It affects us all- here are some things you can do to cope with the parenting made by the pandemic-led upheaval
For the past year, the world in which we live, mingle, work, play and learn has been turned upside down. Aside from the fear of this invisible threat that continues to have a devastating impact across the globe, it’s also the many changes it has brought along that has all of us spinning out of control. And as parents – it’s thrown us into uncharted waters.
We’re not just talking about the stress of managing online classes (when the same space has also become our office) or worrying about how to entertain cooped-up kids; parents are also beginning to contend with the adverse effects of the pandemic and quarantine on their child’s emotional health.
Why it is important to revise our pre-pandemic parenting style
The damaging effects of the pandemic have shown up in a number of ways and in children as young as 2 years. A study conducted by the Journal of Tropical Pediatrics titled ‘Psychological and Behavioral Impact of Lockdown and Quarantine Measures for COVID-19 Pandemic on Children, Adolescents and Caregivers’ found that the fear of COVID-19 can manifest itself as “anxiety, depression, irritability, boredom [and inattention in children]” while the kids with pre-existing behavioral problems will have to face the high probability of worsening symptoms.
And these negative impacts can be further aggravated by quarantine measures. The study revealed that even children were fearful about the infection of self and family members, sometimes didn’t like the strict social distancing/quarantine measures, felt anxious about uncertainties regarding when the pandemic will end, and felt isolated due to prolonged and widespread closure of the schools and other public places.
So what can you do? Here are 5 tips to help your family get through the stress of the pandemic
- Do not forget yourself
Just like the airplane safety tip of wearing your own oxygen mask before helping your child, with emotional regulation too parents must take care of themselves to be in a better position to help their children cope. In addition to eating healthy, exercising and getting adequate sleep, we need to assess whether our emotional needs are being met and if not, then take steps to meet them. Though family time and time together is important, it’s okay to take some me-time every now and then to decompress.
- Address your child’s fears and doubts
Children always look to their parents for answers and to tell them that everything will be okay. Questions about the pandemic can be answered honestly but positively and according to the age of the child. For example, with young children, under the ages of 5 years, it’s okay to not go into too many details. Instead, we can reassure them about how we can stay safe if we follow the safety measures and that slowly, we will all get vaccinated. Older children need validation and communication about what’s going on and the changes in their routine and academic life.
Addressing and understanding their feelings will help – whether it’s being upset that they can’t celebrate a birthday like before or if they’re just sad they haven’t met their school friends in a long time.
And if you’re stuck- look it up. Tons of parenting blogs like kidshealth.org and parents.com put out free resources that you can access to better understand how to talk to your kids.
- Create healthy routines that support everyone’s individual needs
Because things outside are so uncertain, having some structure at home will offer the children stability and reassurance. That said, the routine shouldn’t be too strictly imposed and should be flexible enough to meet everyone’s individual needs. When first trying out a schedule, get the children involved in the planning process. This will get them more excited about it.
For younger children it would help to have a visual schedule in the form of a physical chart or even a timetable on your laptop with fun icons for each activity. When creating the timetable, a good place to start would be to use the present school schedule as your framework.
- Stay fit – work out and breathe
Aside from the health benefits, exercise improves the mood and is an excellent outlet to deal with stress. A regular relaxation practice like yoga will help the entire family. As for some high-energy activities, if it’s safe to venture out where you live, then walking, running or cycling will do the children some good. And, if you’re homebound, then dance classes are a great (and fun) alternative. When done together, all of these activities become opportunities to bond.
Baby and me Yoga may not be new but its popularity on the internet is. Many fitness bloggers put out workout series that cater to parents and to look for them all you have to do is type in the keywords ‘family workouts’.
- Amp up the affection
Offer extra hugs, kisses, attention and say ‘I love you’ more. World-renowned family therapist Virginia Satir, is famous for saying “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” You know the best thing about hugs – when you give them, you’re getting one back as well.
- The pandemic is a tough time for parents and children alike which is why it is important to adjust your parenting style
- Communication is key. Do not leave your children out of the loop, uncertainty will worsen their anxiety about the pandemic
- Create a routine. Structure in your everyday lives will offer children reassurance in these uncertain times
- Stay fit. Work out regularly and do not let your kids laze around, too much free time will start draining draining them
- Be affectionate. Hugs will make you happier and relieve stress
- Do not forget yourself! Take care, you cannot help your children if you aren’t well yourself