Parents are trying hard to do it all. Homeschooling kids, entertaining little ones, working from home, and trying to keep everyone on schedule creates a lot of stress and anxiety. It’s a difficult job under ordinary conditions let alone during an uncertain and frightening pandemic. Parents may forget to take care of themselves, only to find themselves feeling overwhelmed, burned-out, and depressed.
If you find yourself feeling angry during this pandemic, you’re not alone. There is no shame in being angry; anger is an honest emotion often caused by feeling powerlessness, denied, or ignored. When anger isn’t dealt with, it turns into rage that can explode over seemingly minor provocations. When your children are quarantined with you, they can become targets of your unmanaged anger and stress.
How do you manage your feelings of anger, uncertainty, and stress?
1. Recognize and remember that you have needs, too. When you feel angry, it’s often because you put yourself last and didn’t take care of what you needed to do for you. You may have forgotten to eat breakfast, or you may just need time for a shower. Learning to identify what you need and then being able to give yourself permission to do that for yourself helps minimize feeling neglected or resentful.
2. Know your triggers and have a list of things you can use to immediately calm down. When you become a parent, you don’t disown the child you were inside. The feeling of anger acts as a stop sign to remind us of what hurts us. If you felt unheard or neglected as a child, you may become angrier when your children are talking loud over you or demanding their way. When that happens, talk openly to your children and tell them you are angry. Have your list of healthy coping skills and engage in those. You’ll be modeling healthy ways of dealing with anger and gaining control over lashing out. Examples may include taking a time out, splashing cold water on your face, focusing on your breathing, or humming a favorite song.
3. Use play/humor whenever possible. Everyone copes better when life is predicable but during uncertain times, routines become more important. When playtime or humor is used during ordinary routines, feelings of anger are minimized. An example of this would be playing funny songs during morning chores. For older children, setting a time when no screens are allowed and engaging in a family game night ritual helps kids feel more secure.
4. Reparenting your angry feelings. Becoming a parent, doesn’t mean you no longer need to be “mothered.” Talk to trusted friends or professionals who encourage and nurture you. You deserve to feel that you matter and that your feelings are valid, and your children’s emotional health depends on you feeling that you are worthy and cared for.
5. Keeping a journal during the pandemic can help you deal with stress and emotional upheaval. Feeling angrier and out of control could be signs of depression. Talking to your doctor and a mental health professional can help you distinguish exact causes and determine the best treatment for you.
Uncertainty is scary and the additional concerns parents feel can leave them feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and angry at their lack of control. Learning to manage anger is an important part of being emotionally mature. Allowing your children to feel and talk about their anger and giving yourself space to talk with your children about your angry feelings helps you to manage your anger so it won’t manage you.