Keep those lines of communication with your kids open- even when it's tough!
We’re so glad you’re back! We hope you and your family continue to stay safe and healthy. As we continue to work with families during this time of quarantine and distancing, one of the common themes that continues to come up is growing feelings of isolation. As families continue to follow the COVID-19 guidelines, face-to-face interactions with others outside the home are limited, kids are not able to spend time with friends in the same ways, and many people are feeling socially isolated.
We’re in a weird time right now. It’s important for us to keep physical distance from others in order to protect our own and others’ health. But human beings are social creatures and we need connections with others in other to maintain mental, emotional, and physical health. So, in a time when we are not supposed to be around other people, how do we make sure we’re socially connected?
Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to do that. We can FaceTime or video chat with family members, particularly older family members who are at greatest health risk. A number of the places we usually gather are offering online services. For instance, if you attend religious services, your place of worship may be offering online services and other virtual opportunities for fellowship among members. If you belong to any groups or organizations, they may be holding virtual events. Local moms’ groups are a great place to connect with other moms who are going through the same struggles you are right now (e.g., How do I stay sane with my kids at home all the time and still juggle all my other roles?!!!)
Platforms like Meetup are changing their rules to allow for online events, so that could be a way to connect with people who share your interests. Not to add more to your already full plate, but online courses are available from a variety of platforms (many of them are free). Now might be a good time to take a course or a webinar, particularly if it allows for interaction with the other students.
Volunteering is a great way to feel connected to the world at large or to a specific community, even if you aren’t volunteering in person. An internet search for “virtual or online volunteering opportunities” gives a host of potential options. Organizations are often seeking volunteers to help create and edit content, send letters, or make phone calls. Many organizations do not require a long-term time commitment, and many tasks can be completed on your own schedule. You can also look for things you and your family, or you and a few friends, can volunteer to work on together (well, virtually together). Giving back to a community increases the connection you feel with other people and reminds you of how even small things have a positive impact on others. It’s even more important to have those types of reminders now.
What about social media? Social media can be a helpful way to connect to others during this time, if you use it wisely. Now is not the time to follow people who are posting things that make you feel anxious or stressed. Instead, look for content you find uplifting or calming. It’s also a good idea to limit the amount of time you spend passively taking in information on social media (e.g., scrolling or randomly reading posts). Instead, use social media to connect with people you know or to participate in discussions in the communities you have joined or that you follow.
Now is a fantastic time to reconnect with friends who you may not speak to as often as you’d like. Social support is critical for mothers in the best of times; it’s even more important now. If you have a group of friends, you can set up a virtual happy hour. Or, just call a good friend and talk for a bit. Even a short conversation can uplift your mood and reaffirms your connection to someone important in your life.
It’s important for your kids to have a social outlet, too. They need to stay connected with their peers and it’s not realistic that they depend on you for all their social interaction (or entertainment). Usually, we want to limit screen time for kids of all ages. However, right now kids do not have a lot of options for seeing their friends. So, relaxing some of the rules about screen time would be helpful. This does not mean a video game free-for-all. Allow your older kids to call or video chat with their friends. They may spend longer amounts of time on the phone because there is not another way for them to have social interaction. For younger kids, you can set up a virtual “play date” with their friends from the neighborhood or from school. Some kids are involved in activities that allow for video participation (e.g., martial arts, dance, robotics/coding club) while they are unable to attend in person. While your kids are involved in their activities, you can be involved in your own.
At this point, you might be wondering why I haven’t talked about the most obvious social connections – the ones you have with your family members who live in your home. Well, yes, those connections are important. It’s important to make sure that you and your spouse/partner are not just surviving and are making time (even just a little bit of time) to actually talk to one another and enjoy one another’s company. The same goes for time with your kids. But, after being at home together for such an extended amount of time, you may actually need a break from each other. And that's okay.
So, it’s important that you keep the social connections strong at home. However, making and maintaining connections outside your home are especially important when it feels like your world has become small and you feel socially isolated. Consider it an essential part of your own self-care. 😉
Again, we hope you that you and your family are staying healthy and safe. Keep supporting one another and connect with your loved ones. See you next week!
Get out there (virtually) and connect!
Reach out and tell us about all the ways you outsource by clicking the link or emailing us at email@example.com
Click here for a printable version of this post.
As a reminder, we have an amazing handout for families with information about COVID-19 that you may find helpful when speaking with your kids. Click here to take a look.
We’re so glad you’re back! We hope you and your family are safe and healthy. It’s hard to keep up with (let alone adjust to) all the changes happening in our communities, cities and across our country. Sarah and I have committed to creating content that will be helpful to you. We will do everything we can to continue to support you and bring you relevant content each week, especially during this global health crisis. Sarah created an amazing handout for families with information about COVID-19 that you may find helpful when speaking with your kids. Click here to take a look.
Over the last two weeks we tackled something that may have hit close to home – sharing the responsibility of raising your children and truly co-parenting, whether you and your co-parent live in the same home or not. We hope you took some time to reflect on how you feel about truly sharing the decision-making with your parenting partner. Working together is especially important as your kids are out of school and require more planning and cooperation in order to care for them.
This week, we’re lightening things up, literally and figuratively. We’re talking about how to take a load off your shoulders by outsourcing. Yep, that’s right. You don’t have to do everything yourself. There are services that exist solely to make our lives more convenient.
What?!!! Give up MORE of my roles?!!!! What are you doing to me?!!!!
Whew, maybe this topic isn’t as light as I thought. Oh well, we already dove in; we might as well keep going. Stay with me.
I hear from parents all the time about how exhausted they are and how much difficulty they have juggling all the things they have to do on a daily basis. This has become even more of an issue now that the kids are at home and you may also be working from home due to COVID-19 restrictions. Your everyday juggling act has now become the full circus!
The good news is if you’ve been following us for a while, you’ve already started working on the skills you need to manage these new challenges. We’ve talked a lot about prioritizing and letting some things go. That just became a critical skill.
Over the coming weeks, you’re going to have to put all your prioritizing skills to the test. You’re also going to get really great at practicing disappointing someone every day. If you need a refresher on these ideas, check out our blog posts from February 4 & February 18, 2020.
Right now, you have the added responsibility of being a teacher or learning coach for your kids. This is not a role you signed up for, but it’s one that has been assigned to you. If your kids are in middle or high school, they may be able to be more self-directed. So, you may have more uninterrupted time for your own work. But, kids in daycare or elementary school need a lot more supervision and guidance throughout the day, which makes it difficult to take care of your own tasks without backup and a solid plan.
So, what do you do? The first step is figuring out what daily tasks are the most important, which can be done later, and which can be left off the list entirely. Remember prioritizing?
The second is figuring out how to outsource tasks that need to be done, but that can be done by someone else. When I talk with parents about all of their daily responsibilities, most realize that they are spending a great deal of time on things that someone else could be doing (or that don’t actually need to be done at all). That is even more true right now.
You might be hesitant to even think about outsourcing right now. I understand; it’s good to be cautious. So, some of these suggestions may not work today. That’s okay. File them away for the time when you’re able to get back to your normal routine. However, outsourcing might mean sharing more daily tasks with your spouse/partner or other adults living in the home. It might involve having your kids help out more with daily chores. Outsourcing doesn’t always mean that you have to look outside your home for help. Outsourcing, in whatever way you do it, is just a way of recognizing that you are human and can’t do everything yourself.
Regardless of whether you are hesitant to outsource right now or if you’re ready to dive right in, there’s one important point to remember:
It’s okay to ask for help.
So, let’s get practical. I’m sure you already have some things you outsource. Do you ever ask someone take your kids to or from an activity (carpool anyone?)? Do you ever order food delivered to your home? Have you ever hired someone to do your taxes? Have you ever taken your clothes to a dry cleaner? All of these are ways of outsourcing. It’s just having someone else do a task so that you can free up your time to do what really matters to you.
Here are some other examples of ways you might outsource, now or in the future:
Again, we hope you that you and your family are making the choices you need to in order to stay healthy. Keep supporting one another and connect with your loved ones. See you next week!
Last week, we talked about co-parenting with your spouse/partner when you live in the same home. This week, we’re talking about co-parenting after a divorce or when parents do not live in the same home. Before we dive in, I (Lisa) want to be clear, this entire post is about co-parenting with a former partner under safe conditions. These concepts do not apply when there are real concerns about the physical and/or emotional safety of your children or of yourself.
Now that we’re all on the same page, a lot of the same ideas apply as Sarah talked about last week. You and your former partner both have a say in parenting decisions. It is important for your kids that you and their other parent are on the same page and are able to work together.
This is difficult enough for two people who are in a loving relationship and live in the same home. Co-parenting after a relationship has dissolved presents its own set of challenges. Some people are able to end a relationship on a positive note, with little or no hard feelings between them. (Yes, it’s true. Sarah and I have both worked with many of these couples and their kids). However, that is often not the case. It is common for two people who go through a divorce or end a relationship to have some negative feelings toward their former partner, particularly if there is conflict about custody arrangements, parenting, or other aspects of the split.
Think back to the questions Sarah asked you last week:
So, what happens when you and your ex are not on the same page in terms of how you parent your kids?
Yep, that’s right. Fighting and chaos, with each parent trying to “win.” When that happens, your kids lose.
When Sarah and I work with families that are having difficulty with co-parenting what we often see is that any unresolved negative feelings for each other interfere with their ability to engage in the steps necessary to work together. These parents have trouble giving each other the benefit of the doubt, trusting that they both have the children’s best interests at heart, and trusting in each other’s judgment. These difficulties have little to do with any objective measure of each other’s parenting skills. Like most human beings, these parents are having trouble separating their roles. They have a hard time moving from their intimate relationship and the negative feelings created by the decline of their relationship into more of a business partnership that is focused solely on raising their kids.
One common suggestion Sarah and I make to parents who are having a hard time working together is that they get their own individual counseling to help them manage or resolve their feelings about the end of their relationship and their former partner. Doing this makes it easier for them to collaborate.
Another helpful tool is to have a solid parenting plan that outlines each parent’s rights and responsibilities in raising their children. A good parenting plan is one both parents collaborate to create.*
Now, creating the parenting plan is one thing. Following it and truly co-parenting with your ex is another. Remember those questions from the beginning of the post? I bet when you answered them you also had a picture in your mind of each of those tasks being accomplished. Well, guess what? So does your ex. And neither of those pictures is necessarily right or wrong.
I know, right?
Just like for parents who are living together, one parent’s way of doing things is not necessarily better than the other parent’s way. What makes it more complicated for parents who do not live together is that you must fully trust the care of your child to the other parent and you have no say in what that parent does or how they do it.
Here I go again with the good news. But, it’s true. You and your ex do not get to make the rules in each other’s homes. Accepting that is an ongoing challenge, but once you do, co-parenting becomes much easier.
That is why it is so important for you and your ex-spouse/partner to be able to collaborate with one another. While the rules and routines do not need to be identical between homes, having the same general expectations for your children (e.g., behavior, activities they are allowed to join, peers they are allowed to spend time with) is critical. When expectations are similar, you and your ex are more likely to make similar parenting decisions. See how that works?
Figuring out the most effective way to communicate with one another is also critical. Some former partners are able to talk with one another in person or over the phone. Others have difficulty being in the same room with one another. True co-parenting does not require you to be friends with your ex or even to spend extended amounts of time in the same place. It’s okay if you communicate through emails or a communication tool like Talking Parents. The important thing is for you and your ex to share information and make important decisions collaboratively, whatever that looks like for you. It’s also important that your kids are not the message carriers between you and your ex. That causes confusion for your kids and forces them to “take sides.”
Ok, now for the key. The most important thing to remember is that your relationship with your former partner is not the same as your child’s relationship with your former partner. Your ex is your ex, but your ex is your child’s parent.
Your kids have to know that it is okay, and is in fact healthy, to have good relationships with both parents. In fact, decades of research have shown this to be true. Kids whose parents are able to work together collaboratively to co-parent have better outcomes than kids whose parents have a high-conflict divorce or end to their relationship.*
Two people ending a relationship is difficult enough; when children are involved, it becomes much more complicated. It is up to the adults to put the well-being of their children ahead of “winning.”
At some point, you and your former partner liked each other enough to make a baby. Whatever the status of your relationship is at this point, you still have a child to raise into a healthy, functioning adult. Keeping that in mind will help you make decisions with your child’s best interests at heart and will make it easier for you and your child’s other parent to work together.
*Resources for helping children cope with divorce:
*More information about Collaborative Divorce and parenting plans:
Reach out and tell us about your triumphs and your struggles in co-parenting with your ex-spouse/partner by clicking the link or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Click here for a printable version of this post.
Feel free to peruse our blog and see what Sarah and Lisa had to say about topics related to your needs as a busy parent. We will talk about everything from parenting values, to life hacks, to realistic self-care.