It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and a little helpless in a pandemic. Your normal routine has been disrupted, but you’re not sure how to put your time and energy to good use. You might see a lot of folks around you, like your parents, more stressed out, but you’re not sure how to help.
While it may not seem like it, little actions you take can make a big positive impact during this time. Your parents might be worried about their jobs, your health and education, and the overall state of the world. They might be feeling overwhelmed just like you but also feel more pressure to fix everything and make sure all your loved ones are taken care of.
If you’re looking for ideas on how to help your parents have an easier time, try these out:
Mentor your younger siblings. You are in a great position to help with your little brother or sister. Whether it’s helping them with school subjects you’ve already mastered or being a reassuring presence in a difficult time, your involvement will go a long way. You can also help easy any anxiety they may be feeling by playing a game, going for a walk, and just being there.
Team up with your older siblings. During this pandemic, your older sibling may be feeling some pressure, too. While they might not be the main provider for your family, they might be feeling a heavier burden than normal as they take on more household responsibility. Ask them how you can help. And maybe in the process you’ll learn a pretty cool thing or two from that older brother or sister as they share their wisdom with you.
Offer to do errands. If you’re in the position to either walk or drive to a nearby store to grab some necessities, you might be providing a great service to your parents. Between juggling work or looking for work, caring for you and your siblings, and making sure the essential tasks get done, your parent might feel like there is just no time left in the day to do grocery shopping or pick up what is needed. You will be making a big contribution to the household and eliminating one source of stress for them.
Get yourself (and/or a parent) a job. Could your family use some extra cash in this time? There are plenty of companies that are hiring on a part-time and temporary basis to help with increased demand. (Be sure to check out “Where to find work during a pandemic.”) But as you search for a job for yourself, you may also notice opportunities for your mom or dad. Many companies are also searching for full-time roles. You never know — you may end up being colleagues, too!
Give them some space. In normal times, we get out of the house, go to school or work, hang out with friends, and do extracurricular activities. Not only do we get to have fun, but we have different physical spaces that allow us to focus on ourselves and what we enjoy. When those things are taken away, we aren’t able to re-charge the same way we once did. With the added worry and stress — and with the family being in one place all the time — your parent might feel like he or she no longer has the space or time to relax. Or he or she might feel guilty for doing so when there is so much to do. Consider giving them some space to reflect and practice self-care by going for a walk or hanging out in your own space for a few hours. It’s important to remember — whether you are the parent or the kid — we can’t take care of others well until we take care of ourselves.
Help with family projects. Are there big things your family has been working on or wants to work on during shelter-in-place? Maybe your parents are working on cleaning out certain rooms (like the garage or basement) or an area for the family to enjoy when the weather is nice. This might be unglamorous work, but it will yield glamorous results…and a whole lot of joy.
When in doubt, ask. As nice as it can be to take initiative and do things without being asked, it’s important to remember that we’re not mind readers. Maybe there is something very specific your parent could use help with, but it’s not a routine household chore. Go ahead and ask them! They will likely feel very grateful that you asked and better able to focus on the other things they have to do. You will also be helping with their mental health and taking away some of their stress as they have once less thing on their mind to worry about.