Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Parenting Stress & Anxiety During the Pandemic

August 31st, 2020 · anger management, anger management therapy, parental stress

Parenting stress and anxiety are very often high in September, but this year it’s higher than ever for many parents.

This year, as we all know, it’s not just a matter of the regular parenting stress and anxiety associated with the start of the school year, which can be quite high enough. In addition, parents are dealing with all the uncertainties and pressures from COVID-19 that schools and other institutions are seeking to address with the measures they are taking to attempt to create a safe, non-contagious environment for students and staff.

As is natural and normal for human beings, when we’re stressed and dealing with uncertainty, we seek re-assurance, and we try to look for ways to make the situation more controllable and certain. That’s exactly how many who are parenting now are responding, seeking to learn as much as they can, and arrange things as well as they can, to maximize a sense of stability and control. Yet the decisions that have to be made now, around education, social connection and maintaining health can certainly be challenging. What is more, it’s hard to see any “perfect” solutions. Many parents are feeling forced into difficult choices, trade-offs and compromises.

The Vulnerability of Parenthood–Especially Now

I have no pretensions to being any wiser than anyone else about what the right course of action is for parents who are seeking to do the best thing possible for their children. I know that many parents are weighing big choices, such as whether to send their children back to the classroom with whatever element of risk that entails, or to keep their kids at home for “virtual school” or homeschooling, with all the social, educational and occupational challenges that each choice would imply.

It can feel like there is a very great deal at stake, both for the well-being of children and the peace of mind of parents. How can parents find their way through this exceptionally demanding time, and both look after those whom they love, and simultaneously avoid being overcome by parental stress and anxiety?

At this time, many parents are deeply feeling the vulnerability inherent in being a parent. That vulnerability is always there, because, try as we might, parents can’t control all the ways in which life might impact our children negatively. We’re always trying to make our children secure, and to find paths through life that will enable them to grow as human beings and to have rich and meaningful lives. At some particular times, however, we feel the insecurity and anxiety of this more than at other times. This is particularly true in this time of pandemic, and now of needing to face choices around education in the midst of it.

Smiling Through?

The response of some people to this kind of situation is denial. They just go on as if everything is fine and seamless. They try to convey to everyone that they are motoring along, and coping without any parental stress. They especially try to convey to their children the message that there is no need to worry, and that everything is under control.

Unfortunately, however, it may become readily apparent at some point that everything is not under control, and that these kinds of decisions are hard. If we try too hard to give the sense that we’ve “got it all under control”, things have a way of showing us that they’re not. Things can backfire disastrously upon us when we don’t acknowledge the “shadow” of things, as Jungians say. And what may be in the shadow—and what we may not admit, even to ourselves—is our awareness that all is not under control, that the education options are imperfect, or even, at points, just plain wrong for the situation. And that we as parents are uncertain, scared and unable to make it all alright.

Self-Care and Meaning

An important form of self-compassion is involved in admitting to ourselves that we can’t possibly control all the variables in this situation to guarantee that things will turn out perfectly. This doesn’t make us bad parents. It makes us human parents who are dealing with the complexity and uncertainty of a rapidly changing world.

It’s a matter of key importance that we don’t hide this human and vulnerable side of ourselves from our children, as we confront the major life transition of kids returning to school in the midst of the pandemic. While it may not be appropriate to make them party to all of our doubts and fears, it is essential that children get the message that we don’t know it all when it comes to making the choices around going back to school, that we love them, and we’re striving to do our very best to make wise choices.

Given the significance of the choices involved, it’s extremely important to involve children of whatever age in the decision-making process to at least some degree, so that they feel certain that their needs and wants are being taken seriously.

As I mentioned above, confrontation with the vulnerability we face as parents around back-to-school decisions in this pandemic time may well be part of a major life transition that we are undergoing at this time. This whole pandemic situation may well be part of a changing understanding of our place in life and our identity, and our key values and priorities that very many people are experiencing at this time.

It may be of key importance to gain the benefit of good therapy in confronting the parental and other challenges of this time. Jungian depth psychotherapy can be particularly helpful in that it is concerned with finding deep meaning in our life situations, combined with a deep level of acceptance of ourselves, in all our strengths, weaknesses and complexities.

With very best wishes for your continuing journey towards wholeness,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

PHOTOS:

Photo by Cade Renfroe on Unsplash (Creative Commons Licence)

→ No Comments