How Parents Can Care for Themselves During Challenging Times

Introduction

What are we left with?

To say that the current political climate is challenging for LGBTQ+ families is an understatement. From state laws to the Supreme Court, our rights are under attack.

From all the headlines, Facebook comments, and dinner-time conversations, it seems like the overwhelming response to these attacks on our rights is anger—and rightly so. Outrage is expected and, truly, necessary for change to occur. But when we put down our phones, wash the dishes, and tuck our

children into bed, what are we left with? Heartache? Panic? Unease? Despair? 

As parents, we are still treading the water of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re wading through disparity, racism, and bigotry. And, we’re working to keep ourselves afloat amid all the everyday stresses that come with raising children. How can we care for ourselves amid all of that?  

Here are some tips for caring for yourself amid challenging times.


Hug Your Babies.

Even if your kids aren’t babies! Let your children know how much you love them. If you live in a state where your rights are being debated—or if you and/or your children occupy identities that are being targeted by our elected officials—snuggle your family a little longer tonight. 

Sometimes, when the world becomes too stressful, it can be easy for us as parents to forget to communicate to our children all the ways that we love and care for them. Of course, an offhanded “I love you” probably comes at the end of any school drop-off or check-in phone call. But saying, “I love you unconditionally,” or “You are one of the most important people in my life,” brings us back to each other in an indescribable and necessary way. 

The youth in our life deserve to know how much they mean to us and to hear often that we are going to do right by and for them. We also deserve to be anchored in our deepest love, and for many that is the love we have for our children. 

Pick up the Phone.

It’s not for everyone, we know. Maybe it’s not a phone call. Text messages, handwritten notes, or Instagram DMs work too! The point is: It’s so easy to isolate ourselves in the face of fear. It’s easy to tell ourselves that the people we love probably don’t want to talk about these challenging topics just as much as we don’t. 

But when you begin to feel like it’s better not to reach out—that’s exactly when you should. Talk to your chosen family, the people who will hear and hold your angst and meet it with fierce love. 

It might feel like the last thing you want to do, but pick up the phone.


Take a Break.

Use your PTO. Take a long weekend. In other words, make time for the things you want to make time for. 

Of course, we can’t all always circumvent the responsibilities looming large in our lives. But in a time of crisis, it’s okay to do what needs to be done and leave it at that. 

Get lost in a book instead of spreadsheets. Start your day snuggling your child instead of checking your emails. Take this Friday off and go on a hike, or plan a family adventure, or take a long hot shower and a nap. 

Interrupt the usual turn of events & give yourself something to look forward to. The systems that we operate within have made it clear that they don’t care for our families—so it’s up to us to care for ourselves. 

Buy the Ice Cream.

Indulge in what makes you joyful. Breakfast for dinner? Make it weekly. Wearing your favorite socks? Get a second pair. We have to let ourselves have the wins right now.

Yes, okay. Sometimes, “creating your own joy” is more stress than it’s worth. But that’s not what we’re talking about here!

You don’t need to dive head first into planning an elaborate vacation (unless that’s your thing!).

Fill your days with simple, natural, easy moments of happiness. Extra bedtime stories, boxed mac and cheese, hitting snooze tomorrow morning…find joy and happiness where you can. 


Turn on the Sound Machine.

This one is simple. There is so much research about the effects of “white noise”, including its ability to boost our focus. Sure, this might help us be more productive, but in this case, you can use it to silence your mind, turn off the news (literally and figuratively), and rest

If you are in a place where you can rest—maybe snuggled in bed without a phone or book—a sound machine can help you concentrate on doing nothing, and, hopefully, sleep. This can be very helpful when our minds are flooded with anxiety about the harm we’re facing in the immediate and long term. 

Break out the Notebook.

Having a place to put all of your feelings and thoughts without judgment can be a lifesaver. Times of crisis might bring up thoughts that you don’t want to share with the people you love—like the impact of transphobia on your sense of self-worth or your fears around talking to your children about what you all saw on the news that day. And, it might be that you don’t need someone to process those feelings with, you just need to get them out of your head.  

From writing a letter to your younger self to jotting down the emotions you’re feeling in the moment, there are lots of ways to get those big feelings out of your brain and onto paper.

Make Space for Joy. 

Amid great heartache, it can be difficult to remember all of the joy that comes from being part of an LGBTQ+ family. Sometimes, caring for ourselves means diving headfirst into that joy. Maybe it’s drag brunch or a But I’m a Cheerleader movie night. Whatever it is, make space for it sooner rather than later. Remember the full feeling of going out for coffee or dinner with your chosen family? The elation of laughing, joking, and knowing you had each others’ backs? That’s the feeling we’re going for here.


Find Your People. 

Maybe we’ve already covered this in the “pick up the phone” section of our resource. But there’s another kind of community-building worth exploring here, and that’s the community and connection forged with people who don’t necessarily know the intricacies of your day to day life—like members of a peer support space. 

These kinds of connections can offer you a moment of reprieve without the stress of needing to dive deeper to really dig into your feelings. Also, it can be so refreshing to meet and get to know new members of the community! 

There are so many ways to find your people—from Facebook & Discord to virtual peer support groups and workshops. Check out what Family Equality offers or let us know what you’re looking for and maybe we can help! 


It probably goes without saying that self-care is easier said than done, always. At this moment, though, it is so essential. As LGBTQ+ caregivers, we have been holding years of uncertainty and elevated stress levels—all while muddling through how to parent in a time like this.  In a world where so much is out of our control, hopefully, we can take small steps to care for ourselves radically and unapologetically. And, it can all start now. 

(Hint: Close your computer and rest!)

Photo of Jess Venable-Novak, Director of Family Formation

Jess Venable Novak

Director of Family Formation

Jess is a queer, non-binary educator, organizer, and parent living in rural Vermont. Jess began working with Family Equality first as the Midwest Children’s Programming Intern from 2010-2012, then returned as the Data & Training Intern in 2019 and the Family Week Fellow in 2020. They are grateful to be returning to Family Equality as the Director of Family Formation after having served as the Family Engagement Manager for several months. Originally from the Midwest, Jess has been living and working in Vermont for several years, most recently serving as the Statewide Director of Education at the Pride Center of Vermont. Jess brings with them years of experience working at the intersection of education, facilitation and community building within the non-profit sector as well in state-level politics. Presently, when they aren’t crossword-ing with their sweetie or doing art projects with their kiddo, they consult with schools, employers, and organizations to facilitate conversations about how we can build a culture that supports and celebrates LGBTQ+ people.