I can only imagine how pandemic parenting has brought in not-so-healthy coping mechanisms among parents. They are stressed, and they are not only afraid of catching the virus and bringing it to those that are vulnerable, but they are stuck at home with their kids. They are struggling financially if they were let go or furloughed which many were, or even if they were fortunate to have their jobs, they are struggling to work from home while managing their kids and other household duties.
The parents that have to work outside of the home because they are essential workers quite often will need to send their kids to school if the other parent also has to work outside of the home. There is the added worry there that their kids will catch the virus from school which will mean they will bring it home. As you see, there is a lot of stress.
And quite often parents will also ruminate over traumatic events that happened during their childhood or teenage years or early adulthood. They are stuck at home, stressed, and given the opportunity to do that. Therefore, it is not a surprise that they would be at risk of drinking. And when parents are at home in front of their kids, it does not show them an example of what good coping skills entail.
However, I can understand the struggle even though my situation was not the same. When my son with complex special needs was home, I coped by eating and I became quite obese which I am sure was also contributed by increased cortisol levels. But I was burned out and couldn’t handle excess stress. These parents are now facing the same thing in a different setting. They are stressed and burned out.
With that being said, some parents may not be drinking as I didn’t drink. Many of them are likely stress-eating as well. As you see, this pandemic is causing a lot of excess stress among parents in addition to unhealthy coping mechanisms which is causing them to drink (or stress-eat).
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that alcohol can be a savior. At least when used as a disinfectant. For those whose first thoughts were pertaining to alcohol’s ability to assist with management of anxiety, stress, family issues, boredom, etc., please read on.
Being a parent is different than parenting. Being a parent is noun. Parenting is a verb. There are scores of books on parenting, but very few on being a parent. This is because when faced with a problem (such as “I have this new human being and I don’t know what to do with it” or “I have this adolescent crazy person and I don’t know what to do with him/her) most people look for solutions (parenting books).
Emotions are a part of the human experience. A given emotion is not good or bad, although there are certainly ones that an individual may prefer or wish to avoid. While emotions themselves are neither healthy or unhealthy, there are certainly helpful and unhelpful ways of managing the variety of one’s emotional experiences. Healthy coping involves the engagement in behaviors that further the individual’s life goals and overall wellness. Doing so is an instrumental part of successful living.
How does one learn such skills? The most natural way is through exposure as a child. Watching a parent de-stress by going for a walk, talk about what’s going on, engage in a positive hobby, meditate, attend therapy or take prescribed medications, provides a natural education about healthy ways of coping. One can also intentionally learn helpful coping skills by reading books or articles, attending workshops, or watching videos.
Unhealthy ways of coping, can also be learned. If a parent drinks to calm their anxiety or fear, to manage their discomfort with a given situation, or to decrease their anger, this illustrates to that alcohol is a good coping skill to use when in emotional distress. While alcohol can have calming effects, one would be hard-pressed to argue that drinking furthers the individual’s overall wellness. This is because once the effects of alcohol wear off, the same anxieties, fears and concerns still remain-often with increased severity. Also, given the potential ill-effects of alcohol consumption, using it as a way to cope can result in more harm than good.