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COVID KIDS: Mothers weigh in on pandemic parenting

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Ask any parent: this last year, has been one for the books.

"It is a trauma. What everybody is going through right now. It's going to impact us in some way going forward," mother of two, Emily Bruenig said. "But, I think only time will tell when that will reveal itself."

You've heard the saying, "it takes a village." Those with kids might know how accurate that motto really is. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic, the stress of parenting is heightened even more. Possibly adding an even bigger strain for young moms, like Emily Bruenig and Julia Breen.

Breen's 19 month old, Gus playing with a water table.

Breen stays home with her 19 month old, Gus. While Bruenig is currently on maternity leave with her two month old, Violet. Her 2-year-old Roman, who Bruenig and her husband call "Ro," is now back in part time daycare.

Pre-pandemic, both moms kept busy with classes story time and more.

"It was kind of sad because it felt like just when he was able to start enjoying it and enjoying playing with kids, all of that shut down," Breen said.

"That was challenging," Bruenig said with a laugh. "Especially with a toddler and working part time. Days when I wasn't working we would still go out every single day."

The pair agrees that isolation has been tough.

"I was a teacher before I had my son," Breen said. "And I've stayed home with him for the last year and half. You kind of lose those avenues of connecting with people anyway. And then you throw in a pandemic where it's not only challenging to get together with other people, but it's actually unsafe and it's scary. And you know, potentially dangerous to your kid and others. It puts a whole new level of anxiety on that kind of isolation."

Being in the high risk category as a pregnant woman, Bruenig took Ro out of daycare during the COVID-19 peak last November. Ultimately, Ro had to adjust to the cooped in home life.

"When we pulled him from daycare, he was pretending that my husband and I were friends from daycare," she laughed. "Like, you're this person and you're this person and this is what we are playing. It's really sweet but really sad at the same time."

Roman and his parents. "When we pulled him from daycare, he was pretending that my husband and I were friends from daycare," Bruenig said.

While sometimes comical, it does make parents wonder what long term effects or behavioral changes we may see later on.

"He only sees half a face," Breen said. "That's his normal. Just seeing masks. And just how odd that is, even though it may not be odd to him."

Bruenig has had similar thoughts.

"My younger child just began social smiling, which is really great to see. But, it makes you think, you know in the future, when she goes to daycare...she will spend all day with adults and only see their eyes," Bruenig said. "And what will that be like for her?"

Nystrom Outpatient Therapist Samantha Miller says it too hard to say right now what the long term side effects could be for children -- or even adults.

"Kids that are young enough, they can't tell you how they feel they show you how they feel," she said. "So those behaviors are their words. I'm anxious and I don't understand what's going on."

Miller says Nystrom is full and it's hard to get in for an appointment. She says overall she's seen an influx in children patients within the last year, too.

She 's noticed a pattern with attitudes between kids and parents. Often times, she finds that kids tend to absorb how their parents are handling it.

"Negativity ripples and so does positivity," Miller added. "So, if you give them that space and say this has been hard. And it's been hard on all of us. They are going to pick up that feeling and carry it on, too."

Miller's best advice is to give grace both to yourself and others.

"There's not right answer for anything. Nobody's done this before," Bruenig said.

"I do think kids are resilient and will bounce back and I think often adults have a harder time adjusting to change than kids' do," Breen added. "...I really think they're going to be okay. Gus is going to be okay. It's just a really tough time, a really sad time. But, I think they'll be all right."

For now, families just hope for better times ahead.

"I know there will be plenty of good things down the road," Breen said.

Beret Leone

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