May 19, 2020

The COVID-19 Parenting Juggle: home schooling, alcohol, and stress management

Young children watch father pack dishwasher
Parents have had a lot to deal with recently.

The pressures of adjusting to disrupted routines, managing increased stress and boredom, and making sure schooling doesn’t fall behind has seen the phrase, “I need a drink,” start trending.

While practicing healthier coping strategies may feel especially hard during this crisis, how we role model stress relief is important in shaping the next generation’s future behaviours.

Teaching by example

Parents are a child’s first role models, and young people pick up on their behaviour - including how they handle stressful situations.

This learning through observing can cut both ways depending on whether they’re watching healthy or unhealthy coping mechanisms.

The positive spin on COVID-19 is that you can use it as an opportunity to help your children develop healthy and successful stress management skills. These strategies and positive habits learned now, can help them navigate other challenging periods in the future.

If you think you’ve been role modelling unhealthy behaviours lately, make sure you’re kind to yourself - we’re only human and we have never experienced a situation like this in our lifetime before.

And, remember, there are healthy approaches you can try now that can benefit both you and your kids.

Role modelling if you drink alcohol

If you chose to drink alcohol, you can role model lower-risk behaviours. You might consider:

  • avoiding saying you ‘need’ or ‘deserve’ a drink (even if you’re thinking it!)
  • drinking alcohol within the lower-risk consumption guidelines
  • showing that you don’t always need alcohol to wind down, have fun, or (virtually) socialise
  • building some alcohol-free days into your week
  • talking to your kids about alcohol.

You may also like to consider talking about alcohol advertisements, ‘wine o’clock’ memes and other ‘COVID-coping’ videos everyone seems to be exposed to online right now – including our kids.

Thinking critically and discussing what your children have seen can help them unpack the different purposes of that content. This could be content that encourages the stock piling of alcohol, or messages seeking to shape people’s opinions and attitudes about alcohol consumption

Healthy stress management and resilience

Role modelling positive stress-management and resilience behaviours, and helping your child to practice healthy ones too, can set them up with a good toolkit for practicing self-care, such as:

  • Keeping routine and structure in your days, such as regular bedtimes, mealtimes, and getting dressed for the day.
  • Setting time aside for fun and relaxation – how about a hobby that you and your kids might enjoy together?
  • Encouraging your kids to talk about how they feel, especially when they’re angry, sad, or scared.
  • Working together on healthy ways to manage stress like exercising, listening to music or watching a funny or relaxing video, or using other coping strategies like breathing techniques.
  • Making the effort to stay connected with family and friends.

You may also want to talk about - and practice - being kind to yourselves and each other.

Remember, we all have bad days and make mistakes sometimes.

Managing coronavirus concerns

Young people, just like adults, will be sensitive to the climate of increased uncertainty, and frustrated by restrictions and disrupted routines.

Some kids might also feel worried about their family getting sick and be alarmed by what they’re seeing and hearing through other people and the news.

Talking to your children can help, and there are excellent online resources to support parents and young people.

The Raising Children Network provides specific advice on how to handle potentially distressing media coverage for young children, school aged children, and teenagers.

Kids Helpline also provides a range of great information to help support your children, including coronavirus-specific tips for anxiety, missing their friends, and worrying about health.

It may feel hard now but the coronavirus restrictions will pass, and these healthy skills and coping strategies will stay with your kids for life.

Need support?

Parentline Victoria

13 22 89
Support for parents, 8am to midnight 7 days a week.

National Alcohol and Other Drug hotline

1800 250 015

Get help for alcohol and other drug issues.

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