Parenting in a Challenging Season
GEMMA CAMACHO from Thrive shares some guidance on meeting parenting challenges during Covid19.
If we had to choose one word to summarise this season, it would likely be “uncertainty.” Not knowing when COVID-19 will stop spreading, where we will be safe, how long we will be trapped in our homes, how we will manage the forthcoming economic crisis, why this is happening, and so on.
While this uncertainty stirs negative emotions in all of us, now more than ever we need to find things that make us feel in control. How about our relationship with our children? While for many of us having them at home all day long is beyond challenging, we are also conscious of the fact that this is a temporary situation and one that also allows us to influence them and our relationships. Given this, I am providing some suggestions so that by the end of this madness you can look back and realise that – against all odds! – your relationship with them gets stronger than ever.
- You are your children’s mirror: If you are okay, they will be okay.While we all have needs, adults tend to put them on hold. Avoiding them can be temporarily effective but doing so for a long time can lead to overreactions to even the smallest things. Instead, listen to yourself and try to fulfill that need the best way possible. Ideally, you say it out loud so that your kids will understand your reaction: “I am frustrated right now because I just got an email from a client, and it is going to take me at least an hour to deal with this issue.”In this way, our kids understand that we have needs and, most importantly, that we have a healthy way to deal with them.
- Know yourself: Before hitting the wall, ask your partner for help with the kids. And if you are alone (bless you!), put a movie on or let them play video games for longer than usual: it’s better than losing your patience. If you do lose it, have compassion and don’t beat yourself up, then apologize to the kids and move on.
- Set up a schedule and let your children know exactly when you are unavailable (unless of course there is an emergency!):This should be done whether you are working from home or you are simply at home – because you will definitely need some personal time each day! Outside of working hours, forget about the phone and any other distractions and be present.
- Find ways to keep the kids busy:This can include books, board games, coloring/drawing/painting, dancing, etc. Also be sure to control screen time, especially when schools are doing online classes. If you have more than one child at home and the youngest doesn’t have school tasks, make up “homework assignments” so he/she doesn’t feel less important. You can buy them books, print worksheets or just make them yourself.
- Be relaxed about school work: Now that we are discussing school… it’s worth saying that we all need to chill out about the way we manage the quantity of tasks that we receive from the teacher every day, including online classes. As a parent, it is easy to feel pressure to teach everything they are supposed to be learning so they are ready once school starts up again. As you have already realized: pretty much every kid is in the same situation, which means that everyone is going to need that extra support. There is no way that we can provide them 5-7 hours of education every day as if they were in school. It is not fair or worth the fight if they get tired and want to do something else.
- Make them part of your routine as much as possible:This can include workouts, household chores, cooking, meditation or prayer time, walks and so on.
- Learn to stay with their feelings no matter what they are: Although challenging, if your kids are worried, scared or sad, do not try to fix their emotions by telling them the positives but rather ask questions and explore what they mean by being worried or feeling a certain emotion. Only after they have expressed themselves and you have given them some time can you begin to problem solve with them and make a plan: “How can I make this easier for you? How can I help you?”
- Recognise that this is also a challenging time for them and they may be more cranky than normal: You can help them to identify words to describe their feelings: “Wow, it must be frustrating/ sad/ _____ not being able to go to school, not seeing your friends and having to stay home all day.”
- Before you tell them about the coronavirus, ask them what they already know: While this is a chance to correct any misinformation, be mindful of the details they should know. This is a great blog that can tell you what type of information to share based on their age: How to talk with our children during COVID-19.
- Finally, realise that your children will remember this period of time depending on your home environment rather than the global and local epidemic: What do you want them to remember? Probably that even though times were challenging, you made the most of it by spending quality time together and having fun… Use this time to teach them a new skill and strengthen bonds!