Parenting During Quarantine: How to Manage Vulnerability

Parenting in quarantine. “Quite an adventure” is an understatement! It’s been an ongoing rollercoaster (some may say “shitstorm”) that’s challenged so many of us around the world.


That’s not to say that it hasn’t brought out the best in us at times. We’ve had to dig deep, finding creative ways to keep our kids engaged and our houses clean and safe. But it’s also brought out our vulnerabilities. There’s the uncertain future of the pandemic, with its charts of rising cases that herald feelings of dread. There’s the uncertainty of school reopenings, with our anxious questions about safety and contingency plans. There’s the uncertainty of virtual learning, with its worries about our kids falling behind or carving away at our work schedule.


To be a parent is to open yourself up for emotional vulnerability and uncertainty — now more than ever. But we can support each other in building up our resilience in the face of current challenges and uncertainties.


Global vulnerability in a changing world


Let’s take a look at vulnerability with help from Brene Brown, a highly-esteemed researcher in the field of emotional vulnerability and shame. According to her work, vulnerability by definition is the universal human emotion in the face of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.


We’re currently in a period in history of global vulnerability. As Oren Lyons once said, “Although we are in different boats, you in your boat and we in our canoe, we share the same river of life.” The river of life is as choppy, rough, and uncharted as ever. We’re all in these waters together.


Shame is another component of vulnerability, and it shows up when we’re at our most vulnerable. That’s when the “shame gremlins” whisper in our ears, with two main messages:

  1. “You’re never good enough.”
  2. “Who do you think you are?”


In our current circumstances — as parents doing our best to keep our kids safe — these messages can show up in many ways: 

  1. “You’re never good enough.” My house is such a mess; I’m cooking the same three recipes and my family is on an eating strike; my kids are on their screens too much; I can’t keep up with work because my kids need me; I’m failing at everything.
  2. “Who do you think you are?” Can I really be my kids’ teacher? Can I keep my family safe from this virus?


How to manage emotional vulnerability


First, name it. If you can acknowledge your vulnerability aloud, with sentences like “I’m feeling vulnerable right now” or “I’m in a shame spiral,” it takes the negative power from these emotions. Next, surround yourself with your support people. You don’t need to call a crowd, but seek out loved ones with whom you can be your authentic self. 


Finally, engage in self-compassion. Counteract the “You’re never good enough” messages with assertions like “I am enough” and “I’m doing my best.” Gratitude practice is another great way to help with this.


This quarantine has handed most (if not all) of us plenty of new challenges as parents, and it’s only by acknowledging and counteracting our feelings of emotional vulnerability that we can overcome and even harness them


Still feeling overwhelmed with this? You’re not alone, and I’m working to create workshops that dig into this topic in much more depth. Sign up for the newsletter for updates!


Maybe you would like to read “Building up our resilience”

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