Mornings can be hectic. Mornings as a parent can be a whirlwind. From the second the alarm rings, it’s coaxing kids out of bed, encouraging them to get ready, getting oneself ready, making breakfast, grabbing lunches, and running out the door. In March 2020, this morning routine changed as schools across the nation swiftly transitioned from in-person education to distance learning. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that nearly 93% of households with school-age children engaged in some form of distance learning since the start of COVID-19. While the commute from bed to the computer is shorter than going to school, remote education comes with its own challenges for both children and parents, especially when alcohol abuse is a factor for the adults. Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Sol Rappaport, Ph.D., ABPP, weighs in on the difficulties families are facing and suggests helpful solutions.
For the majority of the past year, many children could not socialize with friends, go to school, play sports, or participate in extracurricular activities due to social distancing guidelines. Research shows spikes in depression and anxiety among children and their parents, with 84% of remote students reporting exhaustion, headaches, insomnia, or other stress-related ailments. Attesting to this, Dr. Rappaport details the major challenges he’s witnessed with children and teens at this time.
“There are a lot of kids who were getting upset and tearful because they couldn’t access and use their equipment properly,” Dr. Rappaport says. This can be extremely frustrating for parents, as well, who feel like they’re “failing their children,” because they’re unable to resolve the issue. For parents that are divorced or separated, Dr. Rappaport suggests having an honest conversation with their children about where they do their best schoolwork. Factors to consider include: which parent will be home or more available throughout the school day, which house has more reliable internet and necessary technologies, which house has fewer distractions and noise, and where the child feels most comfortable. This can require parents to set egos aside and focus on what’s best for their children, Dr. Rappaport shares.
While virtual communication with friends and teachers may help children and teens during remote learning, many students report that it doesn’t replace face-to-face interaction and can leave them feeling “sluggish, distressed, and tired.” To combat feelings of disconnection from the world around them, Dr. Rappaport advises that parents schedule in “fun time” with their children. This can ease stress levels all around as many adults play the role of both teacher and parent. “Whether it’s game night, making dinner together, pizza night, or whatever it is, having some positive experiences with the children is critical for kids and parents,” Dr. Rappaport shares.
“One thing that's hard is that kids aren't getting the exercise that they're used to just running around,” Dr. Rappaport shares. For remote students, the walk to and from classes is eliminated, physical education requirements have adapted, and they’re sitting more. The same can apply to parents who are working from home. Good for both mental and physical health, parents can help shift this sedentary lifestyle back into a healthier one by encouraging daily walks, playing ball with their children, or finding some form of exercise that they enjoy doing together, and building it into their routine.
It’s been said numerous times before: it takes a village to raise a child. In alignment with COVID-19 guidelines, this “village” has temporarily dwindled down to just a child’s household. This can be extremely challenging for co-parents, whether they’re working from home or not. “It’s a big stressor on either side of the coin, whichever situation those parents are in,” Dr. Rappaport says.
Using one of his clients as an example, he shares that parents working from home can often feel like they’re not holding up their end of the bargain for their employers - regardless of how understanding their employer may be at the fact that they’re wearing the hat of a parent, teacher, and employee. As truancy rates increase for many students, whether due to technical issues or personal, parents working remotely can find it difficult to keep an eye on their children’s remote learning time. Parents are dealing with tremendous stress—they’re wondering if their children are on task throughout the day, facing feelings of guilt that they cannot be there to help with technology or schoolwork, and trying to multitask throughout the day to check in on them.
In either a work-from-home or at-work situation, fear of job security can linger in the back of parents’ minds as well, contributing to their unease. This stress can often be linked to substance abuse; the most common of which Dr. Rappaport has seen is alcohol. Reports find that parents are drinking more during the COVID-19 pandemic than people without children. Used by Family Law Professionals nationwide, Dr. Rappaport shares how Soberlink may be able to help.
A discreet, remote alcohol monitoring device, Soberlink can help parents remain sober and/or demonstrate their sobriety, allowing them to be present for children while distance learning. Offering two monitoring options, separated parents can either test only when they’re with the children (Level 1, Parenting Time Only) or seven days a week (Level 2, Daily Testing).
With board-certifications in both Clinical Psychology and Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Dr. Rappaport shares the positive impact Soberlink can make in family’s, especially children’s lives. “One of the things we know from the research is that the more conflict that kids see in their parents, the worse outcomes for kids,” he says, stating that Soberlink decreases the conflict of whether one parent is sober or not, while building trust. On the other hand, “If we do have someone who denies their drinking and is lying about it, we now have evidence of them drinking,” Dr. Rappaport says. “Soberlink allows us to keep children safe and, to me, that's critical. It's not about punishing the parent, it's about keeping children safe and wanting them to have a healthy relationship with that parent, but they need the parent to be sober.”
Beyond the frustrations of technology issues, isolation and depression for children and teens, and the added stress on parents, Soberlink is a tool that has helped many parents remain accountable for their sobriety. This accountability results in parents being present for their children when they need it the most, leading to increased security, support, and trust.
Learn more about how Soberlink can help in Family Law: soberlink.com/family-law/