Parenting can be enough of a challenge without throwing a pandemic into the mix. Having never experienced a pandemic before during our lifetime, it’s safe to say that coping with the effects of Covid-19 has been extremely tough. Most people have spent weeks and months trapped inside their homes, unable to socialize and meet their loved ones in person. You may have been forced to work from home, or have been working on the frontline, putting yourself in very real danger of catching Covid on a daily basis. Nearly all children have spent at least some of the last 12 months learning remotely, the pressure of being responsible for their education as well as their day-to-day care may have felt overwhelming.
But if we find them difficult as adults, it’s hard to imagine just how frightening it is for children who are currently living through this pandemic. Not only may they not understand what is happening or why, but they will also pick up on your emotional climate and this could directly affect how they feel. Children rely on their parents to help them feel both physically and emotionally safe. Fortunately, there are lots of things that you can do to help support this. Here’s our top tip for parenting during the pandemic.
The nature of the pandemic means that we are forced to spend a lot more time together than usual, but how much of this is actually quality time? This means time not juggling housework, schoolwork, and other responsibilities. Spending quality time together doing an activity that you all enjoy is a great way to reinforce your bond and forget about the uncertainty of the world for a while. Play a board game, watch a movie, go for a walk, or even just eat a meal together – whatever you prefer that brings you all together. If you can, you should also schedule a little 1-1 time with each of your children. If you have more than one child, they will have had to share your attention for a very long time, and a little focus on each of them will benefit them hugely.
The last year has been full of disappointment. As adults, we are emotionally mature enough to deal with this disappointment in a fairly controlled manner. However, children don’t necessarily have the ability to do this and it’s not unusual for them to exhibit challenging attitudes and behaviors while they try and deal with things that are out of their control. It’s important not to hold children to the same standards as adults and to validate their feelings, but not the behavior. Sit and talk to them, tell them you understand how they are feeling, and see what you can reasonably do to minimize the disappointment and support them. For example, ‘we can’t go camping in the forest, but how about we camp overnight in the back yard instead’.
Socialization is just as important for children, as it is for adults yet staying at home, means that in-person interaction has been very limited. Fortunately, advances in technology mean that it’s much easier to stay in contact with friends and loved ones at this time. It’s essential that we allow our kids to communicate with others through these channels and that we actively encourage them to do so. Speak to their friend’s parents to see if you can set up a weekly video chat or let them talk on the phone – even if this does mean that they use their digital devices a little more than you would usually like! Writing letters is also a fun and very personal way to stay in touch.
Children generally cope better with change when they are in a routine, so even in times of chaos, it’s helpful to create a structure where you can. A daily routine, even if it's very different to normal or more relaxed than you might prefer, can help children understand what to expect from the day and this can help to allay their anxiety about the new normal.
It doesn’t matter how much you love your children or how committed you are as a parent, taking care of kids 24/7 for days, weeks, and months on end without a break is incredibly challenging. All parents need a little alone time to recharge, even if it’s just 15 minutes of peace and quiet after everyone has gone to bed. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty vessel, so take care of yourself too.
For more advice on parenting during the pandemic, don’t hesitate to speak to our reassuring and knowledgeable team in San Diego, CA at (858) 434-8100.