Parenting During A Pandemic

I’ve had friends reach out about parenting during a pandemic. They assume that because I am a social worker and because I’ve got two little guys of my own, that I’ve got this handled. Truth is, I don’t. None of us do. Parenting during a pandemic is hard.  

When the country began closing down over a month ago, I had high expectations for myself, as many of you probably did. My kids are only two and three, but we had a pretty good routine going for us that included school, speech, and occupational therapy, among other things. Then the novel Coronavirus came along and wiped out our routine, leaving everyone feeling a bit out of control. I did what I could – I made lists and a schedule to ensure my kids had learning activities and therapeutic activities throughout each day. But as the weeks have gone on, our daily schedule has become looser. Rules have been relaxed. Sure, we participate in weekly Zoom visits with my son’s preschool class and telehealth visits with both of their therapists, but we aren’t doing virtual tours of museums or daily science experiments. 

At first, I felt guilty about this. Why was I not taking advantage of the multitude of free, online resources? Why was watching movies, reading books, and blowing bubbles outside all that my kids and I wanted to do? Why were my kids, who had been sleeping through the night fine, now waking a couple times each night? Why were we craving comfort foods? Why were we having more meltdowns and running low on patience?

And then I was reminded of a theory I had learned in school…

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is depicted as a pyramid, with each step representing of a type of need we have. Our physiological needs (food, water, warmth, sleep) and safety/security needs make up the two base levels of the pyramid, or our most basic needs. According to this theory, our basic needs must be met before we are able to move up the pyramid to higher level needs like the needs for feelings of belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.  In times of crisis, like our world is in now, things feel out of control for both kids and parents. We’ve lost routines, feelings of safety and connection, loved ones, and jobs. We are at the bottom of the pyramid, trying to get those basic needs met. 

More than anything, we need to feel safe and secure right now. So, try to let go of the guilt and be kind to yourself. For me, this means letting go of my usually tight schedule and allowing it to be more flexible. Extra television, extra snacks, and extra snuggles are now everyday things in my home. And that’s okay. It may look different for you and your kids. And that’s okay, too.

Beth Nakad, LCSW