If you’re parenting through this time of crisis, know that you are not alone. All over the world, parents are struggling with everyday life turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, the uncertainty of what the future holds and unanticipated time at home with their kids. Here are some strategies to help.
Lower your parenting standards
It’s okay if you’re not setting up Instagram-worthy art projects for your kids. It’s okay if your child watches more TV than usual so you can get a break or get some work done. It’s okay if dinner is pasta with canned sauce and whatever veggies or fruit you can find in the fridge. It’s okay if you don’t want to home school, or can’t – kids learn so much through play. It’s okay if they’re bored – boredom, or white space, is a wonderful opportunity for creativity. It’s okay if you’re not as patient as you might normally be – repair and move on. This is an unusual time. Go easy on yourself.
Laughter is a fantastic antidote to stress, both for our bodies and our spirits. Spend 10 minutes a few times a day getting your kids laughing. Laughter also makes children feel more connected to us, which increases cooperation levels. If you don’t know how to get them laughing, Google some ideas. But avoid tickling, as it often makes kids feel powerless and doesn’t relieve stress the same way as “funny” laughter.
Most families I work with are challenged by the demands of busy lives. This is our chance to spend time together. A few times a day, tell your child, “I’m all yours for the next 15 minutes. What would you like to do?” Involve your child in your day-to-day activities – children love to help. Take a moment several times a day to “delight in your child.” Let your children know how much you love them with words or just a smile and a hug. An added benefit: Connection makes parenting easier, as a connected child is often more cooperative. The togetherness we are all experiencing at home may be the silver lining in all of this. If you’re missing outside contact, set up some virtual coffee dates with friends and family via video conference.
Get outside if you can
It’s so important to feel the wind and the sun on your face, so try to get outdoors while staying safe and practising social distancing. If you have a yard, look for signs of spring, bird watch or garden. Play tag or set up an obstacle course. If it’s warm enough, put out a blanket for reading or art. If you are in an apartment, try a park or field where you can avoid close contact. Even opening windows to let fresh air in can help. If you have the ability to do so, drive to the woods or somewhere rural. A change of scenery always helps to brighten our spirits.
Manage your own anxiety
Try to stay calm. Excessive worry and panic are not only detrimental to our well-being, they also negatively affect our children. Our brains are wired to mirror the emotions around us so if you’re stressed and anxious, your kids will be as well. The last thing you need is melting-down kids.
If you find yourself consumed with worried thoughts, try to take a few deep breaths to calm your body and use a mantra to calm your hijacked brain, like “No matter what happens, I can handle this” or “This is a moment in time. This will pass.” If you’re really anxious, I suggest limiting your news consumption and asking a friend or family member to update you on a need-to-know basis. Reach out for support if you need to.
Try to be flexible and be as present for your children as you can be. We don’t know what will happen next week, next month, next year, but we’re all in this together.
Sarah Rosensweet is a parenting coach who lives in Toronto with her husband and three children, ages 12, 15 and 18.
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