Tips for stress and parenting during 2020

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Morning walks help keep me grounded.

I wrote this last July during the shutdown. I had no idea when I wrote this how hard the year would become. It’s interesting for me to look back on what I was feeling a year ago.

I found my self getting anxious a few weeks ago. It’s a weird fluttery feeling in my chest with my heart beating wildly, my breath getting short and my palms sweating. Why does it come on like that out of the blue? I think it’s all the uncertainty around us. Will my husband ever go back to his office to work? Will we ever get to go to the movies again? Will I have swim practice with my friends? When will this end? Right when we think it’s getting better, it gets worse. The number of cases are going up. We don’t know what will happen with the economy. I have three of my closest friends diagnosed with breast cancer during COVID-19. Yes, there’s lots to be anxious about.

We were fortunate to have our daughter come home to work remotely. She had just moved into a new apartment and didn’t really know her two new roommates. They had a 24-hour notice to shelter in place, so she headed home. I remember her deciding to go to the hardware store to purchase lumber for a bed frame she was making. The very first day she was with us, she was intent on getting supplies. “We could shut down here tomorrow,” she said. She was correct. The next day we were told to shelter in place.

I work in my son’s room and my husband works in our master bedroom. Our daughter took over the guest room. We were a busy bunch until she got laid off due to COVID-19. That was stressful in itself. Also, having a grown up adult in the house took time for us to get used to. We managed to get along most of the time and it’s a three-month period I’ll treasure. Without the pandemic, she wouldn’t have come home and spent time as a young adult. She’s back to building her life away from us, interviewing for jobs.

I read an interesting article called Parenting, stress and COVID-19 by Annie Keeling in The Union, a website with news for Nevada County, Calif.

Here’s an excerpt:

THE EFFECTS OF STRESS

Despite feeling close to their children during the COVID-19 pandemic, 61% of parents say they have shouted, yelled, or screamed at them at least once over the past two weeks, according to a new report from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. (https://www.psychcongress.com/article/covid-19-stress-taking-toll-parent-child-relationships)

“For a large number of parents, financial concerns, other worries, social isolation, loneliness, and sadness are getting in the way of parenting,” said lead author Shawna J. Lee, PhD, an associate professor of social work, who compiled the report with coauthor Kaitlin Ward, a doctoral student.

This uncertain experience is asking a lot of parents: full-time playmate, teacher and caregiver can take its toll. What can you do to help yourself? The first step is recognizing that this is a challenging time and that there are ways to ease the effects of uncertainty and stress.

CALMING TECHNIQUES FOR THE PARENT

Take care of yourself. Parents know that they must do this so they can be a good parent, but it’s often easier said than done. The Power of Three is essential: eat well, exercise, get sleep. Put a post-it reminder on your mirror, by the stove, by the screens in your home. Check in with yourself each evening. How did you do with your Power of Three today?

Take a breath. Or five. Research shows that it takes more than one deep breath to really affect the parasympathetic nervous system. Five deep breaths can change your state.

Reach out to others. Phone calls, Zoom, and yard dates with other adults- physically distanced on lawn chairs — are a few ways.

Take (even a tiny) break. Try splashing cold water on your face, stepping outside or planning a parenting partner hand-off. Identify what you might do to take a break before the day starts. This helps our psyche to anticipate the relief that is coming.

List healthy coping skills for yourself and your family. Avoid behaviors such as excessive alcohol drinking, online gambling or taking drugs. Negative coping mechanisms further compound your stress levels and can make your situation worse in the long run.

The article goes on to describe tips to calm the entire family with lots of fun things to do. Keeling also discusses talking about the pandemic and how that can lead to less stress as well.

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My daughter bungee swimming in our backyard. It’s hard but it does help with stress.

Have you had stress or anxiety during the pandemic and what are you doing to fight it?

Pandemic Phenom: Adult Kids Flocking to the Nest

IMG_6112One thing that’s happening now during the pandemic is adult kids returning to home. Many universities offer classes remotely so kids aren’t going off to school. Other kids are working remotely and no longer have to pay for expensive apartments but can work anywhere, including at home with mom and dad. Unfortunately, some young adults new to the work force have lost their jobs because of COVID-19 shut downs. The end result is adult kids who normally would be out on their own have returned to live with mom and dad.

I’ve read several articles about his phenomenon and have included excerpts from two articles below.

From Lemore Navy News, The Meat and Potatoes of Life: The impossible task of parenting young adults by Lisa Smith Molinari, she talks about how parenting adult kids is different from having toddlers and babies, but just as hard.

I used to have a good grasp on parenting. From the time our three children were infants, all the way through toddlerhood, the primary school years, and even the dreaded teenage years, I used a fairly successful combination of expert-recommended techniques, mother’s intuition, and common sense to raise our children.

But now that they are adults, I am dumbfounded.

No one ever told me that my job as a mother would become immensely more difficult once my offspring turned into adults. In the last few years, my husband and I have discovered that, although parenting individuals over the age of majority is absolutely essential to their safety and well-being, it seems frustratingly fruitless.

To complicate matters, the global pandemic brought young adults back to their parents’ homes for the foreseeable future. College students have been forced to take classes remotely, summer jobs have been cancelled, and hiring has been suspended. With two of our three adult children back at home, we can no longer take comfort in “out of site out of mind.” We face the daunting task of trying to enforce rules and standards of conduct for two financially dependent legal adults.

Put a screaming infant having a diaper blow-out on my lap while strapped into coach seating between two grumpy business men on a turbulent nine-hour flight. Challenge me to negotiate the check out line at the commissary with a premenstrual migraine, a cartload of groceries, and a toddler having an epic tantrum over Goldfish crackers. Force me to give a lecture on why one should not wear booty shorts and a crop top to school to a smirking, gum-chewing teenager who won’t stop watching TikTok videos long enough to acknowledge me.

Pardon the pun, but that’s child’s play.

But present me with a resident 22-year-old — who wakes up at one in the afternoon, eats all the deli meat, takes a 30-minute shower, packs a duffel full of bikinis and spiked seltzers, announces that she is taking Dad’s car to visit sorority friends in Vermont for a few days, and can someone please do the laundry while she’s gone because she’s completely out of bras? — and I’m paralyzed with fear. After two and a half decades of tackling the full spectrum of child-rearing challenges, I find the task of parenting our three grown children about as easy as winning a chess match against Bobby Fischer.

Molinari talks about the issue of having different goals than our kids. This is how she lists it. It’s quite a funny list such as our kids wanting unlimited full tank of gas and the latest iphone. Parents want prohibition reinstated and a worry-free night of sleep. You can read it on her article here.

IMG_7880In How To Cope With Having Your Adult Kids Back Home from Katie Couric’s Wake-Up Call newsletter, experts give advice on how to handle families being back together due to the pandemic.

The coronavirus crisis has upended all of our lives in unthinkable ways, and for many of us, that means a rearrangement of our living situation. To help our Wake-Up Call newsletter (subscribe here!) adjust to this unique situation, our good friends Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa Heffernan of Grown and Flown spoke with us about the surprising number of adult children they’ve seen moving back in with their parents.

Together, they offered some advice on how to make the most of this transition — plus psychologist Lisa Damour jumped in to explain why some adult children may tend to act a bit less like adults and more like children when they first move home…

Wake Up Call: You both have adult children. Have any of them moved back in?

Mary Dell: I have two young adults who have moved back home with us, and my nephew, who’s in college and who we are guardians for, is also with us. It’s five people… so that means it’s 15 meals a day. It’s shocking! I don’t actually have to cook 15 meals a day but I am cooking a big huge dinner every night, and it’s something I am so out of practice with. It’s a really full house.

Lisa Heffernan: We’ve actually done the reverse. I had my mother move in, because I was so worried about where she was living, and the chance of infection. Since older people are much more susceptible to this, our kids have had to stay away. But they will come over and sit at the end of the garden, about 20 feet from us, to say hello.

What advice do you have for parents hoping to set boundaries and establish rules with their adult children?

Lisa Heffernan: Our natural inclination as parents may be to go back to “our house our rules,” because last time your child lived with you they were a child, both in maturity and in the eyes of the law. It’s really important in this moment that we come to agreements with our kids about what the rules are going to be and how we’re going to do things, as opposed to flipping back in time to the moment when we made the rules.

So instead of laying down the rules like you may have done with a 15 year old, try to present it as: How can we solve this problem together? For example: “I need quiet in the house between 2 and 4 p.m. because I am doing Zoom calls, and no matter where you are, when you’re blaring YouTube, I can hear it. So how are we going to make this work so I can do my work and you can do what you want to do?”

It’s almost like your kids are now your roommates, but more importantly, they’re other adults. It’s hard for a lot of parents to come to grips with this, but it’s also incredibly important to remind kids of how they’re going to fulfill responsibilities as adults in the household. Those can be things like, cleaning, shopping, and cooking. Or with my kids, I’ve said, “Here’s something you need to do for us: Grandpa is quarantined alone, so you each need to call him once a day.”

It’s about figuring out what the most important tasks are, putting those in front of your kids, and talking to them like the adults you want them to be.

Your friend and Grown and Flown contributor, psychologist Lisa Damour, also had some interesting thoughts to share with us on why our adult children might not always act their age when they move back into the house. Let’s check in with her on this…

Lisa Damour: It’s not at all unusual for young adults (and even middle-aged adults!) to regress a bit when they are around their parents. We all have well-worn patterns for how we interact with our parents, and those patterns took the form of a parent-child relationship for a long time. Put simply, it’s pretty easy for high-functioning, self-sufficient young adults to slip into acting like teenagers when they’re with their folks.

The challenge here is for the parent to not regress back to old patterns along with the young adult — especially if doing so takes the form of slipping into unhelpful interactions, such as coming down on an adult child for not helping out around the house. To do this, we should remember that all young people have two sides: a mature, thoughtful, and altruistic side… and an immature, impulsive, and self-preoccupied side.

In my experience, the side the parent addresses will be the side that shows up for the conversation. If the parent launches in with a lecture, they’re likely to get a snarky adolescent response. If the parent says, “I know you were doing a great job of splitting dorm/apartment responsibilities with your roommate before you had to come home. Now I need you to do the same thing here with us,” they’re likely to get a mature and helpful response.

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What experiences have you had with adult children returning home because of the pandemic?

 

Are Parents to Blame for Our Children’s Angst and Anxiety?

I wrote this months before the pandemic hit and we began sheltering in place. Now that I’ve spent 109 days in my home without my normal activities of meeting friends for lunch, traveling, volunteering and hanging out with my swim friends, I’m learning that more and more people are suffering from anxiety and children are being hit the hardest. A friend of mine who is a psychologist for teens said she’s talking to a record number of kids who are talking about suicide. It puts a new perspective on our kids’ angst and anxiety.

randk 3I watched a video posted on Facebook by one of my children’s former swim coaches about millennials in the workforce and the problems they face. It really made me reflect about my own parenting and kids. There’s an increased number of kids in this age group with depression, committing suicide and overdosing. That’s terrifying, don’t you agree? What can be done about it? And why is it happening?

You can watch the aforementioned video here

Here are the four main points of the video:

ONE
Bad Parenting

I hate that bullet point and know I’m guilty of some bad parenting myself. The main idea is that our kids were told they are special at every turn, whether it’s deserved or not. Consequently, millennials often suffer from low self esteem. While we’re trying to make our kids strong, mentally and physically, we’re doing something very wrong. We have highly educated, competent kids who don’t believe in themselves. Maybe everyone shouldn’t get a participation trophy in tee ball. It’s one of the reasons why I like swimming. Every mili-second dropped and ribbon received is truly earned. The clock doesn’t lie.

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We were unplugged as a family every summer at the beach.

TWO
Technology

Checking our number of likes, texts, etc. give us a jolt of dopamine. That’s why we get addicted to our phones. Social media and cell phones are not much different than other highly addictive substances like tobacco or alcohol. When teenage brains are exposed to dopamine, they get hooked and their brains get hardwired. Hearing this part of the video makes me want to look at my own cell phone usage and make some changes—a good thing to think about for New Year’s Resolutions (I’ll write more about this later). Social media is preventing our kids from developing personal relationships and may lead to depression and being unable to handle stress.

THREE
Instant Gratification

Our kids have grown up in the world of instant gratification. If they want to watch a movie, they turn on Netflix. If they want to buy something, they click on Amazon and it’s delivered the next day. I interviewed a psychologist and wrote about instant gratification here. Job satisfaction and relationships aren’t a click away. Instead they are messy and time consuming, but our kids aren’t learning these skills of waiting and working for things.

FOUR
Environment

Maybe our corporate environments aren’t a good fit for young people. Our kids blame themselves when it could partially be the fault of the company they work for. Companies need to work extra hard to build the children’s social skills and work on their lack of confidence. We need to work on interpersonal relationships and one good way to start is to put the phone down.

What are your thoughts about millennials and their angst? Do you think it’s our fault they are suffering from depression and anxiety? Or, does the environment and technology play a bigger role?

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Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO. She is the best mom and my role model.