LANCASTER, Pa. — Parenting with a partner during a pandemic is hard. Parenting by yourself for the past year can be downright impossible at times.
For women like Jessica Joya, caring for her eight-year-old daughter Liliana Brewer has proven to be more difficult than expected. While Liliana is relegated to virtual visits with friends and family, and school work done from the kitchen table, COVID-19 has kept Jessica from the support system she usually relies on to help with the daily challenges of being a single mom.
"Your close family members, your friends with kids; having someone else to be able to help you parent, to give you those breaks," Joya says.
The coronavirus pandemic has amplified many of the everyday struggles 13.6 million Americans face every day. According to U.S. Census data, that is how many single parents there are in the country. Combine that with Pew Research polling figures which found 23 percent of all American children live with one or no parents at all, and it's understandable why taking care of children without an additional support system can be extra stressful.
"I think there is a lot of anxiety, uncertainty, and overwhelm," said Rachel Vucic, a mental health professional with Wellspan Philhaven in Lancaster.
Vucic works directly with single-parent families multiple times a week. Without a support system on standby because of the restrictions put in place by the pandemic, experts say it's not uncommon for single mom and dads to struggle to pay for food, housing, and childcare. If a parent is working, who is around to watch the children when school is entirely virtual? What happens if mom or dad is out of work?
Parents need to understand and accept the situation they're in, Vucic says. It's survival mode, and that means simplifying everyday chores. Maybe relax the rules on screen time. Don't be as strict on academics. The pandemic won't last forever, so it's alright to take a few minutes to check in with yourself.
"The best thing you can do to manage a situation like this is to step back and reflect on your core values and basic needs," Vucic said. "Be OK with asking for help and using those available resources."
Rachel Vucic says her office is taking on new clients. More information on booking an appointment, plus resources for single parents are available on the Wellspan Philhaven website.