California Parent & Youth Helpline: The Helpline We All Need
Reaching out for help is hard —but necessary. We were not meant to parent alone, without support in tough times. This is one of the greatest lessons I learned over the past year. Finding a Helpline that is available, non-judgmental, and helpful can be difficult. Throughout 2020, I had a challenging time with the pandemic and raising our kids. Knowing everyone was going through a rough time, I felt like a burden letting others in on the stressful events happening in our lives.
I will start by saying December 2019; I was on cloud nine of parenting. We just welcomed Bambino into the world. Big brother Chulengo was sleeping through the night, potty trained, eating without much of a fight, and regularly loving on his baby brother. We were figuring out our routine, and it was a beautiful beginning to a new chapter of life. The whole going from one kid to two was a breeze…then reality hit.
At three weeks old, Bambino was hospitalized for a week with RSV. Then my husband’s job status changed, and there was a lot of uncertainty. He was home more days than not, which was extremely unusual for us. Routines became chaotic and messy, and I lost control of the structure I had once created as a stay-at-home mom.
Not long after Bambino’s hospitalization, the pandemic hit the US. I worried every time my husband went into the hospital for work. Was he going to bring the virus home? Were we safe? I was afraid to leave the house, so the kids and I stayed home—all day, every day, for months. We didn’t run errands; we didn’t go to the park; we didn’t socialize with friends. We were isolated, just like the rest of the country.
Before I knew it, Chulengo’s preschool, which he attended two days a week, was shut down. I felt this immense burden to figure out how to provide an educational, nurturing environment for him. So, I figured out ways to start teaching him at home. There was a steep learning curve, and we butted heads a lot, but eventually, we got ourselves into a good, mutually agreeable routine.
A few months later, Bambino developed some gross motor delays and a peanut allergy. Both were stressful to navigate and mitigate, but eventually, we figured it out. He started moving better and outgrew his allergy. Then, I started having gallbladder attacks. I put off surgery for months, afraid to go into the hospital alone during a pandemic. But, come Fall 2020, I couldn’t put it off any longer, and I had my gallbladder removed.
Pandemic aside, 2020 was a really tough year for our family. I cried a lot. My husband and I argued a lot. Our stress levels were consistently high as we worked through one familial crisis after another. There was so much fear, anxiety, disappointment, and loneliness. I was afraid to reach out to my family and friends because everyone was already dealing with so much. I didn’t even know where to start with asking for help. People were dying in hospitals, and my problems seemed so trivial at the time.
To deal with the stress, our family went for daily walks, read many books together, followed a homeschool preschool program, and got creative in the kitchen when the shelves at the store were bare. My husband and I bonded over tv shows, started a family business, and had many overdue conversations.
We figured out how to make things work, but I didn’t have an outlet looking back. I didn’t have anyone I felt comfortable confiding in. Partly because I felt like a failure and partly because my close friends and family had enough on their plates.
I wish I would have reached out. I wish I would have stood up and said, “This is too much.” I wish I would have asked for help. I wish I would have taken the time to help myself heal from each stressful event. I wish I knew about the California Parent & Youth Helpline: a platform created for parents to reach out to confidentially and anonymously.
Last week I called the Helpline. I needed help with Chulengo, our four-year-old, for two reasons. First, he is demonstrating anxious behaviors in public settings since the pandemic. I’ve been so lost, and I needed help figuring out how to coach him through this process of re-entering society again. The second reason, our neighbor unexpectedly passed away, and Chulengo has been asking many questions about death. I wanted to be honest with him, but I had difficulty finding age-appropriate ways to discuss this topic.
I was able to call the Helpline during nap time, which gave me a moment of uninterrupted conversation with an adult. The woman I spoke to was lovely and helpful. I now have resources to help Chulengo through these weird yet difficult times that have been filled with grief and uncertainty.
Next time I am in a tough spot while parenting and need to vent or get support, I will turn to the Helpline again. I appreciate the quick, confidential, solid advice I received. I didn’t feel like a burden, or I didn’t have to play phone tag. Someone picked up as soon as I called.
If you want to learn more about this FREE, resourceful, Helpline for parents in youth in California, keep reading.
California Parent & Youth Helpline, with trained counselors ready to help parents and kids with problems that arise… anything from needing advice on parenting to finding resources if money gets tight, to talking through difficult emotional situations, or getting support on how to take the next steps to get out of a tough situation.
The Helpline is a free service that offers parents and youth confidential, compassionate, emotional support that is proven to work through calls, text, live chat, and emails. There are also weekly, 2-Hour Online Parenting Support Groups available as well.
Parents & Youth can call, text, live chat, and email from anywhere… their home, office, or in the car. The phone number is 1-855-427-2736.
The Helpline is available 8 am to 8 pm Monday through Sunday. Seven days a week, for 12 hours each day.
Parenting is hard. We rarely have the answers and sometimes finding the right answers is difficult. There is a lot of misinformation on the internet. There are often biases from our family and friends that keep us from getting thorough, non-judgmental advice. By offering confidential, anonymous advice, the Helpline creates a safe space for parents and youth to reach out. The best part about this Helpline is that it is free… no need to hire a therapist or pay a fee to see your doctor.
Had I known about the Helpline in 2020, I would have called multiple times.
Questions I would have asked:
How do I get over feeling like a failure as a parent when my child is demonstrating delays?
How can I help support my husband during professional transitions?
As a spouse to a healthcare worker, what can I do to decrease the anxiety of getting sick?
How do I talk to my kids about the pandemic without making them fearful of other people or germs?
How do I get help with my kids when I am recovering from surgery and my husband is unable to be home?
I could go on and on…There is something about talking to someone about an issue and receiving efficient, thorough, non-judgmental, and helpful advice.
Don’t make my mistake… reach out sooner. You are not alone.