Many Montreal families are starting to feel the effects of the coronavirus pandemic’s second wave: what was supposed to be a 28-day partial lockdown reached day 48 on Wednesday.
A recent survey by Léger Marketing for the Early Childhood Observatory found 75 per cent of Quebec parents with young children have more time to spend with their families than they did prior to the pandemic.
That’s generally a good thing, but child psychologists like McGill University’s Dr. Tina Montreuil say that extra time together can sometimes come with stressful added responsibilities.
“If parents’ mental health, or if their overall bearing on parenting, have decreased and have gotten worse, or their impression has gotten worse, that has an impact on children for sure,” she said.
Danae Elon lives on the Plateau with her husband and three sons. She told Global News the first wave wasn’t so bad, with all her sons learning from home, but said the second wave “is starting now to become a bit tiring and challenging.”
She said her sons, now attending school in-person, are often confused by the complex rules they need to follow when at school, which can create stress they bring home with them.
Dealing with stress like that is a new challenge to most parents, unique to the pandemic. In fact, the Léger survey found 68 per cent of parents found parenting more stressful than it was before COVID-19.
Dr. Montreuil said one of the most effective ways to deal with the new and unique stresses of the pandemic is to focus on self-care.
“It’s so critical to take care of parent’s health and mental well-being,” she explained. “You program in time that would allow yourself enjoyment, that bring you a sense of purpose and having done something for yourself.”
What that self-care looks like will vary from family to family, but in Elon’s case, she put her skills as a filmmaker to use, creating a documentary, called Life of a Dog, that profiles the role her and another family’s dog played in anchoring their children’s lives during the uncertain age of COVID-19.
“The dogs in our lives became a real form of attachment for our children,” she said.
For the one in four Quebec families that reported increased financial stress, Montreuil said there is only so much individual families and their support systems can do.
“We have to go back to our decision-makers,” she said. “I think this is something that has to inherently be part of our action plan.”
She said providing education on how to access care and helping break down the stigma associated with seeking psychological help would be a welcome first start.
For those who need help right now, though, Montreuil said to focus on the things you can control.
“Do you have family members, friends? Don’t feel ashamed. Reach out as much as possible, I think we have to just accept our vulnerabilities, not feeling ashamed about them.”