How parental self-care helps kids weather pandemic stress

Jessica DuLong is a Brooklyn-based journalist, ghostwriter, book coach and the author of "Dust to Deliverance: Untold Stories from the Maritime Evacuation on September 11" and "My River Chronicles: Rediscovering the Work that Built America."

(CNN)Parents are running on empty. As the pandemic drags on into month seven, many families are still struggling to patch together child care to help cover the basics, never mind slotting in time for parental self-care. Each new day seems to bring at least one family freak-out as tensions from too much togetherness butt up against the stresses of uncertainty.

Parents worried about the long-term impact of the Covid-19 crisis on their children may be surprised to hear what psychotherapist and trauma reprocessing specialist Sara Waters recommends for protecting our kids.
It turns out that we parents play a bigger role in how things turn out than we might have thought. In most cases, parents "have more influence on the resilience, confidence and assuredness of our children's psychological wellness during this time than any other variable."
    Because of mirror neurons — which fire off in response to emotions, facial expressions and body language — our children's experiences of the world will reflect our own.
      "If a parent's thoughts are generally negative or scarcity-based, our children will feel that and develop similar negative, scarcity-based thinking patterns," Waters said. "If our limbic system is in a state of distress instead of calm, our children's own somatic experiences will be the same. If you struggle with staying positive in the face of challenges, then your children will also struggle."
        So, what's a scarcity-minded parent to do? Waters shared some ideas.
        This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.