With approximately one month of school under our belts, we would like to take this opportunity to appreciate our often unsung heroes: our beloved parents and guardians.

We understand that in this challenging time, you may be feeling stressed out, frustrated, guilty, or alone; we see you, and we appreciate you. It may feel like nobody else understands your struggle. It is understandable if there are days where you just want to scream or cry. But, you are doing the best you can, especially given the circumstances. Parents have been put under enormous pressure trying to make challenging choices and keep up with the changing pandemic world.

If you haven’t heard it lately, thank you for all that you are doing. Because of you, our children will make it through this. Today, we want to give our voice over to the parents in our community to show unity in your struggles and fears, and to share coping tips during this difficult time.

 

 

Woman teaching boy to wash hands

as a parent...

To say COVID has been a challenging time for parents, I think, is an understatement. There are so many factors that have been beautiful in this experience, like silver linings within a terrible pandemic: seeing how well our community supports each other when someone is in need was truly inspiring.

As a parent, we love our kids more than we can put into words, however, before becoming a parent we were also an individual and we are still a person outside the ‘parent’ label. During normal times, we have a balance between personal time and parenting time. We may also have a job, or a network of friends, a coffee shop we attend for our own little pick me up, or a group of social belonging in some aspect. COVID however, removed so many of these social things from us, and our connections and our sense of self for many were greatly impacted.

On top of this, kids not being allowed to have normal play dates, attend local groups, daycares or schools, removed their sense of who they are in a community as well for a while, and for many, we had to look after kids, who were mourning the loss of these relationships and routines. While parents struggled with their own social losses, they were expected to remain available at their best, to coax their children through all of this, and at many times this felt challenging and very raw.

As a parent, it’s important during COVID times that we remember that self-care is not selfish, it’s necessary. When we fly in an airplane they say: ‘put on your mask first so that you get your oxygen, and then you are better able to assist your child with theirs.’ So is true for raising children. When our ‘cup is full’ and we have had our social and emotional and physical needs met, then we are better equipped to be able to meet the needs of our children. With many of these self-care methods shut down during COVID, and kids in crisis missing their routines and friends and needing our support more than ever, it made a double whammy effect for many parents and kids. They needed us more than ever, and our cups were as empty as ever to pour from. If you felt this way during COVID at any time, you were not alone.

As a parent, returning back to work and school has been such a difficult and conflicting decision for many. Assessing whether our physical health or our mental health were more at risk, with each option available, was a tough task for all. Know that whatever choice you made, and whatever choices you continue to make, you are doing your best. There are so many unknowns and what-ifs we will never know the answers to until they happen. We just have to make our best guess at a decision based on each of our unique family situations, and that is enough, it is ok, and it is great. It is also all we can do.

Rules keep changing, and as a parent, we plan and work so hard to coordinate things for our kids, and then poof: the next day the rules all change, and what we thought we had prepared for, becomes a totally different set of guidelines and we have had to re-adjust many times.

Flexibility has been a superhero trait these days for anyone who has it. For parents who flourish with consistency, COVID has however been an anxiety-inducing time. I have grown a lot in this department from the COVID experience. I remind myself to take it one day at a time because any day it can change anyhow.

Some special bonding happened during COVID times, it wasn’t all bad. We got to spend more time together as a family. Siblings relied on each other to become playmates more than ever, as other friendships weren’t allowed.Many times stuck in the house meant we could play games we hadn’t gotten around to before with busy schedules. It meant we could bake that recipe we had always wanted to try. It meant a lot of snuggles and a lot of making our own entertainment and jokes; sharing laughs- and also tears, with those in our close ‘bubbles’.

Relationships really showed their value during these times. Bonds have never relied on each other in these ways ever before, but very quickly a sharing friend and other relationships became very evident, even more than usual, the best thing anyone could have.

family washing dog

New motto: be flexible

So far with COVID, what I have found to work for our family is 3 things: planning ahead, budgeting, and communicating. With everything about COVID causing so much uncertainty, I need to feel like something is within my control. I need to fill the calendar with those items and plans that are feasible for us, which gives me a great sense of accomplishment. For my own sanity, we all need to know what is going on to give us all a little bit of structure and normality again.

What I have struggled with the most is taking care of myself. As a Mom, it is natural to take care of kids, husbands, extended family, pets, house chores, and keep everything functioning to the best of our ability – everyone and everything else comes first. I can be strong for everyone else, they need me – but that doesn’t mean that I’m not a crumbling mess on the inside. When you add balancing work, making it to what little activities we can do right now, and just every day stressing about ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, something needs to get left off and undone – and that is me. So to be brutally honest, I skip the shaving my legs, go an extra day without washing my hair, don’t make time for my usual stress releases, eat a Peanut butter sandwich for dinner because there weren’t enough leftovers to feed the entire family when I was in a hurry, maybe we eat off of paper plates for a week because there are no clean dishes, and when I really feel the need to vent I text like a fiend with my closest friend during my 2 minutes of freedom hiding from life in the washroom (because there is no time to call them, let alone in privacy). It might not be right, but this is the reality right now.

Add to that the stress that the rest of the family is under because they can’t do the things they want and because everything is more complicated and takes longer to do, we have come up with our new household motto: Be flexible. Go with the flow, do the best we can, and roll with it. We are here, we are (fingers crossed) all healthy, and we will get through this. We always do. We are all going through COVID, so there are bound to be others in the same position as us. We are not alone.

man and boy gardening

Opening Up

“We really miss seeing you all at community lunches and have found the whole lack of community-aspect to be very challenging.

It takes a village to raise a person and when the village is encouraged to independently isolate for so many, many months it feels lonely and overwhelming as parents to not have reprieve or support.

I’m so grateful for the Hub offering up food and trying to reach out to the community within the restraints put in place.

My worry about a second-wave (apart from getting and transmitting the virus) is that we will be in for yet another half year or more of this isolation. I miss my family, my friends and my community members. The constant choices parents have to make on a daily basis are difficult enough but adding a pandemic and the choices within that situation that need to be made feels like just too much.

This whole thing has affected my very deeply; I’ve permanently lost my job from this. I’ve lost a very dear family member as a result of mental illness that arose from the isolation and uncertainty. The idea of going into it again as we dive into the darkness of winter is a depressing thought.”

man in garage while two girls ride scooters

Doing our best

“Our major struggle has been families who either don’t understand the provincial directives and or choose not to follow them.

It can be very emotionally and mentally challenging for my children to watch their fellow peers outside gather in groups who are not a part of each other’s bubble and not mask or physical distance as our kids get upset because the other parents don’t enforce it, making us seem like we are preventing them from having fun and being with their friends.

Their father and I struggle every day, as it’s a risk to our household and the community, and it is such a moral struggle for us, as we want to keep our kids mentally healthy, but our hands are tied. If we’re the only ones in the immediate couple houses enforcing this for our kids, it creates a lot of stress on us as well.

Being a hospital employee, it’s very challenging because we have been doing these protocols since the beginning and it’s so scary because they really drilled these protocols hard on us that I feel if I don’t do these same things at home and in our personal lives that I’m putting my family at risk, they look up to me for the direction, you know?

man teaching girl how to wash hands photo

Transparent Teaching

“I found transparency worked well for our family.

We sat down with our children and explained what COVID-19 is and why taking these precautions is not only keeping us safe, but helps others around us too – and always encourage questions or concerns so that way we can help work them through it.

When it got closer to school I would generally take a child at a time to a local grocery store when I needed an item so we can practice in a live setting our physical distancing, masking, and continued hand hygiene which really helped the kids once they got to the classroom setting because they could focus more on the work than adapting to new major changes.

The kids are more than happy taking extra masks to change periodically during the day at school and using their own personal items for school we sent them with. Overall this has been a positive method for us.

man and woman sitting while using MacBook Pro photo

Educated Decision

“The last 8 months have been challenging to say the least, but one of the hardest decisions in all of it was deciding if my son should go back to school in person or virtually.

The high school has a different set up than the public schools, but buses and in-classroom lessons are part of the reality. Having an older child, the decision was a little easier as understanding why masks, hand washing, and social distancing was easily understood. There is an added sense of responsibility because, not only do you not want your child to get sick or bring sickness home, you also don’t want to be sharing sickness with your classmates. 

For my son, this is his last year at school, a year that normally solidifies the friendships that will carry into adulthood and a final push for post-secondary marks and excitement.

We spoke openly about the pros and cons, and the decision was made mutually but was not easy. The lack of social interaction, routine, and being taught in a classroom setting was greatly missed and helped in the decision making. With new cases increasing and some local schools being affected, there is a little angst over what will come, but if there is anything we’ve all learned from this pandemic, take life one day at a time. Safety first…

We know that the future is uncertain. While we need to take things day by day, there is a certain amount of preparation we can work on in the event of a potential second wave (and no, this does not include hoarding toilet paper 😉):

Book in your appointments

In the event we must revert to previous stages, we may have limited access to dental, vision, chiropractic, and other needed services.

If there is something you have been putting off, now is the time to address so it does not get worse over time.

It may feel that we don’t have enough hours in the day between school and work, but it is important to identify which health concerns are of priority to be on the safe side in the long run.

What will you regret not doing when it is no longer available?

get comfortable

We typically spend more time in our homes during the winter months, especially when there is an emergency stay-at-home order in place. Therefore, it is a good idea to invest in your space.

What will make you more comfortable and put you at ease? It can be as simple as plants, candles, blankets, books, or loungewear. If you have the means, an upgraded desk chair or a lamp can make a big difference. Many of these items are available for a lower cost at local thrift stores or online marketplaces (Facebook groups, Kijiji ads).

continue to engage in outdoor activities

It is safe to say the restraints of the pandemic persuaded a lot of people to spend more time outside. This has been a great way to try new things, keep occupied, and do good for our mental health! Being outdoors among the weather elements the colder weather brings can be off-putting, but it is important to receive fresh air and sunlight. We can enjoy the outdoors when we have proper preparation-dressing in appropriate warm clothing (jackets, boots, accessories). Come to our event if you need more items this year.

Walking in the wintery scenery, building snow forts, tobogganing, and snowball fights, are examples of fun activities we can participate in! Bike ride, rollerblade, and have picnics while you can still can!

talk to someone

Therapy can be for everyone! You do not have to have a diagnosed mental illness to reap the benefits of therapy, just as it is not a requirement to be sick when visiting your doctor for a check-up. Talking with a certified professional (psychologist, psychotherapist, social worker) can help us to make sense of our thoughts and emotions and learn how we can cope with stress.

We understand this can be challenging to access, so please contact us for assistance with connecting you to the appropriate services. If you are currently involved in therapy, but feel you are not fitting well with your therapist, do not be afraid to try someone new! If it is not working for you, there is no obligation to continue with the wrong match. You deserve to receive helpful treatment.

There are many helpful resources online as well:

Therapist Aid (self-guided worksheets)

Community Care Durham (virtual mental health & wellness groups)

Bounce Back Ontario (primary care provider referral required)

Social Supports Helpline

prep your pantry

To limit outings, it can be helpful to have common cooking items in stock. Think of what you consider a staple ingredient in your household. This might be canned goods, dried goods, dairy, meat, root vegetables, and spices. What kitchen tools will help make cooking easier? Start to slowly collect what you will often need over the next few weeks and pay attention to what is on sale- you might need it in the future.

To help inspire your menu, check out our 14-day meal plan!

woman and child photo

connect with other parents

Every parent is going through a difficult time right now. Though situations may be unique, the universal truth is that there is no standard way to parent during a pandemic. One thing we can say for certain, kindness is contagious (pun intended) and empathy goes a long way. Whatever is best for your family may not work for another, but sharing experiences without judgement helps maintain a sense of community and understanding; and in a small community like ours, that matters. 

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