Expert: communication is key to pandemic parenting

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More than seven months after lockdowns first went into effect, many people are feeling the effects on their mental health.

“We’re almost in sort of a third season of, ‘how long is this going to go on?’ And people are just really hitting the wall,” said Katherine Reynolds Lewis, parenting and mental health expert and author of the award-winning book, “The Good News About Bad Behavior.”

“Many of us have a low level depression,” she said, which can come out through a short temper, irritability or a feeling of being emotionally on the edge.

Lewis says with all members of the family under increasing stress, open communication is key to keeping the family unit strong and supportive.

She advises parents and children alike to share how they are feeling with one another and talk through it in a way that provides grace and understanding.

And parents may be surprised at what their children can handle, whether it is helping out with chores or communicating their own needs.

“I am a huge fan and advocate of the family meeting, of working collaboratively with kids to put it all on the table and ask for their support and help,” she said. “Whenever we can frame something in a positive way where we’re engaging in calling on them, kids want to step up, they want to belong, they want to contribute in the family. All of us right now really need that sense of purpose that has been missing for so many people, and kids need that too.”

And with families spending so much more time at home, the lines between school, work and recreation can blur.

“Some of these days are just long drudges through the day, through the schedule,” she said, which is why families should set clear schedules, or at least intentionally set aside a few minutes to be together and do something to relieve stress and enjoy themselves. “Find pockets of joy.”

Even a short break with no screens can be enough of a reward to get you through harder parts of the day and rejuvenate your family bonds.