Isn’t it crazy how life sometimes kicks it up a notch out of nowhere? Parenting through the pandemic has definitely been like that here.
Week Nine went like this…
Two weeks ago we were coasting along doing Tickety Boo, a phrase I once found charming and a favourite of my now deceased mother-in-law. But cute phrases aside, I was all set to write the WE ARE ROCKING Pandemic Life post. I was even contemplating having the T-Shirts custom made (not really), when out of the blue everyone broke.
Week Nine of Pandemic Parenting
It’s like: Oh Hey Paula, you thought you were doing great? PSYCH. Then along comes life to give you a little smack down for getting cocky. Oh, sure you find your footing and everyone is doing their online schooling and engaging, sharing their concerns and emotions, doing their walks or taking a swim and doing free yoga on Youtube to stay on top of physical health and then BLAM.
I have been reading and writing and sharing many posts here about parenting through the pandemic. In fact, I have written a bunch of content about the topic for CBC Parenting as well. Making the most of it. Verbally high fiving myself, but also let’s be honest I know bloody well that there’s no secret sauce to this chaotic unwelcome territory.
Coasting Along Tickety Boo
Anyways, we were all doing well, hitting the groove. One child still sets her alarm every morning for 8 am, just so that she can maintain some semblance of normalcy and routine. That is extremely important to her because she is 18 and she has anxiety disorder. Having no schedule and no routine is worse for her than waking early. So, she was doing okay with respect to maintaining her schedule.
My youngest was also coping with all the loss, the switch to online school, virtual therapy, and mask wearing and managing to stay socially distant. I had literally praised them both one night to say – I appreciate how you guys are both trying to follow the guidelines for social distancing.
Then, of course, they both had mental health meltdowns.
Oh, they didn’t break the rules.
It’s hard not to get sucked into that vortex of sadness, depression and anxiety. Teen angst is bad enough during the usual high school years. But now toss in a pandemic and anxiety about making money, or whether parents will be able to keep their jobs, or when you will ever be able to attend school, stay healthy, etc.
All of that is too much weighing down teenage shoulders.
There have been many moments during the pandemic when I have looked up from my screen (on days when I am motivated to be able to actually write, or pitch, or share content) and been dead drained and overwhelmed and so sad that I have hidden in the bathroom to cry. I get it. It’s overwhelming right now.
It is flat out depressing.
Emotions are bigger and sad and we are raw.
Kids with mental health issues are already struggling. I have in fact written previously about my youngest and her struggles with explosive behaviour and FASD, impulse control and mood regulation as well as emotions. She has typically viewed almost everything as anger and that spews out in volcanic eruptions.
My oldest daughter starts university in September, but I know she clearly is concerned about what that looks like and even whether it actually proceeds. It will, and she will attend. We have accepted entrance to a university here in our city. But, sometimes no amount of assurances from Mom or Dad are enough to tip the anxiety scales towards balanced.
Anxiety is in fact the rule for many households right now.
Teens are constantly on their phones and doom scrolling is a thing they do, just as adults do lately. Even as I remind them to step away from the news feeds that declare more and more deaths and lockdowns and worry over a second wave, it often goes in one ear and out the other.
Of course, in addition to all of that there was the online school piece. This was the week – week nine – when the school started to question the amount of time the kids were NOT spending online.
Assignments were missed largely because one of my kids was acting as if she was completely depressed by life, period. So, no school was being done and her science course was in jeopardy. My other girl was completely anxious, so we were just trying to keep sane. Academic stuff is never as important as mental health.
My main priority, of course, was not online school. So, when the doctors and therapists called I voiced my concerns and asked them to help.
So How am I Proceeding?
First and foremost, I communicated this to the school.
I called the school and advised them that it would be helpful if the teachers could do individual check ins with my youngest daughter to help motivate her.
Yes, I know this is high school, but she was acting depressed and I needed her to keep going. So I started circling the wagons and getting them involved.
Two or three of her daily course teachers did a great job checking in by phone once a week. The final teacher was a complete dud, however. Thankfully, we will probably not ever have her again.
Frankly, I am grateful that the administration and support staff as well as social workers at the school, will give support and listen to parents when they voice concerns. Happily, they reacted quickly. Was it perfect? No, but it was enough on some days to keep her from completely disengaging.
Well, if you know me at all, then you are fully aware that writing is my therapy. I share content here and on CBC Parents when the going gets tough and that’s often, actually.
Hunt Down More Mental Health Supports
Speaking of therapy, I tried many times over to access a free provincial mental health resource for myself and that was a fail. I’ll try to access something else. The app in question was not working for me no matter how many times I changed the password etc. It kept prompting me for money, which is not forthcoming during a pandemic.
Also, I have asked that both of my teens locate or source something virtually that works for them. One has used Kids Help Phone and I am fine with that. The other has weekly calls with a therapist in town.
Right now, while parenting through the pandemic I am still trying to find those tiny little beacons of hope to offer them up like so many balloons to my children.
Even though they are teens, they are not able to find optimism on their own many days. So, keeping us afloat is very much a day at a time and even occasionally hour by hour. That is just how it is right now.
My Support Systems
I am of course reaching out to my circle of friends, many of whom have kids with special needs and can relate to some of what I am feeling. Occasionally, I see examples of hope on the horizon. Covid-19 cases starting to decline in Ontario. A few countries like Italy and China flattening the curve. For now, that tiny glimmer has got to be enough.
How Are You Doing?
Occasionally I think holy smokes if this continues in the fall with NO in person classes, we are screwed. But again, one day at a time right now. I’m genuinely hopeful that we make true progress by then, mentally, physically and scientifically.
So, how are you coping this week?