My College:
Family Life

We All Need a Little Pandemic TLC

Shari Bender

This pandemic has turned everyone’s world upside down.

September is upon us, and school is back in session in some form.

Back to school may mean a desk in the corner of the living room to accommodate online learning. It could mean Monday, Wednesday and every other Friday in the classroom. It might be a hybrid college model, with in-person instruction limited to labs.

As parents scramble to support their students in these challenging times, let’s take a moment to reflect how we can take care of ourselves, too.

Have you noticed what some are calling "pandemic angst"? Seemingly amplified and overreaction to normally run-of-the-mill events? I've seen firsthand how decades-strong relationships disintegrate and emotions boil over, with vitriol spewed forth over things that pre-COVID would only elicit perhaps a sneer or a roll of the eyes.

We are stressed, all of us are stressed. The political climate is precarious; our health and well-being are being tested at every turn. The very future of our children, grandchildren and ourselves weighs heavily upon us. And many of us are more than a bit lonely, too, as months of physical distancing and isolation take their toll on our social skills. No wonder we are on edge.

How can we as parents help stem the tide of overwhelming stress and serve as a model for our children?

The answer may lie in simply a little more TLC right now.


Take the high road. Take a breath.

This is not to say that abuse in any form should be tolerated. However, when a trusted neighbor, cherished relative or good friend reacts in a way that makes you question why in the world they are behaving like that, remember the pandemic and its real implications on mental health.

The toll on mental health cannot be overemphasized. And relationships are suffering just when we need them most.

Extend an olive branch, find forgiveness for others and for yourself. Inhale. Exhale.


Learn to let go.

We don’t know when, if ever, things will be back to the way they used to be. Letting go of expectations can ease the blow of long-planned vacations put on hold or canceled 50th birthday celebrations at a catering hall downsized to a small backyard BBQ.

By now, over six months into the pandemic, many of us have witnessed how special a socially distanced, scaled down event can be. One of my favorite pandemic memories thus far was my June “music festival” in my yard — 10 guests, live music and individual snacks. Meaningful doesn’t have to be big or fancy.

The concept of letting go also applies to friendships and relationships that may have run their course. I hang onto the adage "for a reason or a season" when looking at my own interpersonal pandemic connections. It isn’t always easy to take a step back or part ways with someone meaningful in your life. Taking shelter in trusted friends and relationships can help sustain you during this trying time.


Cherish what you have.

For many of us, vacations have been canceled, milestones have been muted and COVID has taken a real toll. We are at home, a lot. Try reimagining a small space in your home. A change of scenery, a small adjustment of furniture and de-clutter can do wonders for the soul.

Call that faraway friend or high school buddy. Over the weekend I was lucky to have three catch-up calls. It felt old-school comforting to just talk on the phone — harkening back to my high school days, cord in hand. Nowadays I put my iPhone on speaker while my dog listens in. I can get my steps in or tidy up around the house while my phone friend and I chat away, and at least for a little while things seem okay.

During any life-changing event, friendships and interpersonal relationships can change and sides of people you never knew existed can emerge. This pandemic is no different — it has amplified emotions, insecurities and fears which sometimes we take out on those close to us, or even random strangers. We truly may not know or understand each other’s struggles. There is no excuse for treating others badly but perhaps, if we can find some empathy for others, our perspectives can soften and heal.

The High School Musical song “We're All in This Together,” albeit cliché, is true. If we all try to be a little better, kinder to others and even to ourselves, we all can benefit.

Sending you all a socially distant hug.

Shari earned her BA in Communication from Stanford University and freelances all things Communication and Marketing. She is a cat-loving spiritual vegan and former admissions interviewer. With two grown children, Shari is happily and sentimentally embracing her Empty Nest along with her husband of nearly 30 years. Her musings delight parents in numerous publications and online platforms, including CollegiateParent and Grown & Flown.
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