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Help for Struggling Mothers Who Feel Stretched to the Limit

The timing couldn’t have been better (or should we say worse?). On the mid-February day when I interviewed clinical psychologist Claire Nicogossian, Psy. D., snow and brutal cold stretched across almost the entire U.S., even dipping dangerously far south into Texas. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, stretching moms to their limit with virtual schooling; stressed-out, cooped-up kids; and financial and health worries.

Dr. Nicogossian, author of Mama, You Are Enough: How to Create Calm, Joy, and Confidence Within the Chaos of Motherhood, shared some of her top tips for helping moms navigate these difficult days:

Help for Struggling Mothers

  1. Acknowledge that it’s not “just” stress. We are feeling a whole range of emotions, such as anger, irritability, sadness, and more. Being in a “reacting” state often feels the worst. Name these emotions for yourself, even if it means locking yourself in the bathroom to take a moment.
  2. Allow yourself to notice your emotions without judging. What we feel isn’t bad or good; we can notice that we are feeling guilty or resentful or whatever it might be without adding on negativity.
  3. Think about what you would say to your friend or child if they were feeling the way you feel right now. Practice acceptance.
  4. Know you’re not alone if you’re having a difficult time.
  5. If our kids are also having big emotions, we need to learn to separate those from our own. We are not responsible for our kids’ emotions.
  6. Kids are having a hard time, especially preschool-age kids and older teens. When they lash out at us, remember that it’s not personal.
  7. When our kids struggle, watching out for their wellness can feel like an additional job: for example, a child who is withdrawing from activities during the pandemic. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when your mom gut is saying something is off—reach out to your child’s pediatrician or a therapist.
  8. Encourage healthy habits like good sleep, healthy eating, and movement.
  9. Don’t let wellness become a battleground; have regular family meetings to give kids a voice and a chance to discuss plans for the week at a non-stressful time (as opposed to talking about screen limits while a child is engaged in a video game).
  10. Remember to notice the positive things that kids are doing, and frame healthy practices are positive additions.
  11. For moms, schedule yourself some time to look forward to—maybe some reading or exercise minutes—whatever you love to do.

Sharon Holbrook is managing editor of Your Teen. Sign up for her new and captivating newsletter. 

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