Sanity Savers for Single Parents during COVID-19

If this is your first ever global pandemic as a parent, raise your hand. 2020 presented unique challenges and a grueling marathon for parents everywhere – but especially those who don’t have a second adult in the family to help.

Whether it is from divorce or death, nearly a quarter of the nation’s children under the age of 18 live in a single-parent home, according to recent figures from Pew Research Center. The relentless demands of COVID-19 on work, school, day care and family have proven especially daunting for these households.

“Single parents need to recognize how their best efforts will look different this year,” said Jonathan Ponser, LCPC, NCC, manager of child and family therapy with Memorial Behavioral Health (MBH). “This is not the time to pressure yourself about what is or isn’t happening in your child’s life. We are all in survival mode, and grace is an important tool to help maintain sanity.”

Here are some practical tools that may provide some relief.

  • Be candid with children about work/school/life balance. The economy is particularly difficult for single-parent households. COVID-19 has led to the unusual situation of everyone being home at the same time trying to accomplish tasks online. Create fun “Do Not Disturb” signs for all of you to use. Tell your kids you will refrain from asking them to do chores when they have their “Do Not Disturb” sign up during the school day. Ask them to respect your quiet time when your sign is up.
  • Utilize your resources. If your young child needs basic supervision during virtual school, hire a neighborhood teenager to help provide technical assistance. Local libraries provide free and fun online programming for kids and adults. Pick some activities out together for them to do when you have work deadlines. Set up virtual playtime for your kids with close friends. For economic pressures, remember to check in with food banks and local churches for food and bill assistance when necessary.
  • Have realistic expectations. Recognize that online school provides a whole new set of challenges for students just like virtual work can be problematic for some grown-ups. Be generous with your praise for the little things like staying focused on a specific task as well as completing a lesson or finishing a project. Don’t use up energy to stress over your kids’ screen time. Encourage them to connect with friends and family via text or social media channels or even old-fashioned phone calls.
  • Be intentional about scheduling playtime. Use playtime together to rekindle a more lighthearted and playful dynamic with your kids. Pull out a board game, do a craft together or create an obstacle course. Children process things through play so fun activities together not only provide for positive interaction, but they can also relieve tension.
  • Embrace what works; let go of what doesn’t. There is no manual for how to survive a global pandemic. Manage expectations. Encourage your kids to recognize that activities may be scheduled but that doesn’t guarantee they will happen. Divide daily tasks into “have to do’ and “nice to do.” Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Make time for self-care even if it is only a few minutes.

Need to talk? 

As behavioral health services across the state close temporarily in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Memorial Behavioral Health provides telehealth and phone appointments with their patients. In addition, MBH has established a free and confidential emotional support hotline, available at 217-588-5509 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., to provide support to individuals who are experiencing anxiety or stress, even if they are not MBH patients.

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