The parenting of yesterday is not today’s parenting. With the spread of the Coronavirus, moms and dads are spending more time with their children, in new roles. Parenting is not easy, even in ideal conditions, and the conditions have changed. Many of us have never had to parent through a crisis, so what is right and what is wrong? There is no official guidebook on helping our children through this pandemic time. This is definitely a learning experience for all of us.
As a parent are you afraid maybe you should be doing more? Every day you have tried to provide structure, keep them safe, secure, and healthy, encouraging your children to move about and get fresh air, allowing a safe space for the large feelings they may have and having open, honest communication. Is that enough? Many parents believe that the way to be there for their kids during a crisis is to sacrifice their own needs for their children’s.
I’ve already seen this happen during the coronavirus outbreak. Parents are so focused on making things run smoothly for their kids that they’re running themselves ragged. Parents don’t eat regular meals, sleep enough, reach out to other adults for support, enlist their children to help with the household duties, or take time for enjoyable activities like reading a book or taking a walk.
This cannot be how parents can function for the long run. One thing that is contagious in a household is anxiety. Parents must protect their stress levels and reduce anxiety. In order to be present in a healthy way for their children, parents first need to be present and healthy for themselves.
Here are some tips to assist parents in parenting during COVID-19.
1. Discuss rules and expectations. From the get-go, establish rules for how the day or week should go. You’ll want to have a set schedule that still allows for some flexibility. If you lay out the rules and expectations early in the game, you’ll have a lot more success in implementing them. Plus, it will help provide structure for your child’s day.
2. Get back into a routine. While you may not need to wake up your children at 5 a.m. to catch the bus or for you to get to work, you also don’t want them sleeping the day away, either. Don’t let your kid lounge in their pajamas all day. Instead, try to begin the day at a decent time in the morning. Have them get up and get dressed just like when school is in session.
Also, have your child go to bed at a decent time, just as they should normally on school nights, so that the child can get eight to 10 hours of sleep.
Remember, children are used to a lot of structure during the academic day, and, even though they may fight that structure, most children thrive with it. Structure helps children know what to expect, and it provides consistency, something kids need in their lives right now. Providing this sense of normalcy in children’s’ daily lives can help them feel less anxious and more secure during this uncertain time.
4. Designate a "school zone." With most of the family being at home now, privacy and space may be hard to come by. Given such challenges, just as schools are having to be innovative, so are parents. Designate a space in your home where your child can do schoolwork uninterrupted and free from distractions like the TV.
5. Encourage your child to take lots of breaks. Make sure your child is staying active and intermittently breaking away from studies throughout the day. That could involve shooting hoops, riding a bike or going for a walk. It’s not healthy to stay stuck in front of a computer or television all day. That goes for adults who are working remotely, too.
Make sure your child is taking breaks throughout the day and moving around. During these breaks, it’s best not to play video games, since doing so can take time away from being active and studying and may undermine your routine.
6. Facilitate social connections. During the school day, your child had opportunities to interact and hang out with friends. Social connections are a vital part of childhood and adolescent development. Children may feel isolated from their friends at a time when they need them the most. You can help younger children connect with their friends using technology by, for example, setting up a video chat and having children bake something together, practice funny dance moves with one another or have a virtual picnic lunch. Older children and teens can have online study sessions or do a virtual group lunch.
7. Communicate with school personnel. Parent and teacher communication is already essential, and with online schooling, it's even more important. If you feel at a loss regarding how your child is doing in this new virtual environment or would like to know when something is due, reach out to your child’s teacher. As a parent, remember, you still have the right to know how your child is doing and to understand teacher and school expectations.
8. Advocate for your child’s needs. If your child has identified needs via an Individualized Education Plan or 504 Plan, you have the right to make sure those needs are being met. If the plan is up for an annual review, you can contact your child’s case manager to see how and when the meeting or review will be conducted. Many schools are opting to do virtual meetings, using platforms such as Zoom or Google Meet, so this may be an option.
9. Develop a social support system. Reach out to a class parent and come up with creative ways that you, as parents, can stay in the loop with what’s happening with virtual education in your child’s school or ways you can assist your children stay socially connected through technology. We can accomplish so much more when we work together.
10. Exercise patience. We are all adjusting to the new normal.