to be living in constant fear and anxiety. When we protect our mental health, we are able to show up better for our children and advocate for what they need.
Elise Champanhet is a Mental Health Therapist seeing individuals seeking physical, emotional, and mental wellness at Optimum Joy Clinical Counseling in the Greater Chicago Area.