Parenting lessons learned in the pandemic

Last Modified: 6/03/2021


This post was written by Julie Shearer, MA, LMHC, LCAC, MAC, employee assistance specialist, Parkview Employee Assistance Program.

With summer approaching and life “returning to normal,” hope is on the horizon. Many families are reflecting on lessons from the pandemic, and what changes they want to implement permanently in their home.  

A slower pace

Families have shared that they don’t want to return to their busy, breathless schedules. Running from soccer practice to piano lessons to play dates leaves little margin. Families have learned that they want to balance increased together time at home with ongoing social connections, without being over committed. This shift leaves space for reading together, family walks, cooking and eating together, and increased time for intentional conversations. Families are learning to say “no” to the good so that they can say “yes” to the best. Truly, if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

Increased flexibility and chilling out. Reassessing priorities

The pandemic has given many parents the flexibility that comes with remote work. In fact, most who have the option don’t want to give up the new arrangement, as it positively impacts their family life.

More lenient academic expectations can help parents breathe a little easier, and less strict expectations can be a positive for kids’ mental health as well. Emphasizing holistic health and overall development, rather than simply grades, contributes to positive self-esteem and overall well-being.

Conversations about mental health, current events and vulnerability

COVID-19 provided a platform for conversations about mental health. Some suggestions to continue intentional conversations include: 

  • A family gratitude list
  • Caregivers sharing their own fears
  • Talking to kids about current events in an age-appropriate way

Parents modeling self-compassion and teaching their kids about emotions are a great foundation for positive mental health. Family meetings are an intentional step toward this growth. Modeling prioritizing mental health to children is key. Just as we schedule eye exams, dental hygiene and check-ups with their pediatrician, a counseling check-up can be helpful for relational, emotional and mental well-being. Treating mental health just like physical health is a great family practice. Our kids need to see us giving the same care we would to loved ones, to ourselves. Vulnerability breeds vulnerability, and honesty and connectedness are core foundations for positive mental health.

Adolescents in particular have struggled with social isolation during the pandemic. Parents can take the first step in being appropriately vulnerable with their own struggles to spark conversations with their teens.

Connection with adult children through technology scattered across geography has been a blessing for many families during the pandemic. Regularly communicating through family group text chats and video meetings has increased connection.

Couples, single parents, blended families and co-parenting

Prioritizing time as a couple is an important investment for children and overall family health. Single parents and blended families need their own unique support teams.

Co-parenting as a team effort is essential for children’s mental health. Children should not be the couriers between parents. Exercise caution in handling conflict in front of children. Compromise is your friend. Consistent rules/expectations and routines between two homes is helpful for reducing children’s stress. Consider using a mediator for more complex problems.

Increased time together may mean increased sibling conflicts, and these need to be navigated with a team effort as well. Signs your child might be stressed include:

  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Isolating
  • Complaining of pain (e.g. stomach aches, headaches, etc.)
  • Behavioral changes and regression, including tantrums and other mood changes

It’s important to regularly check-in on children, encouraging conversations about stress and mental health. Keeping lines of communication open is essential.

Increasing resiliency and protective factors

Long-term studies are not yet available on the lasting impact of COVID-19 on children and families, but it has been suggested that increasing children’s resiliency and protective factors make them ready for tough times. Examples of protective factors include positive self-esteem, healthy coping skills, relationships with healthy adults and mentors outside the home, an ability to articulate feelings, interest in and a positive view of school, parental employment and positive peer relationships. Building resiliency implements a preventative strategy, rather than an avoidance approach.


Want to learn more? We are here to help you navigate challenging times. No one signed up for a pandemic. Please see below for resources and, if you have access to Parkview Employee Assistance, please call us at 260-266-8060 for help.


Common Sense Media

Mental Health America

Protective Factors and Resiliency:



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