Strategies to help parents thrive during this pandemic
The outbreak of coronavirus pandemic has profoundly impacted the family life of countless people around the globe. With no schools, nannies, cooks, part-time helpers, outings, or familiar schedules, nothing is the same anymore! Along with all the challenges that this global pandemic brought with it, one of the most significant ones is that of parenting! Yes! You read it right!
Parenting, in general, is quite demanding, and to top it all off, now, there is an added challenge of being a full-time parent alongside managing household chores and working from home. Not to deny, this may be bringing the worst in a lot of you!
You were thrown to believe in this reality and to live it with no prior preparation. Now, you’re constantly feeling guilty for not being your best self with your children, overworked to always be on your toes, and ensure they’re safe, also not to forget, anxious about monetary concerns. All these pre-occupying emotions are clouding your mind and making you feel overwhelmed.
As you’re trying to keep up with multiple roles at once, you may feel like you’re not able to justify any. This further generates stress and guilt. Now, your ‘working parent’ guilt may be replaced with ‘not so ideal parent guilt’, where most of you may be questioning yourself for not loving to be home with your child all day every day! And as toilsome as it is, this is the new (temporary) normal for you.
Don’t be disheartened or give up on your hopes just yet.
The good news is that there are a few steps you can take to assume charge of the situation and do one of the most important things in the world mindfully: Parenting!
SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PARENTS DURING THIS PANDEMIC
1. Talk about COVID-19 with your children – Children are perceptive, they easily sense fear and anxiety in their environment. Also, with a completely unfamiliar routine where they aren’t allowed to go to the park or meet their friends and have to regularly wash their hands, their anxiety must’ve been shooting off the hook. Furthermore, lack of information and inability to express themselves efficiently, only whirls the uncertainty in their heads which may lead to behavioral issues. Your child may either become too withdrawn or may act out even on mundane events. The only way to protect your child right now is through honesty and openness.
Useful tips :
- Create a safe space for your child – let them know that you’re there with them and he/she can ask or express anything without any fear.
- Be a good listener – allow your child to talk freely to understand how much they already know.
- Be honest – Never lie to your child or make tall promises. Be truthful. It’s okay to say things like “we don’t know yet, but we are all going to figure it out” or “I am not completely sure but as far as I think…”.
- Be age-appropriate in your approach – Understand how old your child is and break down the information to them in a way they will understand it yet not feel threatened.
- Be understanding and supportive – Your child may be experiencing an upheaval of emotions. Don’t trivialize their concerns with ‘you’re just a kid’. Convey to your child that you acknowledge how difficult all this is for them.
- Use this as an opportunity to teach your child life lessons – You can teach your child about ‘fair treatment and equality’ by telling them how this virus does not discriminate based on caste, color, creed, or status. You can teach your child about ‘pro-active behavior or volunteering for good causes’ by showing them stories of people who are working on the frontline to contain the outbreak and are serving the nation.
- Have random check-ins – Every now and then, check in to ensure that your child is okay. Remind them that you are always there and they can talk to you anytime. And, give reassurance about your ability to handle come what may. Reassurance goes a long way in coping with their anxiety.
2. Make a New Routine – Coronavirus has sapped our age-old routine and as hard as it is for both you and your children alike, it calls for a need for a new routine! Doing so provides boundaries and structure to your young ones, which would not only eliminate uncertainty but would also increase productivity and create a positive home environment.
- Be consistent with a margin of flexibility – Co-create a time table with your child that has in place a few structured activities and some free time too.
- Include physical activities – With restrictions to be able to go out and play, children have a lot of pent up energy in them. Having some exercising or jumping and running activities helps your child to feel more relaxed and reduces stress.
- Be a good role model – If you practice all the desired behaviours like maintaining good hygiene, safe distancing, and treating others with respect and patience in your everyday routine, your child will learn from you and will do the same.
- Add fun to tasks – You can make a game like ‘let’s see who will wash their hands without spilling any water’, ’let’s see who can touch their face the least number of times in a day’ or for very young children, you can sing rhymes about hand-washing with them. This will keep the practice of hygiene interesting.
- End on a reflective note – At the end of each day, tell you child about one good thing they did. Praise their effort to keep them going for the next couple of days!
3. Spend Quality Time with your children- As tough it may sound, quarantine is also the time to foster a better relationship with your children. Set aside time to spend with each child of yours. It may be as little as 15 minutes, however, it can be at a similar time each day so the child knows and looks forward to it. This predictability amidst all uncertainty can be a solace for your children and can make them feel secure, seen, heard, and loved!
- Always remember ‘Different age, different needs’ – For toddlers, activities like mimicking their facial expressions, singing, and playing with them can form a secure attachment. For your young child, you can read a book together, make drawings using crayons or paints, dance, or sing together. For your teen, you can watch something of their interest together like sports Netflix movies. You can help them connect to their friends via zoom or FaceTime, or even exercise together.
- Be fully present – In that time, give your 100% attention to your child. Look at them, listen to them and be there for them!
- Let your child steer the course of your quality time – Ask your child what they would like to do in your time together. Being able to choose gives a sense of ownership, alongside, building confidence.
- Be realistic in your expectations – Never have off the ground expectations from your child which are hard to live up to. Your child can’t stay indoors quietly without making their presence felt all day. However, it’s fine to expect them to be quiet when you are on an important call.
- Always be the one to praise – Praising good behavior not only makes your child feel seen but it also increases the likelihood of that behavior to occur again.
4. Manage the Expected Misbehaviour – In such debilitating times, it is normal for children to act out or misbehave at times. You can only expect them to drive you crazy when crazy is all that they feel. What is important for you, as a parent, is to redirect their behavior rather than making them feel guilty about it. This will help them become problem solvers.
- Prevent them from reaching their saturation point – As soon as you feel that they are at the brim of action out, distract them with something of their interest, it may be something as simple as inviting them to watch a show together. To stop bad behavior before it happens is the key.
- Use consequences over punishment – Hitting or shouting only makes your child more stubborn. So, it is always a good idea to discipline them using consequences like ‘if you shout and throw your food, you will not get anything else to eat right now’. This teaches your child to hold responsibility for their actions in an effective manner.
- Be a person of your word – Nothing elicits bad behavior than knowing that your parent will not stick through the consequence that they held in the first place. The moment your child knows your weakness of letting unfavorable behavior slide by, he/she will refrain from valuing your word. Always do what you say.
- Navigate with Positivity – Give positive instructions like “please keep your things back to where they belong” instead of “stop creating this mess”. Stating what we wish to see in their behavior instead of what we don’t want to see the help.
- Be mindful of how you convey your message – The easiest way to get their attention is by calmly calling their name. This eliminates the unnecessary stress which you and your child feel when you resort to shouting.
5. Ensure Your Child’s Safety Online – With a complete lockdown, your children are spending a great chunk of their time online every day. From school classes, games, online shows, and movies, there is a complete transition to a digital world. Not to deny how being connected makes your children feel safe and reduces the impact of the current situation, an online life also presents some risks like access to inappropriate content or cyberbullying.
- Be strict with privacy settings – ensure that your child’s personal information stays private, particularly from strangers.
- Explain vigilant use – Explain to your child that they can be mindful of what they upload online. Also, teach your child ways to report inappropriate content.
- Keep channels of communication open – Tell your child that if they experience something online which makes them feel uncomfortable, they can always walk up to you and share without the fear of being punished.
- Always have a finger at their pulse – Be attentive to any changes you see in your child’s behaviour, like if they are suddenly too shy, too withdrawn or too aggressive. If yes, talk to your child in a non -threatening manner.
6. Nurture the ‘We’ – Being working parents, having to combine childcare and domestic duties with your virtual offices, maybe stripping you off any decent time with your partner. So, you need to first water your union and work on the quality of your relationship with your partner. Many of you may feel that it’s irrelevant or that you don’t have enough time for this. However, if you continue to exhaust all your energy elsewhere, then the ‘we’, that is you and your partner, will become disconnected. And, as long as you don’t have a well connected ‘we’, the ship on which you planned to sail your family during this storm, will inevitably drown.
- Try to reconnect – Through regular acts of care like a hug, prolonged eye contact, or sharing vulnerable emotions with your partner – everyone in the family will be a win-win!
- Make time – Alongside managing other things, it is crucial to make sufficient time for your partner. It may be as little as dedicated 20 minutes, however, in that time, enjoy and cherish your bond.
- Acknowledge efforts – There are times when one or the other may fall short on actions, in such a case, always make it a point to praise their efforts. This is the kind of reassurance and support you can offer right now to continue a smooth sail.
7. Recharge Yourself – One can only give what they have. To ensure peace at home, it is important to be at peace with yourself first! This calls for all parents to be well aware of their energy buttons and to never shy away from pressing them every once in a while.
- Care to share – Remember that millions of people are in this with you. Always make it a point to share what you feel and how you are coping with all this with someone you can confide in.
- Every now and then, follow the ‘red light technique’ – It is a technique, where, once you feel overwhelmed, you stop (red) and close your eyes for a few minutes, think (yellow) to get in touch with how you feel and breathe mindfully. Finally, when you are ready (green), you open your eyes and come back calmer with more mental space to parent well.
Take Away Message – It is an alarming time where mismanagement, uncertainty, fear of danger, and above all, mass level societal change prevails! Right now, it is uncalled for to further burden yourself by forcing yourself to see the whole staircase. If you feel you aren’t ready, just muster the courage to take the first step. Look at it ‘one day at a time’ and put your best foot forward!
Try to talk about your current situation openly, set a suitable routine, spend quality time with your partner and your kids and most importantly, remember that this isn’t the time to strive for perfection. It’s okay to cut yourself some slack and be gentle with yourself. And although parenting is a job that rarely receives compliments, I want to tell you that YOU, as a parent, amidst all this, are doing a way better job than you think you are! You can have my word on that!
Let’s give hope to one another by sharing in the comments below, that one thing you feel you’re doing right while you parent amidst this tumultuous time.