Keeping Your Cool With Kids

There are many ways to relax and have fun

By Barbara Pierce

Balancing the demands of motherhood has never been easy. Now, with Covid-19 forcing many women to be an employee, parent and teacher all at once, many mothers are having a hard time keeping it all together.

“This time is so much more stressful to be a parent. Though it’s always stressful to be a parent, these days you need to be a multi-tasking maniac!” said Katie Drake, mother from Little Falls, contributing writer for My Little Falls newspaper. “If you’re lucky enough to work, you have that stress, plus the stress of caring for your kids. If you’re not working, you have a different level of stress.”

Drake’s management position in advertising for a large company was eliminated.

“Sometimes, to take a moment for yourself is really hard,” said Drake, mother of Nolan, who just celebrated his first birthday.

“In order to keep your patience and hold it together, you have to give yourself time. Take time to sip a fresh cup of coffee. Or, step outside to get a breath of fresh air,” she suggested.

Take a time out. Walk away for a few minutes. If there’s someone to watch the kids, take a nice long break.

Other simple alternatives Drake suggests for those days it’s tough to be a mom:

• Do something fun with your kids, something creative, something new. This is helpful to you as well as your kids. There are many things out there that don’t cost anything and are safe during the pandemic, like an outdoor skating rink, going for a walk together, building a snowman. Working on something creative floods your brain with dopamine, the feel-good chemical, as well as having calming effects on your brain.

• Tap into the stress-busting effect of nature. Spending time outdoors in a natural environment can reduce stress and frustration for both you and your kids. Being outside in nature reduces stress and increases the dopamine in your brain. As well as making you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical well-being.

• It’s really tempting to want to just let your kids zone out with their video games. But, if you do something together that you all would enjoy, you’re decreasing your stress as well as theirs.

• And, when your level of stress from being around your kids without a break is high, taking a “fun break” together will put you in a much better frame of mind.

Finding new experiences can be challenging, but it can be done, added Drake.

Reading to your kids, no matter their age, is another stress reliever. It helps you and your child bond, and has so many benefits for your child. Even if they can’t understand, read to them. Drake said the rhythm of the words helps kids develop language skills early.

She’s been reading to Nolan since he was an infant. Now he walks to the bookshelf, grabs a book and brings it over to ask his mom or dad to read to him. Even if it’s the same book or books over and over, it is so good for his development, she said.

If you aren’t sure what books to choose, call your local library for help and suggestions. If they are closed for COVID, they offer pick-ups.

Now is a good time to learn something new, Drake suggested. “I learned to make the perfect chocolate cake. Then I ate most of it.”

Teach your children how to create something. How to build a snowman. How to make ice cream. Let them do dishes in a big pan on the floor. Give them something to do outside the box, like taking them snowshoeing at the Utica Zoo, where they even rent out snowshoes.

With your child, learn about local history. “Google somewhere nearby like the Fort Herkimer Church. Learn the history, then make a day of it with your children — go there, walk around, see it and share what you’ve learned with your children.

Other things that help your stress as a parent: Phone a friend. Let them help you get through a tough day. They may have you laughing and feeling better in minutes.

Find joy in the small things, focus on the good things in your life, pay attention to your child’s smiles, notice how readily he laughs, share a spontaneous hug. Or remember some fun memories, share jokes and pet the family dog. Get prices of Off Leash K9 Phoenix to train your dog.

All of these things will cause the endorphins to flood your brain and bring you a state of calm and well-being.

While you don’t want your child to witness every stressful moment you experience, you don’t have to constantly suppress your emotions. It’s okay – and even healthy – for children to see their parents cope with stress every now and then. But, you want to explain why you reacted the way that you did.

Photo: Katie Drake with her son Nolan. “Though it’s always stressful to be a parent, these days you need to be a multi-tasking maniac!” the Little Falls mother says.