Who else is sick and tired of being sick and tired? The only consistent thing in the last two years is that there has been no consistency at all. One day the kids are in school. The next, they’re home for the rest of the week. You have to rework childcare plans and work meetings. It’s enough to make anybody’s head spin, and honestly, I’m so over being flexible.
Whether the kiddos are sick or there is a staffing shortage, the never-ending chaos of plans changing at a moment’s notice has taken its toll on students and parents alike. So I spoke with Dr. Lindsay Henderson, a clinical psychologist, and director of psychological services for Amwell, to give us a few coping strategies.
Being Flexible is the Name of the Game
How can parents cope with the frustration that comes from having to always be flexible and fluid?
“Working from home can feel disjointed. It’s hard to focus on one thing at a time, and adding kids into the mix complicates that balance even more,” Henderson said. “If you are anxious, irritable, or angry it is really unsettling and confusing. So, learning to identify the feelings and emotions you are having and name your experience is the critical first step to surviving.”
Ah yes, survival. As hard as it is for parents, it can be even more frustrating and confusing for our littles. Kiddos thrive on routine, so asking them to be flexible is a whole other chore. So, once we finally get a handle on things and some sort of semblance of balance, how can we help our kids do the same?
“One of the most important tasks as a parent, especially with young kids, is helping them understand what they are feeling,” she said. “After they understand, you can then help them feel safe in what they are experiencing, helping them put names to it, and letting them feel that. Then, take time to ask them how they are feeling about it. Are they confused, are they frustrated, are they sad? Help them put words to those feelings, no matter the age.”
Even when the feelings are hard or even negative empowering kids to hold space to feel them and not push them down is essential. Let’s be honest. Even as adults, sometimes that’s a hard thing to do.
Let’s Touch on Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance feels like a myth these days. The old sell was that if you’re flexible enough, you can have it all. Is it a myth, or are there actual steps that can be put in place to get there?
“Work-life balance can feel like a myth. But you can achieve it by starting with picking your priorities. Acknowledge your reality, understand why it might be challenging, and confirm that you have a right to feel that way,” she noted. “Then step back and think of one thing in your control that you can do. It’s essential to not feel guilty and be mindful, so you can reap the benefits of your decision.”
Henderson continued, “Similarly, be sure to set boundaries with your employer and team members. If they don’t know what you need in terms of family time and personal wellness, they can’t support you. Remote work means we are bringing our whole selves to work, which includes the expected, the unexpected, and everything that comes with being a working parent.”
There is no getting around the fact that being flexible will forever be part of life going forward. Making sure you process the feelings of frustration and agitation that come with an ever-changing schedule will help make life easier for you, and everyone around you.
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