Dear Emuna,

I just received notice that my children’s school is closed due to the coronavirus and they are advising us not to arrange playdates for our bored and kvetchy kids because that will defeat the purpose of the closure. I understand but I’m a little afraid I will go out of my mind. How do I weigh my psychological health against their physical health? And how do I keep them from destroying the house or each other?

It's Them or Me

Dear Embattled Mother,

I assume you are being slightly tongue-in-cheek but I know you are mirroring a concern affecting many mothers across the country, across the globe even. And it’s not just young children. What about all those bored college kids returning home and leaving their friends behind? They also have the potential to drive us crazy, not to mention eat us out of house and home – a particular problem given the run on food items in the markets!

What’s an already frazzled, overwhelmed and anxious mother to do? I assume that running back into your room and hiding under the covers is not an option!

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately depending on your perspective, now is the time to be the adult in the room. Now is the time when you have to put your own anxieties aside and be the stand-up person for your children. It doesn’t really matter whether you feel like it or not, whether your own anxieties are through the roof or not, you have to be the stabilizing and calming force for your family.

As I like to tell the women in my classes here, “You live in Hollywood; this is the time to use your acting skills!” This of course applies wherever you reside. And it doesn’t matter the age of your children. They all need reassurance. They all need your reassurance; they all need your warm and loving influence.

There are a few moments in our lives when we have these stabs of realization. “I am a parent now.” I think that after the birth of our children which may be too awesome for that recognition, that moment occurs the first time we take our child to the emergency room in the middle of the night. We understand that we are in this for the duration; this is not a part-time job, a temporary position. This is our life.

And this is one of those moments, one of those times where we need to be “parents”. Whether we feel up to it or not, whether we also would like to run home to our parents or not, we are the adults in the room and the responsibility is on us. What does that responsibility entail?

I would suggest that it involves three things: identifying the practical response to the situation in all its aspects – buying food and providing some cooking-related projects, continuing to further their education through online resources, stocking up on games and projects – and having family game nights (mornings and afternoons too) – making a list of and finding a way to take advantage of all the resources that can make this time at home productive rather than destructive, an opportunity for family bonding rather than, God forbid, the opposite.

Secondly, we need to remind (ourselves and our children) constantly that the Almighty runs the world. And we need to mean it. With all that time on our hands, we certainly have an opportunity to learn together and work on our trust in our Creator.

And finally (although I’m sure not exhaustively), we need to provide comfort and soothing. “It’s going to be all right.” “Don’t worry; everything will be okay.” Whether you believe it or not. Your children (no matter their age) need to hear this – even if their rational self knows you’re not a prophet or a miracle worker. Our reassurance will calm them down and give them the tools to cope with this new and challenging situation. And who knows? All those words of trust, hope, belief and calm may rub off on us as well!

We are facing trying times. We need to stand up to the situation and ask our Father in Heaven to give us the strength we need to see it through.