'Supernanny' Jo Frost Is Here to Help Parents Suffering From Burnout (So All of Us)

Marisa LaScala
·5 mins read
Photo credit: Lifetime/ Ricky Rhodes ©2019 A&E Television Networks, LLC. All rights reserved.
Photo credit: Lifetime/ Ricky Rhodes ©2019 A&E Television Networks, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Good Housekeeping

After a long summer, parents are staring down a fall that looks a lot like a repeat of this past spring. With many schools still closed or operating on a hybrid model, families once again have to figure out how juggle the responsibilities of working, virtual schooling and staying safe and healthy. And right now, there's no end in sight, and few avenues for relief for overwhelmed families.

Jo Frost, parenting expert and star of the Lifetime series Supernanny, has seen first-hand the toll the pandemic has had on the families she's worked with. "We were all thrown into the deep end with very little knowledge from leadership in the United States to help give us more direction and grasp any form of normalcy," she says. "I hear every day from families I help and have been since late February. We are at war with a virus."

Frost, whose show returns to Lifetime with new episodes in September, offers her advice to families suffering from COVID-19 burnout, based on what she's seen since winter. "Our priority is to first stay safe, pace ourselves throughout the day, accept what we can and can't control, surrender the old ways and start paving way for new normals, routines and rituals that in the long run will serve our families better," she says.

Her first rule for parents is to stay flexible and patient, since settling into the routine of a new school year is going to take some on-the-fly adjustments. "I suggest the golden rules of flexible routines to accommodate your priorities, boundaries to maintain healthy space in relationships, active time to give ourselves relief from the disease and get out in the fresh air — and remembering to breathe as you realize you've been holding your breath too long. Laugh and make a point of doing so frequently. Being able to adapt to a situation quickly helps us with the mental stamina needed for the long haul, because we all know there is no expiration date yet."

That all might sound easy on paper, she admits, but a good place to start is by building around the routine of a school day. "Get up and make your bed, that's your first task then on to the next, before you know it you are ready for learning," she says. "Find a space that becomes the learning pad, with no other interruptions like radio or TV on. Work out with each child whether they prefer all school work done by noon or pacing. Some older kids like the pace." She also suggests keeping consistent times for sleep, waking, meals and recess. "I have a big wind chime at home that I rang when was recess for my grandson who was doing distance learning — he loved it," she says.

At the beginning of the day, call a morning meeting to discuss your own work schedule with your kids. "That keeps them up to speed on how you will all work together," she says. "Place your meetings in recess time if you can, or have a grandparent FaceTime with your kids whilst you take a call. More hands make lighter work on all."

Frost also says that boundaries are key for families. "The pandemic has us home as parents, but that doesn't mean we're always available," she says. "We all need a break together but separately." This may be especially hard on parents of only children, but it's important to develop independent play skills. "It becomes about them discovering and learning by themselves and being okay with their own company. They can do this by visiting online museums, remote playdates, doing puzzles or crafts, playing with their own toys and musical instruments, learning to build from instruction or listening to audiobooks — not to mention there's no harm in a little interactive TV where the kids can shout out. My grandson loves Blues Clues! You can set goals and incentives if you choose, just don't make the prize too expensive or you'll find yourself at Target buying a brand new bike sooner than you thought!"

And throughout the juggle of school, work, and home responsibilities, parents have to make sure they don't lose themselves. "It is really important that we embrace and understand these overwhelmed feelings are very normal right now," Frost says. "Leaning on friends, our partner and family to express how we feel can help in that moment and if the feeling is progressively getting worse to always seek professional help. However, I do want to say that with healthier eating, being active and a consistent sleep routine does help us mentally to support the good chemistry working in our bodies. Also let's not forget our 'happy place' — the place where we can just stop, let thoughts pass and reset — for me that's the tub, what about you?"

The last thing that parents have to battle is their own inertia. "I dare you to at the least give one of these tips a go, because just one is a start which gets you on track to do another," she says. "I know more than most that mustering up the energy can seem so difficult, but if you could challenge your mind to say yes rather than the comfortable no you tell yourself I promise you, you will thank yourself soon."

"Make 2020 count for you and your family," she adds, "because if your kids can remember this time as a trying one, but with one that was showered with your love and protection, then you know you did something pretty spectacular!"

Supernanny returns to Lifetime for the second part of season 8 on September 1. For more information about the show, visit mylifetime.com.

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