Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Keep calm and carry on: Mental wellness for the family


WE ALL thought it was going to be temporary.

Kids with school uniform tops and pajama bottoms, glued to the screens for their online classes, and harried moms working from home while juggling household chores. Yet, here we are again, welcoming another school year in the new normal.

During the recent webinar hosted by the Stella Maris Academy of Davao Alumni Batch 1996 entitled “Parenting, Family Life and Mental Wellness,” Analyn Leysa, PhD, said that the Covid-19 parent guilt is more evident for those who juggle work and home all in one place.

“Pre-pandemic, parenting has been a challenging task. But, now with the new normal, we try to fit in work demands, household management, kids' schooling, and even entertaining our kids. All these demands may exhaust the parents’ energy,” the Ateneo de Davao University Associate Professor explained.

At some point, the mental health advocate shared that parents may feel guilty when they try to fit their work activities during the day, or when their level of interest and engagement with them lowers, or just becoming too tired to spend enough quality time with the kids after doing multiple chores.

“The well-being of each family member is as important as their physical health. We need to be mindful of how each member of the family is coping with everything during the pandemic. All the anxieties, fears and worries Covid-19 has brought to each of us should be addressed and managed,” the mother-of-two underscored.

To keep the calm at home and improve the family’s mental wellness, Dr. Leysa shares the following essential tips:

Address children’s fears

Answer questions about the pandemic simply and honestly and recognize your child’s feelings.

Keep in touch with loved ones to stay connected. Also, offer extra hugs and say “I love you” more often.

Keep healthy routines

With the usual routines thrown off balance, establish new daily schedules. Break up schoolwork when possible. Older children and teens can help with schedules, but they should follow a general order, such as a wake-up and sleep time routine, meal schedule, chores, exercise, among others.

Use positive discipline

Among the ways to help manage emotions and behaviors are redirecting bad behavior; encouraging creative play; using rewards and privileges to reinforce good behavior; and implementing time-outs.

Allot a special time in

Even with everyone home together 24/7, set aside some special time with each child. Just 10 or 20 minutes of your undivided attention, even if only once every few days, will mean a lot to your child. Keep cellphones off or on silent mode so you do not get distracted.

Avoid physical punishment

Spanking, hitting, and other forms of physical or “corporal” punishment risks injury and is not effective. Physical punishment can increase aggression in children over time and fails to teach them to behave or practice self-control and can even interfere with normal brain development.

Take care of yourself

Caregivers should also take care of themselves physically: Eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep. Find ways to decompress and take breaks. If more than one parent is at home, take turns watching the children if possible.

Take a (break!) breath

In addition to reaching out to others for help, try to ask yourself: “Does the problem represent an immediate danger? How will I feel about this problem tomorrow? Is this situation permanent?”

“As Jon Kabat-Zinn stated, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” Our struggles nearly always ease with the passage of time, so appreciate all the wonderful events in your life. You’ve earned it!” Dr. Leysa fervently reminds overwhelmed parents.

Special thanks to Dr. Analyn Leysa, Emmylou Yap-Teves, Sharon Ferrer-Mangaoil, Laura Diaz-Chiong and Jasper Huang for the photos.

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