Motherhood

Healthy Coping Strategies During Stressful Times

I am proud to be a responsibility.org ambassador this year. While I am being compensated to write this post, all opinions are completely my own.

Life as we know it has been turned upside down. Our normal structure and routine flew out the window about a month ago, and in its place has come endless uncertainty. Besides taking a walk or playing in our yards, we are restricted to our homes with no end in sight.

To sum it up, life feels stressful right now. Being a parent during this time is especially stressful. Whether you work outside of the home, work from home, or are just doing your best to cook, clean, “homeschool” and keep your kids happy inside the homes, it is HARD. 

This constant stress can lead many to alcohol as a coping mechanism to release tension. Our kids are closer than ever to our habits during this pandemic. I have teamed up with responsibility.org to support parents in talking to your kids about alcohol and responsibility. This post will offer tips on how to model positive coping strategies. 

Parenting during COVID-19 is hard

Healthy Coping Strategies During Stressful Times

I love my children with my whole heart and I enjoy spending quality time with them. At the same time, I’ll be the first to admit that having children home all day everyday is not easy. We are all wearing so many different hats all. day. long. 

If parenting during this pandemic feels hard to you, you aren’t alone and you shouldn’t feel ashamed. We’re all human and we parents need a break. It’s how we cope during this time that matters.

During days of stress and overwhelm, we have to remember that we are our children’s leading influence.

Even when we don’t realize it, our children are always watching us. They are observers by nature and they are constantly scanning their environment to understand the world. What does this mean for us? It means that we hold an extreme amount of power in shaping what habits our children will pick up, both the good and bad. 

Healthy Coping Strategies: Do’s and Dont’s

I make a conscious effort to never judge another mom’s parenting style. I believe what works for one family doesn’t work for another, and we all have our own battles that we are fighting. However, I also believe that with earning the title of mom or dad comes great responsibility. In other words, our decisions matter for the sake of our children. Below are some behaviors we can adopt to help ourselves and our children right now. 

Do:

  • Project calm and confidence 
  • Be careful of what your kids overhear in your conversations with other adults.
  • Create some sort of routine so kids can have a sense of predictability. 
  • Reassure your kids that things will go back to normal while also being honest that you don’t know when that will happen.
  • When they have questions, give your kids clear age-appropriate answers.
  • Allow each member of the family to choose things to do during their day, so they have a sense of control when so many other things seem out of their control.
  • Allow your kids to feel and talk about their negative feelings. Help younger children to give names to these feelings and propose coping strategies. 
  • Take time for adequate self-care so you can show up for your kids every day. They need that consistency. 

Don’t: 

  • Joke about the seriousness of this situation. I’m sure we’ve all used the term “apocalypse” to describe our current reality, but try to avoid it. 
  • Make any promises or give reassurance for things that are out of your control
  • Model negative or maladaptive coping strategies as you manage your own emotional reaction to this global crisis. 
  • Work yourself so hard that you aren’t getting enough sleep

Using Alcohol as a coping strategy 

Enjoying a glass of wine is not a cause for alarm. We are adults and we don’t need permission to have an alcoholic beverage, so long as we are consuming it responsibly. It’s the popular language and the “mommy needs wine” culture that is the problem. 

When our children hear us say that we need wine, this suggests that wine is our coping strategy. We’ve all seen the memes of the stressed-out mom finally feeling calm when she gets her extra large glass of wine. While the intention is to be humorous, they are hinting at messages of addiction and blaming children for our exhaustion. 

What we really mean to say is that we want a glass of wine because it’s something we enjoy and it relaxes us. Wanting a glass of wine while social distancing from friends and family is much different than needing a glass of wine at 3:00 pm every day. This view can be compared to other enjoyable and tension-releasing activities such as exercising, reading, or knitting. Our language matters and our kids are listening to every single word.  

Practicing and teaching alcohol responsibility

Healthy Coping Strategies During Stressful Times

April is alcohol responsibility month. Since we are spending lots of time at home with our kids, it’s the perfect time to talk to them about alcohol. Here is an interesting fact that I learned from responsibility.org: 

Parents are the leading influence on a child’s decision to drink- or not drink- alcohol. Also, when conversations about alcohol between parents and kids go up, underage drinking goes down-conversations work!

Underage drinking is a massive problem in our culture, and the earlier we begin to talk to our children about it, the better. Authentic conversations truly do make a difference. More than likely, your child will appreciate you for being honest and open with them about these issues.

Choosing a responsible coping strategy 

I get it- we all need a coping strategy. We need something that safely allows us to quiet our minds and refresh our bodies. I have learned over the years to be extremely mindful about being kind to myself and giving my body and mind the rest they deserve. 

My #1 coping strategy is getting enough sleep. I’m selfless about many things but not with sleep. When I feel tired, I make sure to get the rest my body needs, even if it means sleeping in on a Saturday morning while my husband takes care of the kids. 

Unfortunately having a baby means I don’t regularly get the sleep I need but I make sure I catch up on sleep whenever I can. When I’m well rested, I’m happier, less stressed and more patient with my family. I’m more productive during the day and can handle more stressful situations with ease.

These are some other practical ways that I cope with my stress, overwhelm, and exhaustion.

five-minute journal

  • Getting enough sleep 
  • Doing Yoga 
  • Going for a walk alone
  • Reading a book
  • Journaling even for 5 minutes
  • Taking a hot bath 
  • Meditating   

We are responsible for our children

I encourage you to join me in spreading these messages during Alcohol Responsibility Month to showcase positive role modeling with respect to alcohol and the language we choose to use around managing our stress. 

For more tips, check out responsbility.org. They are a national not-for-profit working to inspire a lifetime of responsible alcohol choices. Their site covers a range of topics from how to be a positive role model to helping kids navigate friendships. You’ll find valuable information for parents with kids at young as 6-9 years old all the way through college. If you have children in the 9-13 age range, you may also want to check out responsibility.org’s underage drinking prevention program called Ask, Listen, Learn.

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