Updated: Mar 2
It was just a few weeks ago that I received an automated text from our insurance company offering us $100 in rewards if we registered our daughter to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. A text that left me with overwhelming feelings of discomfort, irritability, and an overall sense of “pandemic fatigue”. “Pandemic fatigue” is often described as a type of burnout that has occurred because of the pandemic that has left many individuals feeling emotionally exhausted. We’ve all observed the many ways that COVID-19 has affected others. From legal mandates causing political rifts and debates to surges in unemployment and losing countless lives, this pandemic has caused a multitude of issues for many people. While we are doing our best to take life day-by-day given such unfortunate circumstances, many of us are looking forward to rebuilding and experiencing brighter days. As I reflect on the effects of this pandemic, I want us to also be conscious of our kids and the impact that COVID-19 had on them. Often, as adults, it is so easy to get sucked in by the day-to-day routine and stressors of adulthood. For parents, in particular, it's challenging to find balance and a solid ground for ourselves in addition to raising these special little human beings. As tough as it is raising children, we should also understand that they are facing their moments of confusion and conflict as well. Especially because of the many changes this pandemic has brought about in our households. I’m here to share my personal observations and things that I’ve learned to be cognizant of while parenting my babies during this pandemic.
For my six-year-old daughter specifically, variations in her routine affect her moods and behavior. I’m sure many other parents (and children) can relate to these circumstances. The pandemic has interfered with the education and school life of many children, with constant shifts in their schedules and back and forth between in-person and remote learning. I would watch my daughter try her hardest to adjust to all the changes, changes that she generally pondered herself. “Why can’t I see my friends, Mom?”, “When will I go back to school?”- questions I’ve had to answer frequently and often without a clear-cut response. She continued to excel but would typically lose focus while studying remotely, which triggers feelings of anxiety for her. It got to a point where anytime she faced a technical issue with her school laptop, she would panic and cry. I would rush to assist her with the tech issue and then return to my other household duties. “See baby, it’s fixed now,” I would tell her, but those words were never enough. Breathing exercises would be the next step, a tool that my husband and I regularly refer to when our baby girl is feeling overwhelmed. These exercises would be helpful, but as time passed by, I realized there was something more. I furthermore learned the importance of communicating with our children and getting them into the habit of feeling comfortable to express their emotions. At the surface, it would seem as if it was just a matter of playing around with the connection or maybe an issue with her mouse pad, but she was frustrated with all the changes and disruptions that the pandemic caused. Much like us adults.
I realized that in those moments and after school that it would be appropriate and helpful to simply ask her about her feelings, much like I would a colleague or friend my age. Through these conversations, I understood that regardless of age, those sentiments of despair and uncertainty hit us all. My daughter was worried about her family and our safety, just like everybody else. She missed spending time with loved ones and visiting her favorite museums or restaurants, just like everybody else. Her friends at school are who she missed the most. The desire to engage in social settings continued to increase for her as time went by, and each time we took a few steps forward because of re-openings, we ended up taking steps backward, feeling as if we were at square one all over again. Those instances tampered with her feelings of hope for returning to a “new normal” and as her parent, I had to help her process that. I even recall times when we may have traveled on public transportation and come across individuals who were unmasked or refraining from social distancing. A scenario that often left my baby worried and curious. She would ask us,“ Why aren’t they wearing their masks?” to which we can never truly explain.
Although we didn’t always have the answers and still have no clear sign of when this will all end, I want to remind parents that our emotions are valid, and we have to be patient with ourselves but in doing so, we must also remain patient and understanding of our children and all of their emotions surrounding this pandemic as well. If there’s one thing the pandemic has reinforced for me, it’s the love and support of my family, and because we are blessed with the gift of these two precious little beings, I find solace in their presence.