How Are the Parents?

This week the Mental Health Mamas are checking in on the parents out there and sharing some pandemic themes. So, how are the parents? Parenting is hard under normal circumstances and we are certainly aware that parents are struggling. Listen in as we attempt to normalize the abnormal and to remind you that you are not alone.

Notes and Mentions

Episode Mentions

Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

RAPID-EC Project “Overloaded: Families With Children Who Have Special Needs Are Bearing an Especially Heavy Weight and Support Is Needed”

WIC: Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children

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Find us on Instagram @noneedtoexplainpodcast
Follow us on Twitter @mhmamas
We love to hear from you! Email us: info@mentalhealthmamas.com
This podcast is sponsored by: Better Help

Transcript

Serena: Hey Everyone, I’m Serena.

Tina: And I’m Tina and we are the Mental Health Mamas.

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Serena: Welcome to No Need to Explain, we are so glad you’re here.

Tina: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.

Serena: We come to you NOT as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as the parents of kids who struggle with their emotional health.

Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You’ll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website, NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.

Serena: How many months into this pandemic are we now?

Tina: Well, let’s see. I might have to take my shoes off for this one. Our state, New York, shut down in March of 2020, so at the time of this recording, we are officially in month 11. So one shoe off.

Serena: One shoe off. OK. So, I’m aware that we’ve talked kind of around the pandemic in several of our podcast episodes, but never really addressed it head-on. And I guess I will say that I’ve been avoiding it a bit. I think it’s time. Are you in?

Tina: Let’s do it. Let’s do it. And specifically I am thinking about the parents.

Serena: Right. So as much talk as there is about the kids and of course, that’s incredibly important and clearly we started this podcast because of our kids and their struggles. We are going to continue to try to bring us back to focusing on the parents and focusing on ourselves.

Tina: Mmhm. And so...how are the parents?

Serena: Tina, that is an excellent question! I have seen so many headlines about children and how they’re doing, but, you know, even as I tried to dig into how parents are doing I continued to find headline after headline all about the kids. One of the things that’s been non-stop since March is this outpouring of resources and resource lists for parents and kids. And I’m gonna confess that I love discovering resources and digging into new-to-me information and then sharing what I’ve discovered with others. But this resource deluge? I found it incredibly overwhelming. What about you, Tina?

Tina: I certainly echo that and a lot of the meetings we’ve been in are again, resources for kids, resources for parents about kids and, yeah, we need more resources for parents, for sure!

Serena: Yeah. In many ways I think it was what everyone COULD do when everything felt and still feels out of our control. As in, maybe I could find that perfect resource that would enable me to be able to work from home, occupy the kids while also filling them with knowledge, maintain social connections at the same time as social distance, make all the foods from scratch, keep the house clean and walk the dog...all at the same time!

Tina: And, my friend, did you find that magical resource?

Serena: Right. If only. I wish I did. But that brings me to the point I’m trying to make. And when I think about all of the COVID resource lists that have come my way, and some of them I’ve chosen to receive and others have just shown up. They are almost exclusively resources that focus on the kids. For example, there are lots of articles and blogs all about how to talk to your kids, how to support your kids, how to entertain your kids, and educate your kids, and manage your kid’s anger, and their stress, and their online schooling and, well, I could keep going.

Tina: Uhuh, And what about the parents??

Serena: Exactly. What about the parents?

Tina: We are always being told to put our oxygen masks on first, right?

Serena: Right. Although I don’t particularly relate to that way of thinking about self-care or self-preservation or whatever you want to call it.

Tina: Right. So we like the image of a cup, right?

Serena: Uhuh.

Tina: And a cup that is a little bit full or maybe full to the top, right, when you’re feeling most energetic. And as caregivers we pour into other people’s cups all the time. And we. Yeah, you have to stop and fill your cup or you have nothing left and we love this image. Rachel Hollis wrote a book called, Girl, Stop Apologizing and in it she talks about what would happen if we just continued to fill our cup. It would run over into other people’s cups and so, yeah. We like that image a lot.

Serena: Mmhm. Yeah, so, basically the message that I’m interpreting from the media and from all these, you know, organizations sending me resources is that you need to take better care of yourself or put on your mask first or fill your cup or whatever yet when it comes down to it that idea is not really being supported.

Tina: Mmhm. Absolutely. Shouldn’t there be countless resources for us?

Serena: Absolutely. So, I’m asking it again. How are the parents?

Tina: Before we respond directly to that question, let’s just take a little step back here. We like to say that no one can truly walk in anyone else’s shoes and there’s always a story we don’t know. So let’s think about that. Have you ever walked by someone on the street or in a store and almost immediately told yourself a story about that person? Perhaps by their appearance, by the person they’re with or by the items in their cart? And yes I will admit that sometimes I’ve looked. I can imagine that this is a commonality just in being human. And yet, we don’t necessarily take time to consider what that person’s life is like. Working with the families we work with, we see lots of different perspectives and situations. And this is especially true during the last 11 months. We’ve said it before. Some families who never struggled are struggling. Some families who were struggling are not struggling. It has been said that during this pandemic, we are all in the same storm, but on different boats. And there are certainly people out there who don’t even have a boat.

Serena: Right. So keeping all of that in mind, we would like to share some of the themes that we’ve been hearing. There are as many stories as there are individuals. As you know, some are positive and some are not and we hope that by sharing some different perspectives that you can perhaps feel seen and perhaps also have a little insight into somebody else’s world. As we continue to move forward with different episodes of our podcast, we would love to share some of your actual voices. If you have a story you would like to share with our listeners, even if it’s just a few sentences. We would be happy to share your voice. You can keep your story anonymous or not...whatever you prefer. If you’re interested, please send us an email. And you can do that directly from our website, NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.

Tina: And if we can figure it out, we might actually be able to have your voice on the podcast. I’m not sure that we could do that, but we can certainly try to do that, so write to us. Please. And yes. And I’m going to reinforce that message. We really want to hear from you. One thing that Serena and I know to be true from our work is that the stories that you live every day, the paths that you walk matter and we encourage people to share those stories because the people who need to hear those stories are the people who make decisions, who set policies and quite frankly the people who have power. So, we’ll say it again. Tell us your stories. Tell other people your stories. And there is no shame in that. In order to get what we need, we need to make people aware of what our true story is. They matter and they’re important in, again, helping you get what you need. So, back to themes. I’ve heard from more than one family that access to care, both physical and psychological, has been even more challenging than usual.

Serena: Yes and I actually have some personal experience with this one and I’ll just take a moment to share a quick story. So my youngest is six and over the summer she started having trouble hearing and had developed a cough which seemed to be allergy related. In August, we went to see the pediatrician and sure enough, she had fluid in her ears which was making it hard for her to hear. She was given allergy meds which we faithfully gave her...and they did nothing. So her on-going cough was really one of the main reasons we decided to keep her home and do virtual schooling this year. I figured at the very least, it would save me lots of phone calls from the school and perhaps save her from having to get COVID tests over and over again. So from the pediatrician we were sent to the ENT in October who then referred us to an allergist. The allergist couldn’t see her until January and then at the time of her appointment during, we finally got there, during the pre-screen the day before, they decided that we needed to do a tele-med appointment because, well, she was coughing. So, fast forward to this last week when we finally got to be seen in the office. They finally agreed, you know, that it was not COVID. The doctor took one listen to her and said she was wheezing. So this poor girl has been coughing since August and while this certainly could have happened in a normal year, I don’t think it would have.

Tina: Mmhm. It’s so very sad that she was to the point of wheezing and it took this long to move toward a resolution. And I’m sure that, if we flip the coin, there are families that are super hesitant to get that in person care and I can imagine, from some of the stories I have heard, that there will be some long term health effects for those avoiding care from dental care to, you know, cancer treatment.

Serena: Yeah, people are definitely putting off or, in many cases, being forced to put off both regular check ups and visits for more specialized care which is certainly going to cause a lot of long term effects. So let’s talk for a moment now about food access.

Tina: Yes. It seems that getting food, something that many of us took for granted, changed significantly, March here in the US. Whether you shopped in stores or you went to food pantries, food and supplies were harder to get your hands on.

Serena: Yes. So back in March, in my home, we had two extra kids which meant we were feeding seven people all day, every day. And I don’t know what the experience was like for our listeners, but here, where we live, the store shelves were absolutely bare. And then there were, when those everyday items came back in stock like the milk and the yogurt and the chicken, the stores were limiting the purchases. Now I totally understand why this was being done, because people were hoarding food, but there was no way we were getting through a week with a gallon of milk. Thank goodness for the school lunch and breakfast deliveries for the kids! And I know that some families weren’t so lucky.

Tina: Mmhm. Yeah. They did do a good job delivering stuff. And again, this may not have been the case in all areas, but I’m aware that families receiving WIC benefits were forced to shop in stores for food. So they had to go to stores and, you know, they needed very specific items that were not available for pickup or delivery. WIC, for those of you who don’t know, is a federally funded program that supports women, infants and children. The idea is to provide supplemental nutrition to pregnant women and children up to age 5 who may be at risk nutrition-wise.

Serena: Right. And according to the USDA website, this was a shock to me, WIC serves about half of all infants born in the United States. So that’s a lot of parents who have to now go into stores when we’re all being discouraged from doing so AND who often have no choice but to bring the children in with them.

Tina: And then suffer the judgment from those people who are telling themselves a story about the situation.

Serena: Exactly.

Tina: So, access to medical care, to food supplies...what about access to services that some of our kids need? Like physical therapy, speech therapy, extra educational support, that usually are delivered in person school?

Serena: Right. This has been a huge problem for many families. And while Tina and I talk about how much we support teletherapy and we still do because it’s opened up a lot for some families, there are other families who don’t have access to that technology. And there are children, particularly young children, who don’t respond well to interactions on a screen.

Tina: Yeah. So there’s an organization called RAPID-EC and they’ve been assessing the effects of the pandemic on families with young children by surveying families. Here’s a quote from the December publication: “Not surprisingly, given the well-documented day-to-day stresses and increased isolation, families with a child with special needs in our survey appear to be having an especially difficult time. They report having less access to social support than other families in our survey. The emotional well-being of caregivers with children with special needs is also suffering. We have seen that this caregiver distress can trickle downstream to children. It is therefore not surprising that we are also seeing negative patterns of mental health among children in these households.”

Serena: Right. There it is. So that quote. “We have seen that this caregiver distress can trickle downstream to children.” This is something that we, as parents, we know this is true. So Tina, does the article go on to give any suggestions?

Tina: Yes. I will, I will give you three of those. One, provide the funding needed to increase direct supports for children with special needs, in order to assure their health and overall well-being. Two, increase the availability of social emotional and mental health supports for families who have children with special needs, including expanded funding for home visits. And three, increase funding for respite services for families with children who have special needs.

Serena: Can you back up for a moment and read the first part of the second suggestion again?

Tina: Sure. Increase the availability of social emotional and mental health supports for families.

Serena: Yes! That right there, if that is all we did, that would make such a huge difference.

Tina: For sure...more support. And, as I always say, who couldn’t use a little more support?!

Serena: Exactly. So, while we could probably keep going forever sharing stories because there’s so many out there, we really do want to hear your stories. We’re gonna say it one more time. So, if you are interested in sharing just a bit of your story with us (or even more than a little bit), please send us an email from our website, NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.

Tina: And while you’re there, we hope you will check out the Things we Love section where you’ll find books and other self-care items that we love. These items do contain affiliate links that will take you directly to Amazon. If you happen to make a purchase through any of these links we might receive a teeny tiny little dime, nickel. We’re not sure exactly. It doesn’t cost you anything to use these links and will help us continue bringing you this podcast.

Serena: So podcast friends, if you like what you’re hearing, please continue to listen! We would love for you to leave us a rating or review on Apple podcasts. It really does make a difference in getting this podcast out to as many people as possible. Subscribe wherever you listen and please, share with others.

Tina: And as always, this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while also taking care of your people

Serena: Thanks for listening!

Tina: Bye!

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