Parenting under pressure
It can also help to have some practical tools in place. 2020 has ripped apart many of our usual routines – for example, parents might be working from home or have lost their jobs, or the children might be at home because they're not at school or at early learning and care.
Associate Professor Morawska says establishing routines wherever possible (or creating new ones) is worth the effort.
“Children benefit from routines and so do adults. A routine creates a sense of control over a situation where parents often don’t have an awful lot of control, like when the baby’s crying or upset and you can't find the reason,” she says.
Professor Morawska says children respond to routine because it helps them know what to expect, to understand boundaries and build a sense of confidence and independence. But there’s a little-discussed side benefit to routines for the adults implementing new routines this year.
“It’s particularly important in uncertain times because, in some ways, it reduces the number of decision points. You don’t have to decide ‘do I do this or this now’ because you’ve got a routine for that.
“One of the things that this year has brought is a sense of a loss of control and an anxiety and worry about, ‘What’s going to happen tomorrow?’. We have needed to think about things like, ‘Do I need to buy this now or tomorrow? Can it wait? Can I plan anything?’. In the pandemic situation there’s certainly lots of reports of people being anxious simply because of all the extra decision making we have to do around small things,” Associate Professor Morawska says.
Although 2020 has seen many families’ support networks severely limited by COVID-19, Associate Professor Morawska says the trend to live away from our family of origin has been brewing for many years.
“Finding sources of support, people you can talk to, people you can go to, somebody to babysit or look after your child for a little while is really important,” she says.
Remember, no parent is perfect
While it’s easy to aspire to ‘parenting perfection’ Associate Professor Morawska says that’s an unrealistic approach at the best of times. In fact, all parents make mistakes.
“Mistakes are unlikely to be problematic as long as it’s not a routine pattern. I think the important thing is for parents to recognise that parenting can be a challenging job at any time, and it’s much more challenging at the moment. And so in some ways, [people need] to take it easy on themselves and recognise that being a perfect parent is probably unrealistic at any time,” she says.
Help is there for those who need it.
“It’s important parents recognise that if they are experiencing a level of distress or anxiety, worry, sadness or depression that is unusual or atypical for them, or that they're finding it difficult to cope with those feelings that they do seek help and support.”