Parenting during a Pandemic
As parents, we want to protect our children from the painful realities of the pandemic. We cannot control these unfortunate circumstances, but we can control the examples we set for our children regarding stress and conflict management. It is all the more imperative that we do everything within our power to ensure that their most fundamental needs are fully met during these immensely turbulent times. Below, you will find a few useful parenting tips we wrote, customized to this period in time. Check it out:
- Address children’s fears: In age-appropriate ways, we encourage you to speak to your children directly about the pandemic, while taking into consideration the following: Don’t volunteer too much information, but try to address their questions & concerns honestly. Offer them reassurance and share what you are doing as a family to stay safe. It is important for this conversation to take place given in all likelihood they are regularly exposed to pandemic-related talk all around them. When you approach this conversation from a developmentally appropriate vantage point, you have the power to help your children recognize & label feelings that arise and to help them work through surfacing questions, anxieties, and emotion. As a parent, you know your child best and thus can be sensitive to their ability to comprehend the information they are given according to their age, cognitive ability, etc.
- Model how to manage feelings: Talk through how you are managing your own feelings and demonstrate to your children that fear is not only manageable, but also to be expected. (“I am worried about Grandma since I can't go visit her. However, we can regularly facetime her to keep her company and will visit her in person as soon as we are all vaccinated". Note that the “however” is an important addition to this statement, as it clearly demonstrates to your child that there is a practical solution to this concern)
- Establish “tech free” hours: These days, children tend to spend more time on screens than sleeping--and this does not have a positive effect on their development. We therfore strongly encourage parents to establish daily “tech free” hours where children are given the chance to play in any way they wish that doesn’t involve technology. Push them to resume thinking with their imagination, to play emotion-based & enjoyable board games (think: StrongSuit) and to make art--all entirely free of screens.
- Structure the day. With usual routines thrown out the window, it is advisable to establish new daily schedules for the sake of consistency in your child’s life. Break up schoolwork when possible, schedule meals at similar times each day, have children wake up and go to sleep at consistent times, and ensure that they have regularly scheduled time to play outside and move around. Movement is key--particularly when we are cooped up for such excessive amounts of time!
- Offer extra hugs and say “I love you" more often: Our children need to experience as much overtly expressed love as possible during this time of uncertainty and stress. Whenever feasible, ask your child, "would you like a hug?" or "do you need a hug?" and, when relevant, be sure to voice your own needs by stating,"I could use a hug".
- Learn self-forgiveness: Parental perfection is not an option here. Know that if you forgive yourself and emphasize the value of self-compassion, your child will learn to be gentler with themselves. Making mistakes is not only okay--but it enables self-growth. It helps us grow by taking accountability, learning from our shortcomings, talking through our feelings and intentions, and making the necessary changes if possible. Also, remember that you can love your child more than anything in the world but still want to tear your hair out from time to time. That is not only okay, but it in fact expectable (& relatable!).
- Put everything in perspective: Regularly remind yourself & your child that this period is temporary, no matter how permanent it may feel. It is particularly important for children to be continually reminded of this, given times of acute stress can often feel like a forever state from the perspective of a child. Additionally, schedule small things to look forward to as a family that set time apart from the rest of the week; for instance a family game night, a weekend hike, breakfast for dinner, or a costume party.