A Psychiatrist (and Mom of 4 Kids) Shares Her Quarantine Parenting Tips
By Michelle Flowers, MD
Parenting isn’t easy, even on an ordinary day. Like many of you, my normally jam-packed, but somewhat routine life, has been uprooted and chaos has taken hold. If you, like me, are feeling a bit disoriented, here are a few strategies that can help.
1. Cut yourself (and your kids) some slack.
Unrealistic expectations are the enemy of a peaceful life. Now is a time to seriously evaluate what you can let go. I know your neighbor is posting on social media about how they’re getting organized or getting into the best shape of their lives thanks to “quarantraining.” But you need to remember that the “just-right” thing for your neighbor isn’t necessarily the just-right thing for you. Make a list of the expectations you have for yourself and your children then get rid of at least half of them. Leave space for peace by keeping only the essentials.
2. Speaking of social media, limit it.
Although social media can be an excellent way to stay connected to friends and family, it can also cause suffering. Switching your attention back and forth creates stress in your brain. Decide on a reasonable amount of time (probably less than what your screentime app currently shows) and then schedule it into your day. Turning off notifications or keeping your phone in another room while you are working or spending time with your family helps create healthy boundaries. For more on this subject, check out the ScreenAgers movie or the Center for Humane Technology.
3. Connect with nature.
Even during uncertain times, you can still be certain of a few things. The steadiness of the Earth beneath your feet is one of them. The oxygen in the air you breathe is another. Make time to get outside and give nature a chance to support and energize you.
4. Speaking of breathing, keep doing it.
It may sound simple, but you need to keep breathing. You might be holding your breath without even knowing it’s happening. Take a moment to stop and become aware of your breathing. Breathe deeply and with a sense of wonder and gratitude. Notice the difference in how you feel when you inhale and exhale slowly. Link up this practice to something you already do multiple times a day, such as making a phone call, writing an email, or walking through a doorway. This will set a reminder in your brain to check in and take a relaxing breath.
5. Choose your emotions.
There will be times when your emotions choose you, but you can empower yourself by deciding how you would like to feel and then taking steps to make it happen. Gratitude is one of my favorite emotions and often an excellent place to start. Make time in your day to consider at least one thing you are genuinely grateful for. Think about it in great detail and try to recreate a sense of gratitude that fills your entire body. Like most things, you’ll get better if you practice. (Watch this short video I made to learn the secret to get a bigger mood boost from your gratitude practice.)
6. Relieve stress as a family.
Find family-friendly ways to relieve stress and anxiety. Blowing bubbles can easily become a fun way to teach kids how to breathe away the worry and anxious thoughts. Mind-jars can help introduce children and adults alike to the power of meditation. (Watch this video I made with two of my daughters to learn how to make a mind-jar.) Zen-doodling and coloring mandalas while listening to soothing music can become part of a nightly routine that will also prepare brains for more restful sleep.
7. Ask for help.
It’s okay to reach out to friends and family and let them know if you’re struggling. The staff at Amen Clinics will continue to be available. (Find out more about our mental telehealth and video therapy services or reach out to us at the number below.) If you’re feeling overwhelmed, please call 1-800-4-A-CHILD or visit Childhelp.
I am grateful to be on this journey with all of you and look forward to hearing more about what you’re doing to grow even more resilient during this challenging time. Share your quarantine parenting tips in the comments section, and let’s all get through this together!
About the Author: Michelle Flowers, MD, Amen Clinics Chicago
Dr. Michelle Flowers is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Dr. Flowers is passionate about helping people enhance the meaning of their lives. She works with you to identify your unique talents and direct your purpose. “Wellness comes from cultivating curiosity, seeing opportunities in challenges, practicing gratitude, and delighting in simple joys,” according to Dr. Flowers. “Listening to the deep wisdom that resonates within and around us allows us to move past fear and discover our power.” Dr. Flowers integrates modern and traditional practices. Her eclectic approach is inspired by Rogerian person-centered techniques and grounded in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). She is also a certified hypnotherapist and has specialized training in aromatherapy. She customizes her approach to enhance your emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual health. She is committed to your pursuit of meaningful, realistic, and honest evolution.
Find out more about Amen Clinics, which offers comprehensive clinical evaluations and remote therapy sessions as well as in-clinic brain scanning, by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.