Straus News asked Carolyn Peguero Spencer, a licensed clinical social worker, to answer some of the most frequent questions she hears from mothers.
She advises that being able to find time to address your needs is a preventative service and a form of self-care. She urges people not to use these responses as a substitute to see a mental health practitioner.
“Is there something I can do to help my kid feel less stressed about the first day of school because I am really anxious as well?”
Ask the child what exactly might they be stressed about? Let them answer, whether it is it being lost in the hallways, the teacher, the class or is it the pandemic? When you can ask specific questions, you may get a clearer answer. The preciseness of the response can the make issue less overwhelming. Another possibility is the child says, “I am just scared, and I am not sure why”. As a parent, it may be difficult to deal with your child’s anxiety while trying to curb your own. This is very natural. It may be a good start to find a mutual way to calm down like using breathing exercises, EFT (tapping) or any other technique that can bring slow relief. I would also recommend monitoring the child from time to time and gauging their level of anxiety by listening to how many times they speak about the same issue if they bring it up at all. It is very natural for parents overthinking things because being a parent is hard.
“I feel super guilty, but I have no desire to help my kid with homework or with any schoolwork for that matter; I do not have the patience.”
It is completely understandable to feel guilty, after all not everyone can be a teacher. Depending on your child’s grade, it may be helpful to secure a tutor (could be a local middle school/high school kid who would like a little extra cash schedule them before your child really needs them to ease the pressure). It is a fair reminder that many rules and expectations are still changing due to the pandemic. It may be helpful to wait for the first parent teacher conference and work on a plan together on the best learning strategy for your child. Be patient with yourself and your child’s teacher, this is a new world for everyone.
“I have trouble saying no to things and I end up over scheduling myself and my child and then I am so upset and frantic.”
Overscheduling is very understandable especially if you are trying to make up for the full year of activities that never happened. If we learned anything from 2020 is what do, we value the most? Is it time, peace, community? Are you concerned that your child may be missing out making memories? All these pressures make parents overschedule and overcommit themselves. Be mindful every commitment you make adds more to your list and by adding more to your list you take away from yourself. Start to choose things that are time limited and you will be able to be home and winddown. Also be practical about overstimulating the child. As parents we want the best for our children. These wonderful experiences all do not have expiration dates. If you are feeling guilty or that you are failing as a parent, it may be easier for you to speak about these feelings than processing them with a therapist, a spiritual counselor or parents of older children instead of over scheduling yourself and your family.
“After this pandemic, I really feel bad when I want to do something alone and not be with my kids 24 hours a day, is that wrong?”
It is not healthy to spend every moment with your children. It is important to find time alone and doing things that are not related to your children. It is also important that children build some autonomy and create relationships with others. Much like being overscheduled and being consistently available these patterns may work against parents. Being able to find time to do things apart from your children allows you to reclaim parts of yourself that are not centered on parenting. Additionally, taking time away also helps remind you of the reasons why you love your family so much. Taking time can also support and maintain a positive outlook on your mental health.
Carolyn is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), Certified Professional Coach (CPC), and a certified Energy Freedom Technique (EFT) or tapping practitioner, with over 20 years of experience in the mental health field. Her clinical specialty focuses on the development and disruption of identity in womanhood, motherhood, and mental health across the lifespan. Along with being a busy mother of two older teenagers, Carolyn is also an adjunct professor at Adelphi School of Social Work and Orange County Community College respectively. Additionally, she is also a Ph.D. candidate at Fordham University School of Social Welfare researching the emotional cost of motherhood and mental health among women and more specifically women of color. Carolyn is currently only a virtual psychotherapist with a small adult-only practice.