Parents Need Self Care Strategies for Stress

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on March 26th, 2020 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

This is indeed a really strange time—not going to work, having the kids and even (for some) a spouse at home. How unexpected. This is not something any of us had planned on. For some, this is a great adventure in family time. For others, it may feel like a really overwhelmingly big challenge. The threat of illness and possible financial problems can keep us stressed. You are not alone in that.

In whatever frame of mind you are experiencing this time of being sheltered, remember that you are not alone. Parents all over the country and the world are adapting to this temporary hiccup in our lives. It is a little like the ice storm years ago that cut power for weeks. We were all experiencing the same thing and life was disrupted.

We will get through this with our own stories to tell and one day this will be a memory. In the meantime, one of the best ways we can cope is by practicing self-care. 

What is self-care? Basically, it means taking time to care for our own needs. The result of doing this is that we will have more energy for the tough jobs, like parenting. It is taking care of ourselves that gives us energy. Think of what happens when your vehicle runs out of gas. It stops; nothing works. When we humans run out of energy, we stop too. It causes us to feel moody, sad, anger easily; we may fill with anxiety. Sometimes when we do not take care of ourselves, something else stops us, like an illness, depression, and other things that sap our strength. Caring for ourselves, especially during stressful and uncertain times like this is not just a good thing, it is essential!

Here are some ideas for quality self-care. This is not just the “get a cup of tea” variety (which can be very nice), but things which may give you lasting fuel for your tank.

Remind yourself that what you are doing is important. Families isolating to protect themselves and the greater community is really important. We are in this together. Everyone is doing a little extra to keep everyone safe.  

Find people with whom you stay in contact. Share ideas for kids’ play or meal planning with a friend who is also home with kids. Check on neighbors, parents, and singles you may know. Think of it this way: reach out to one that feeds you, one that needs you, and one that makes you laugh. These brief contacts can restore your energy and spirit.

Put those kids on a schedule. Organize their day for them (this is really for you). Divide their time so they are not just on electronics (too much is not good for kids) or not driving you crazy with wrestling, fighting or bickering. Help each of your children to identify what they would like to do in each area. 

Here are some possible divisions of time:

  • Help with making and cleaning up meals and doing chores
  • School studies time or completing worksheets
  • Outside time (daily!) for the kids to burn off energy
  • Dancing or high energy playtime
  • Quiet time (puzzles, reading, napping)
  • TV/game/video time

Set boundaries on these activities and take charge.

Limit news consumption. Too much reading, watching and listening to the news can contribute to anxiety. The news cycle repeats throughout the day, so you will always get the latest when you tune in. Always remember to get your news from reliable media sources, and when possible from different viewpoints.

Practice gratitude. At the end or the beginning of each day, take stock on those things for which you are grateful. Think about each child, each supportive person in your life, and moments big and small that made life better. Look for and acknowledge those places in your life where you are truly rich. 

Lastly, remember you are not alone. We will all get through this challenge “at a distance” but together. Spring always comes, let’s be grateful for that.


Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website and click on “Referrals.”

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