As parents see young adults move from the “I’m home” stage to the “I’m staying home” stage, greater endurance and resilience will be needed. Knowing what to do and not do can be invaluable as this pandemic persists. This is why I have listed several blogs and articles below that can equip you to weather this unprecedented challenge. Before referencing these specific resources, let me discuss some big picture approaches that can be helpful.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
The origin of this quote is somewhat in dispute, but it is often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. The profound value and influence, particularly in the addiction world, is indisputable. It could be a mantra for every parent sequestered with children during this pandemic. Parents routinely have to decide if they can and should intervene or back off. Discernment is required to know when to lean in and when to lean out.
3 Assumptions Parents Need to Adopt
My writings all start with the following three assumptions that I believe parents of young adults need to adopt:
- I cannot control my young adult’s decisions or actions.
- I am not responsible for my young adult’s decisions and actions.
- I am responsible for my decisions and actions.
If you can act or react with these assumptions in mind, you can reduce a lot of heartburn and heartache. Once we accept these assumptions, we are in a better position to influence our young adult’s behavior because they no longer have to resist our efforts to control them. We are also free of the false belief that control is possible. Influence is always a possibility, but control is typically not. If the young adult is living at home, you can exert influence and set specific expectations that, if unmet, will mean the young adults needs to live elsewhere.
Whenever you face a decision, ask yourself – “What can I change, or is this something I need to let go?” If we decide we can’t change or control some aspect of our parenting experience, we need to practice stepping back, detaching, and accepting. Coming to this latter conclusion of our helplessness can be heartbreaking, especially if the young adult is exhibiting self-destructive behavior.
The Yerkes-Dodson Law
The Yerkes-Dodson law states that when stress and demands reach a certain critical point, coping and performance decreases.
An extension of this St. Francis mindset model is one that relates to performance and stress. According to “The Yerkes-Dodson law,” performance increases with physiological or mental arousal (stress), but only up to a point. When the level of stress or demand becomes too high, performance decreases. Here’s an adaption of the Yerkes-Dodson law that illustrates the impact of too little demand or too much.
All stress is not bad. “eustress” is described as a normal or helpful level of stress that often will fall on the left side of the curve up to the top. But, too much stress( the right side of the graph), particularly unremitting, can lead to “distress” and a breakdown in our coping. This breakdown can lead to paralyzing anxiety, depression, and burnout. For some families, children of all ages may experience the problem of under-stimulation while parents may be reeling from overstimulation. Both may feel like they want to run away.
Challenges for Parents
The challenge for us as parents is two-fold:
- First, implement ways to decrease stressors or demands. Such actions as time apart for family members, separate space to escape to in the home, avoiding situations where you might be exposed to the coronavirus are examples.
- Second, we have to increase our resiliency and capability to deal with stress.
Many of the articles below address this aspect of responding to pandemic stress because we have less ability to reduce or eliminate the threat. Finding an effective vaccine is the ultimate self-care weapon, but we have to power-up in the meantime.
“When I have a lot to do (high demand), I pray three hours a day.” -Martin Luther.
During periods of high demand and stress, Martin Luther indicated that he would increase his prayer time to three hours a day. I’m not suggesting that we all should get up and pray three hours a day to cope with the pandemic, but rather use this thinking to increase our self-care. Unfortunately, we often try to power through acute stress and neglect sleep, exercise, and proper nutrition. Such neglect makes matters worse. The stress we are experiencing at this time is chronic and hasn’t gone away, as hoped, during this summer and now looks like it could worsen in the fall and winter. As such, we need to not try to power through but power-up. I am making a commitment to increase regular exercise by taking walks either outside or on my treadmill. What can you do?
Articles & Resources
The stress of the pandemic will, at some point, dissipate. In the meantime, we have to find ways to reduce the stressors we experience and bolster our resiliency as individuals and families. We will survive and overcome this.
Other examples of increasing one’s resilience can be found in the articles below:
- Previous Articles (Blogs) related to the coronavirus
- From July/August Psychology Today
- CDC Guidance on coping
- How to help and be supportive of young adults at home during the coronavirus
- Many links and resources from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry