Will My Children Mentally Survive Isolation?

I’m like any modern parent. I constantly worry about every single decision, and it’s effects on the long-term happiness and adjustment of my children.

Do I breast-feed or bottle?

Co-sleep or own crib?

Cry it out or up multiple times?

Preschool or home daycare?

Working mom or SAHM?

And a million other decisions, big and small, that people on both sides feel are all life or death decisions. No matter what you choose for your children, there’s going to be someone telling you it’s the wrong choice.

Parenthood is full of stressful choices under normal circumstances, but being stuck at home with your kids brings with it new and different choices that none of us have ever faced.

Do we push for doing the schoolwork, or let them play outside?

Do we cancel the Zoom meeting to do a science project, or turn on Disney+ while on Zoom?

Do we go to the store each week, or stock up like the apocalypse and bar the doors?

How do we balance work, kids, life, school, chores, and the stress of facing all of this with a faceless threat right outside our doors?

So, it’s natural that I find myself worrying about the lasting effects of this period of uncertainty on my children. My daughter, 5, and my son, 2, only know that they get to stay home with mom all the time. My daughter had her fifth birthday while under the Stay At Home Order. We explained to her that there was a sickness and that we couldn’t have the party she wanted. We did video calls all day with beloved friends and family members, decorated the house, and held a big Princess Tea Party.

She seemed to have fun, but as her mother I still worry. She hasn’t had peers to play with for almost two months. What will this do to her social maturity? She had just started in a new Pre-Kindergarten program at her daycare/preschool. She was only there two months before the world blew up. What will that do to her academic abilities?

And my son — he was getting speech intervention before we were stuck at home. What will that do to his future language abilities, which will effect his success in school, which will then determine his overall success in life?!?

My 5-yo was supposed to start the next level of gymnastics. Will she now miss her chance in the Olympics?

My 2-yo was supposed to start swimming lessons. Will he now struggle with being comfortable in water?

It may seem excessive to worry this much, but if you’re a parent living through this time, you probably understand. What if you miss a day, or a week, of math instruction or writing assignments? What if you have to work, or are a single parent, or have some other unforeseeable circumstance that make it impossible for you to keep up with remote learning?

What if we get sick? What if our children get sick? What if someone near and dear to our children gets sick?

What do we do when those ‘what if’s’ threaten our sanity, our ability to do the things we need to do? You do what you do in the face of any stress.

Breathe. Accept. Let go. Be in the moment. And all of those other cliche-y things that are sometimes annoying. Because they work.

We can’t control what comes tomorrow, or even what comes in the next hour.
We can control how we react, and how we teach our children to react.
We can control how we guide ourselves and our children through these scary times.

So, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to turn off the worry-committee in my head, get my 2-yo up from his nap, get both kids their afternoon snack, and go play outside with them while it’s sunny. After that, I’m going to do the next right thing in front of me to care for myself and these two beautiful people in my care.

I wish all of us sunny days, free of worry and fear, full of special times together that our kids will look back on with fondness. Perhaps, who knows, one day our kids will say, “Remember that time we all stayed home together? I really liked that.”

Writer, educator, mom, coffee lover. I write memoir and creative nonfiction about psychology and mental health. Twitter @running_shadows IG @s_annewriter