How Parents Can Manage Their Mental Health During Quarantine
Now more than ever, taking care of your mental health as a parent is crucial.
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She encourages parents to try to take some pressure off themselves—every part of every day does not have to be perfect, and it’s okay to just do what you can. It’s okay to throw in a few hot dogs for dinner one night. It’s okay to not have the kids’ homework done on time one night. Letting go of that pressure while continuing with your treatment plan is the first step toward feeling a little better.
For parents who are vulnerable to feeling isolated and down, use the resources you already have, and reach out to others.
If you’ve lost your job, or have a child with special needs who needs extra support, or are worried for your elderly parents’ health, you might be more prone to feeling anxious, depressed, or hopeless.
“I think the first thing to recognize is that there’s going to be good days, there’s going to be bad, there’s moments where you’re going to see the silver lining. You have to be willing to do that dance,” Dr. Morison says.
And when you’re doing the dance, she adds, remember that you know more than you think you do if you need to support your child with special needs. You’ve likely picked up knowledge from watching occupational or physical therapy sessions that are hard to do over Zoom—use that knowledge to get creative and help keep your child on track with therapies. It won’t be the same at home as it would be with your child’s therapist, but it doesn’t have to be. Figure out a way to keep his progress moving forward.
For parents in other situations, Dr. Morison says, avoid isolation as much as possible. “In our county, suicide has gone up 40 percent in the last two weeks,” she says. “If you’re living alone or you’re living in a pressure cooker, make sure that you are reaching out to someone to stay connected.” And commiserating is important, but be careful to balance your influences, as only taking to people who are equally as distressed could speed up the spiral.
Dr. Hafeez advocates for parents to get outside now that it’s getting warmer, whether that’s into the backyard, balcony, rooftop, or street. Steal happy moments like a sunny day, a family game night or a date night at home. And most importantly, try to carve out time to take care of your mental health. Connecting with a good telehealth mental health provider can be tricky especially because of insurance, but the governor’s office has 14,000 volunteer mental health professionals on call right now, Hafeez says. Talking with one is a way to get around going through insurance. Dr. Morison encourages parents to go through their primary physician to get a mental health provider referral, a person you can see in-person eventually. “Start with your primary care provider because they trust the people they’re recommending, and therapy is based in trust,” she says. “You don’t want to just search the Yellow Pages.”
Try to remember the little reasons to be happy.
This is an exceedingly difficult time to maintain mental health—but finding a little happiness in your day-to-day is possible, Dr. Hafeez says. Take stock of your reasons to feel grateful.
“The little things and moments are important,” she says. “As devastating as everything else is around us, there is something incredibly beautiful about getting to spend this much time in close quarters around your children and your loved ones.”
New York recognizes people are more prone to feeling depressed and anxious right now and has set up resources for anyone seeking emotional support. The New York emotional support helpline can be reached at 1-844-863-9314. The 24/7 support line open to frontline workers, which the state created in partnership with the Kate Spade New York Foundation and Crisis Text Line, can be reached by texting NYFRONTLINE to 741-741, and New York insurance providers have been directed to waive all copays for mental health services for frontline workers. You can head to the Headspace website for further support as well. Do not be afraid to reach out and talk to someone at any time. Your mental health—wherever it's at right now—matters.