Parenting just got harder

Students won’t be returning to school. While many parents knew in the back of their minds that this was likely to happen, it still came as a shock or huge disappointment.

Most had hoped that their children would miraculously return to school and that they could work — even if it was from home.

To say that the last few weeks have been difficult for families with children is an understatement. There’s this image of detailed full schedules with experiential learning, children who are thrilled and engaged in distance learning and parents lining up additional activities through the many virtual museums and other entities to enrich their children’s lives.

And everyone is smiling.

The reality is that the stress and anxiety related to COVID-19 is like a cloud over everyone’s head.

The schedule worked for a day or two. The boss called while you were trying to teach division. The wi-fi went out while you were trying to connect to distance learning. Your elementary-age child threw a tantrum and your teenager dissolved into tears or angry words. Or both.

For some families the economic hardship makes it even more difficult. School lunches were important, but now they might be difficult to obtain.

Your job may mean that you can’t be there during the day to help your middle- school child. Your family might not have a computer or tablet or the worksheets that were mailed.

If your child is in special education, it may be even more difficult. If they had a paraprofessional assisting them during the day? Well, you’re on your own.

If you had in-home support staff, they might not be coming out due to COVID-19.

There’s no way you can work during all of this.

So, what’s a parent to do?

First, ban perfectionism. You can’t be perfect during a pandemic (or ever). Do what you can. Take one day at a time. The more stress that comes with instituting a tight schedule, the more upset a child will be. Have a schedule, because that brings some normalcy to the situation, but also adapt to what you and your child need that day.

Second, work on wellness and coping strategies. Together take deep breaths, move or dance, or use a meditation app. It does relieve stress and it will teach strategies that your child can use in the future.

Third, help your younger children understand what’s going on through some good books and videos such as The Oyster and the Butterfly: The Corona Virus and Me or Time to Come In, Bear: A Children’s Story About Social Distancing.

For older children, talk to them about how hard it is to not see friends, to miss some of the events that are big in their lives such as dances, sports and concerts. Listen, understand and empathize.

Even as adults, we feel anxious and upset about what’s happening — and we have more tools than they do to cope.

It’s not an easy time. But if we try to stay calm, take one day at a time, connect to others and love and support our children, we will get through this.

Parenting was never easy, and now it’s really hard. Know that there are free classes, videos, resources and support groups through NAMI Minnesota to help.

Sometimes it helps just to hear that you’re not the only one struggling.

Sue Abderholden is executive director of NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a nonprofit organization that works to improve the lives of children and adults with mental illnesses and their families through its programs of education, support and advocacy. For more information, go to or call 651-645-2948.