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Making parents' mental health a priority during back to school season

Developmental psychologist Dr. Marti Erickson talks about ways for parents to maneuver this year's transition.

MINNEAPOLIS — This is a time of great uncertainty for students as they head back to school, but parents, we know you're feeling the stress of all of this too.

"Go easy on yourself. Have some self compassion," says Dr. Marti Erickson.

Dr. Erickson is a developmental psychologist and co-host of the podcast MomEnough.

She says anxiety is a very real thing for parents these days. 

"It looks like anxiety has increased about three to five fold – so three five times more than usual – particularly among expectant parents and parents of young children," Dr. Erickson says.

She says self care is especially important right now for parents.

It's much easier said than done, but Dr. Erickson says it doesn't have to be much. 

"Whether that's a five minute walk around the block or soaking in a hot bath or go sit on a park bench and read for 15 minutes  - whatever you can grab for yourself," she says.

As a parent it's also important to not feel like you have to go it alone.

Boosting your social support is key during times like these.

"We need to find safe ways to really build our support network so we can talk about what we're experiencing," Dr. Erickson says.

Speaking of talking, how about the way you're talking to yourself?

Dr. Erickson says if you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself as a parent it's a good time to be gentle. 

"Applaud yourself for what you are doing and realize that nobody can be perfect," she says. "Fortunately kids don't need a 'supermom' or a 'superdad'. They need good enough - 'mom-enough', 'dad-enough' - to really get them through so just don't beat yourself up if you're falling a little bit short."

Dr. Erickson also adds that there's no shame in finding a therapist if you feel you need it. 

She says teletherapy is a great option, especially during this COVID pandemic.