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Is anyone else having issues with their kids and getting them on schedule or getting them to do the things around the house the first time you ask? I knew the COVID-19 pandemic would change our lives for a few weeks, but  I never considered that it would stretch into the summer. As a result of the “new normal,” I have noticed changes in the behavior of my children as well. Some of those changes include:

Backtalk From My Kids

Arguments About Bedtimes, Chores, Hygiene 

Too Much Screen Time (Games, Netflix, Disney+, etc.)

What is really going on? How am I contributing via my stress, anxiety, or mood? In essence, how do I stop fighting with my kids? What are the things that I can do?

1. Remember That You Are The Parent

I recognize that my responsibility to my children is to be their parent. Even though I want to develop a close relationship with my child, being the parent means that I will have to do things that are not popular. In fact, because I love my child and want a close relationship with them, as a parent, I have to make unpopular decisions. The first time that my youngest son said to me, “Mommy, you are not my friend,” I took a deep breath and replied, “You are right. I am not your friend, I AM your MOM.” I want my kids to know that they are loved, accepted, and can always come to me, but I can’t always be their “buddy.” I can’t make decisions based on a popularity contest—I have to do what’s best for them knowing that they won’t always understand that this is real love.

In that particular situation, I chose to respond versus react. Reactions are automatic, without thought and usually driven by emotions. When I respond, according to the author and licensed marriage and family therapist Hal Runkel, “I take a pause before I do something.” In other words, I think, control my emotions, and move forward as the parent.

2. Become A Student Of Your Child

Learn what your child likes and what interests them. Talk with and listen to them, find out what shows they watch, what music they like, what are they feeling (e.g., fear, concern, anger, sadness). Creating a healthy relationship with them gives you insight into their world. Remember that the pandemic and all that is going on has had an impact on your child as well. Take your child’s emotional temperature by asking questions to find out how are they are feeling and what is on their minds. They may be acting out because they feel insecure, afraid, or anxious. They may be trying to get your attention

3. Create Structure And Boundaries And Consistently Enforce Them

It is important that our children feel a sense of routine, structure, and boundaries in the midst of all the chaos and confusion going on in the world. Structure and boundaries provide safety for children. They see and hear news about COVID-19 and racial unrest. They may feel afraid and concerned as a result. You can create structure and boundaries by: Making one-on-one time with each child to talk, Having dinner together as a family, or Family Game Night. These family interactions can develop connectedness between the members which hopefully can decrease the argumentative interactions.

Your children should have routines in the morning and evening and bedtime that place structure around their day. Give them a daily to-do list like: Brush Teeth, Eat Breakfast, Read For 20 Minutes, Exercise/Play For 1 Hour, Eat Dinner, Screen Time (as prescribed by parents), Bedtime Routine, Lights Out. Put the schedule somewhere at their eye-level. Even kids that can’t read yet can follow a list using pictures to know how to get ready for bed. These routines provide expectations for what the day will look like and there will be less to fight with your kids about.

Power struggles and arguments seem like they will always be a normal part of parenting. However, you don’t have to normalize fighting with your kids. When you recognize your role and responsibilities as a parent, it gives you a focus point. Creating a healthy parent-child relationship helps your children learn and respect boundaries. Make sure you are taking care of yourself so you can be your best self and respond, not react. One of the best lessons that I have learned on my parenting journey is, “Rules (structure) without relationship leads to rebellion.

  1. On a video call… “Hey Dad, I’m hungry!” “But you just ate.” “I’m still hungry.”
  2. The dream of sleeping later every day since I am working from home… then remembering my 7 and 4-year-old don’t know what sleeping late means.
  3. Countless hours of Nerf battles and Lego builds.
  4. Using the parent face when your kid walks in the room while recording a video for work.
  5. Getting on to your child for walking into the room while on a video call but forgetting to mute yourself. Sorry team!
  6. Explaining to your child that show-and-tell is not part of your video meetings.
  7. Family walks all times of the day—just because we are home and we can.
  8. Eating lunch and dinner daily as a family and having great conversations.
  9. 4 weeks into quarantine and my 4-year-old was making her own lunch. Success!!
  10. Dodging Nerf bullets while on a work call.
  11. Apologizing to a work vendor for the loudness of your kids in the background of a call… only to hear “Oh, I get it” in response.
  12. When a one-hour webinar takes three cause you know… kids gotta have snacks.
  13. Your child answers a business call… oops!
  14. My 7-year-old constantly reminds me of his video call schedule.
  15. I might have used bribery just to make it through a meeting.
  16. Watched Frozen 2 so many times you’ve begun to wake up singing “Show Yourself.”
  17. Fully aware that Elsa singing “Into the Unknown” is the song of 2020.
  18. Muted by co-workers during a video call because you ran off to referee a sibling quarrel.
  19. Showed up to at least one video meeting in PJs and bedhead.
  20. Get overly excited to drive somewhere, anywhere… alone.
  21. Stayed up way too late too often to work after the kids go to bed.
  22. When your 7-year-old says, “Dad, you remember when we used to go to school?”
  23. Grocery shopping (alone) is something you get really excited about.
  24. Hiding my stash of cookies so my kids (and maybe my wife) didn’t find them.
  25. When all is quiet, not worrying about why it’s quiet, just accepting it, and taking a nap.
  26. All that saved gas money is not enough to keep up with the increase in grocery spending.
  27. Covid-wear is a real thing… business (or at least presentable on the top), PJs on the bottom.
  28. Having a 3-foot-tall shadow on every call.
  29. Surrendering your living room to be a site for fort building.
  30. Abruptly ended a group video meeting when my oldest ran in and said he got sick in the living room.
  31. Dropped $300 at the grocery store and realized I only bought snacks.
  32. Found all the creative ways to eat Nutella.
  33. The kids declare, “I need to do my work” while playing pretend.
  34. My sweet 4-year-old decided to draw a picture of what she thinks dad loves most during this time… running and Zoom calls. She might be half-right.
  35. Gave into otherwise ridiculous demands from your children in an effort to maintain your sanity and peace.
  36. PJs are acceptable attire for small kids… all hours of the day. Look, we’re ready for bed!
  37. Diligently trying to work on a project and your little one crawls up in your lap and asks, “Can you just come lay with me?” And the project is on pause.
  38. Best investment of the summer… inflatable pool. I can finally get some work done and they are entertained for hours.
  39. Having to constantly remind my kids that it is not okay to sit and talk outside the bathroom while someone is in there. Whatever it is can wait… and I want some peace and quiet.
  40. Realizing that no matter the chaos and stress, these moments will be treasured for the rest of my life and theirs.

Parents, these last few months may not have been what we expected—it definitely wasn’t something we were prepared for, but this time should be cherished. You are doing a great job and your kids see it. Have fun, be crazy, and enjoy the slower pace that still lies ahead for many of us this summer. You’ve got this!! Go make some memories and treasure every moment!

For many of us parents, this time of social distancing and self-quarantine caught us off guard.

Before, we might have had small chunks of time spent at home, like when a child was sick. However, quarantine has more than doubled and even tripled the amount of time that I spend with my children. Back in the good old days in March, my sons would spend over seven hours at school. Once they came home, it would be dinner, homework, chores and some video gaming time. Then it would be off to bed. In reality, we didn’t spend lots of time together. 

Now with concentrated togetherness, work from home and virtual school, I am starting to see parts of them that I didn’t know existed. (Some of those traits remind me of me.) I am starting to have all these doubts and questions creeping in:

  • Am I doing this right?
  • What am I doing wrong?
  • Do we have enough (time, money, energy) to do this?
  • Do I have what it takes to parent my child?
  • Is this really how my child behaves at school?
  • Am I ruining their life, education and future?
  • In my heart of hearts, I am asking myself:  Am I A Bad Parent?

Questioning yourself as a parent can be a GOOD thing! (But be careful!)

When we became parents, we dreamed of our child’s future—what type of schools they would attend, the activities that they would participate in, and the friends they would have. Never in that dream did we consider a “global pandemicand how it would affect school, interaction with friends, and our family.

I have chosen to view this time as a Reset Button for myself and my family. I haven’t camped out with fear and guilt, but I have been introspective:

  • As a family, what are our priorities?
  • What can I control and what can I not control?
  • When it comes to my children, what type of relationship do I want?
  • What does my child need from me as their parent?

Accept that you did the best that you could.

Most of us were not taught how to be teachers. We don’t have medical training. We have never experienced a pandemic that mandated shelter-in-place. This is uncharted territory, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, make it a learning opportunity. Have a family meeting and have a conversation with your children to see how they are doing. Take the emotional temperature of your family. Learn, then let yourself off the hook.

Recognize that there will be a transition out of quarantine.

As we prepare to “re-enter” the world, take some time to process how you have changed as a parent and what you may want to change going forward.

From Guilt to Action

Asking yourself these questions can move you from feeling guilty to taking action:

  • Am I confusing being a good parent with being a perfect parent?
  • Am I taking care of me to be the best version of myself?
  • Is the issue really exhaustion from work, virtual schooling and parenting?
  • What are the lessons that I can teach my children during this time?
  • Am I the parent that my child needs me to be during this time?

Asking yourself these questions can help you learn from this quarantine time:

  • What have I learned from and about my kids?
  • How has my family benefitted from this time together?
  • What has been a struggle for us?
  • How will we as a family be different after the quarantine ends?
  • How will I parent differently after quarantine?

It’s always good to be trying to improve as a parent, but it is easy to fall into the perfection trap and end up sitting in feelings of fear and guilt. This doesn’t benefit you or your kids.

I was sweating bullets. Red-faced and huffing, getting my one-year-old to take an afternoon nap was becoming my daily dose of cardio. 

Meanwhile, I had a conference call in 10 minutes and a hefty project to finish for work. I also had 2 team members waiting on me to provide answers so they could complete their tasks for the day. OH, and let’s not forget the giant mess in the kitchen. You’ll never convince me that toddlers actually EAT more food than they throw on the floor.

My husband was holed up in our master bedroom diligently answering customer emails and leading his fellow team members via meeting after meeting on Zoom.

I was furious with him. Why did I always have to be the one to put our son down for a nap? Why did I always have to feed him lunch? And why did my husband have more time on our new “work from home during a pandemic” schedule to actually finish his work?

In a fit of anger, I put our crying, sleep-fighting son in his crib and charged out of the room.

“I can’t do this anymore,” I said, startling my hard-at-work hubby.

“Can’t do what?” he asked.

“All of it. I can’t do all my work because I’m the one doing the majority of the things for our son! And, he won’t nap. Meanwhile, you’re in here working away… and I just can’t do it anymore.”

“Okay, well let me try.”

Off he went to fight the same nap battle I’d been fighting for an hour. Except unlike me, he won in about 5 minutes.

That’s when it hit me: I was stressed. I was tense. I was anxious. My attitude was affecting not only me, but our son. And, I was blaming my husband for all of it.

“Ya know, if you wanna take a second look at our work-from-home schedule, we can change some things. I definitely don’t want you to be upset with me or resent me,” said my thoughtful husband.

After a little conversation, crying and reckoning, I knew this whole COVID-19 pandemic was teaching me a lot more than just how to wash my hands well. It was showing me some things to work on in order to be a better partner, teammate, friend and wife for my husband.

Here are 5 big things I’ve learned about marriage during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. While your spouse more than likely knows you pretty well, they CANNOT read your mind. When it came to our new normal, I felt pretty alone and overwhelmed. However, I didn’t voice my concerns to my husband about not having help with our son and not having enough time to finish my work. Instead, I bottled them up and let them fester. I expected my husband to read my mind, hear my sighs and see the look of exhaustion in my eyes. I also expected him to offer to do something about it. But, that’s just not realistic. What I’ve learned is he’s not a mind reader, and he has a lot on his plate, too.
  2. Your spouse may not do things exactly how you would do them, and that’s okay. If I’m being honest, one of the biggest reasons I took on the majority of the responsibility for our son during our quarantined life is because I innately felt like I would do a better job of caring for him. It’s built into my brain that I’m the best caretaker. After all, I grew this little human on my own for 9 months. He needs me now more than ever in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, right? My husband sometimes forgets to change him out of his pajamas, and he drags him around the house on a blanket… he even lets him go outside without shoes on. I know, I’m being dramatic. What I’ve learned is that our little boy loves to wear his pajamas at all times of day, his new favorite game is to be pulled around the house by his dad, and the feeling of grass on his toes makes him giggle. My two guys love spending time together. And even though my husband doesn’t do things the way I would every time, he does care for him, and that’s exactly what our son needs.
  3. Attack the problem, not each other. My anxiety over not getting work accomplished was causing me to be aggressive and frustrated with my son. It was also causing me to see my husband in a bad light and blame him for not doing more. I am still so grateful for his gracious response to “take another look at our schedule.” He chose to see past my frustration with him and attack the problem instead of me and my attitude. What I’ve learned is when you have feelings of anger toward your spouse, or maybe you’re just struggling with seeing them in a good light, you should take a deeper dive into your own emotions. Think through what you’re experiencing. Are you more anxious than normal? Have you eaten enough? Are you tired? Do you feel disrespected or unheard? More than likely, the real issue is something the two of you can work on together instead of attacking each other.
  4. Taking care of your spouse should be your first priority. Okay, this one may sound countercultural at the moment. We constantly hear, “take care of yourself, have me time, practice self-care,” and we should find time for those things. But, when your spouse is dealing with frustration, anger, exhaustion, etc., ask them what they need and how you can help. Try not to build on the tension by fighting back or telling them to get over it or being inflexible. What I’ve learned is when you put your spouse first and offer to look past their faults in the moment, it will strengthen your relationship. Plus, it will establish a deeper sense of safety in your marriage. Again, I’m so thankful my husband chose to take care of me in the midst of my frustration instead of getting mad at me for interrupting his “work time” or blaming me for not creating our schedule correctly in the first place. In the future, I’ll try to do the same for him in his moments of despair.
  5. Vulnerability is the lifeblood of a healthy marriage. After my mini-breakdown, my husband and I sat together on the couch to come up with a new plan that would lessen my stress. I shared my feelings of mom guilt, anxiety of not completing work, and frustrations with our house being messier than usual. I even shared my feelings of envy toward my husband because it seemed he was able to accomplish more during the day and rest easier at night. These were all things I had kept to myself, simply because I was running 100 miles an hour and hadn’t really had time to process them. What I’ve learned is being vulnerable with your spouse is hard, but it’s necessary for the health of your marriage. When I allowed myself to open up with my spouse, I realized one of the biggest sources of my anger and frustration was coming from ME. I wasn’t being vulnerable about how hard this “new normal” was for me, and I DEFINITELY wasn’t asking for help. Until I had no other choice.

All in all, my husband and I have both learned a lot. We’ve learned more about each other and our relationship in the last 6 weeks of quarantine than we ever thought we could. Showing each other grace and putting our marriage first has been quite the challenge. But it’s also been a needed exercise. As strange and difficult as this season has been, I believe our marriage will come out stronger in the end. And for that, I’m thankful.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***