As the pandemic plods along, experts say that parents with small children are under severe psychological stress with no relief in sight. Research from the American Psychological Association concludes that American parents are feeling “significantly higher levels of stress than adults without children.” The negative mental health effects of the coronavirus “will be serious and long-lasting,” says the APA.
High stress related to the coronavirus is the “new normal” for many parents, according to Science Daily.
According to The New York Times, data from the University of Oregon shows that, in particular, parents with children under 5 are the most stressed. Similarly, another study from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education found that 61% of Massachusetts parents with youngsters aged 5, 6 and 7 years of age said they felt “nervous, anxious, or on edge” because of the pandemic. Most parents said they had high levels of overall stress and anxiety.
“This is a chronic destabilizing force to our lives, and to families and parents and children,” said Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in women’s mental health issues. “We need to be treating this as a mental health crisis, and one that does not have an end we can see.”
Experts told the Times that parents need to address their current needs and practice self-care in ways that are accessible today. Traditional coping mechanisms such as gym classes or one-on-one therapy may not be practical in a COVID-19 dominated world, so taking short breaks during the day may help ease anxiety in a practical manner.
Lucy Rimalower, a Los Angeles-based family therapist, told the Times that a 5-minute yoga break on YouTube or a short text session with friends can often diffuse stress. Lakshmin says she encourages her patients to find new pandemic-friendly ways to connect with their children, such as early morning bike rides or little activities to break up the day.
“I set up an at-home nail salon for my girls last weekend and it was so intimate and fun for all three of us,” she said, according to the Times.
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