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Kids can feel stress from family, experts urge parents to check in

Parenting is messy, complicated and exhausting. A pandemic can only make it even harder.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Nobody ever said parenting is easy, but it's even harder during a pandemic. It can be painful to think and despite parents' best intentions, they may end up passing stress down to their children.

However, there are several ways families can distress without taking it out on each other.

"Just being outside is a de-stressor for all of us," Cortney Black said, a mother of three children that she homeschools. She also owns a farm, Highway Homestead, there's stress due to the pandemic.

"We went through two birthdays through this and that was hard," she said. "This is history, that's what we keep telling them."

She also said that she makes time to explain the pandemic to her children and why things seem different.

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A University of Tennessee psychology professor, Kristy Benoit Allen, said it's crucial for parents to check in with their children during the pandemic.

"It's never too late to open the lines of communication," she said. "Be honest — this is a tough time but let's focus on the things we can do to stay safe."

She said children can sometimes carry their parents' stress, and they may not say anything unless they're asked. Children can pick up on the stressors around them, she said.

For parents, she says it's okay to feel stressed and to look for things that helped them relax in the past.

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"Just focus on trying to do a little better than the day before, or apologize if you're having a tough time," Allen said.

She also said that it's important to cut yourself some slack. Otherwise, one set of worries can spin off into another about whether they're harming their children. It's better to simply focus on the positives and on the things they're able to control.

By doing that, parents may start to feel a little less stressed and like they have more control over their situations. 

"It's important to slow down and realize there are seasons for everything," Black said. "This will pass."

Some family activities to try at home include writing letters of encouragement, creating sidewalk chalk art or checking in with older relatives. 

Black also partnered with several East Tennessee farms to show off the hard work they're doing during these times. There will be a giveaway for local products that people can enter until the end of the day on May 30. 

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