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Sheltering in Place: An Emotional Rollercoaster

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Many of us are experiencing a flood of emotions as coronavirus spreads to our cities and neighborhoods.

You may feel teary when you hear from a far-away friend, overwhelmed by the challenge of trying to make child care and work happen in the very same space, or angry with your partner for not understanding what you need in the moment.

And you may feel all these things in the space of five minutes.

Mister Rogers once said, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”

Being a Parent While Feeling All the Feels

What’s a parent to do during these difficult times? All the usual advice applies, now more than ever.

  • Remember that your own well-being is important in all of this. Taking some time to care for yourself is a big part of what you can do to stay healthy and give your child the care they need to grow and thrive while sheltering in place. (See our advice on self-care here.)
  • Expect your child to react if there are changes in their routine. They may get clingy, whiny, or turn into what our family calls a “barnacle”—not leaving their grown-up’s side. Responding with love, care, and patience during this time helps your child get used to the “new normal.” (More about routines here.)
  • Share your calm with your little one. Think about adding a family mindfulness activity to daily routines to give everyone a chance to feel calm and centered.
  • Don’t expect perfection from yourself (or your child). Missteps are a part of parenting. You may respond too sharply or lose your patience with your child. It happens to all of us. Take the opportunity to apologize and start again.
  • Sheltering in place with your coparent? Talk about your expectations for sharing child care and how your roles might change now that everyone is home. Some things to think about: How will you split up work time and child care time if one or both parents are working from home? What routines (like meal preparation and bedtime) can stay the same, and what will change now that your family is sheltering in place? How will you set aside time to have fun as a family and make some time for yourself as well?
  • Try some strategies to help your toddler learn to play independently. Eventual goal: little pockets of peace throughout your day.


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