Parenting During COVID-19
Many of us are struggling with our own anxiety, fear, worry, frustration, confusion and more during COVID-19. Managing our own emotions and making sense of our own thoughts is hard enough, but then add kids into the mix and a lot of us are left more confused than ever. How do I talk to them about what is going on? What do I share? How do I handle my kid(s) emotions? I want them to feel safe, but I'm not even sure that I feel safe. How do I assure them that it is all going to be okay? It can feel like there are no good answers or maybe no answers at all to our concerns about parenting during COVID-19. Here are some tips to help you through this challenging and overwhelming time.
Consistency & Structure
With school closures and parents stuck at home there is plenty of room for free time and flexibility. While these are not negatives by nature, too much of a good thing can cause disruption. Even if kids fight it they truly function best in predictable, consistent and structured environments. Set wake times, meal times, bed times and do your best to keep to them. Try to make your routines as typical as possible. For example, if you would wake up at 7am on Monday morning to get your day started then keep to that even though there isn't school or work holding you to this standard. If you normally eat dinner as a family then maintain that tradition. While it may be hard to feel like things are normal these seemingly small activities will help create some normalcy amongst the chaos.
Establish a daily schedule to further assist with predictability and structure. Get help from your kid(s) in establishing tasks, responsibilities and times to do them all. It will help them feel like they have some control over what is happening and increase likelihood of compliance. Strike a balance between household chores, academics, physical activity and creative projects. The goal is to get all parts of their brain and body working during this time of social distancing.
Communication & Reassurance
Kids and teens are likely to have a lot of questions and concerns about what is going on. After-all, their world has completely changed over night and developmentally they may not be at a place to understand. Help them understand in a way that is age-appropriate. Teens will be able to take in a lot more information about what is going on around them then say a seven year old. Meet your kid(s) where they are at in the information you provide and the way in which it is shared. Limit media/news time for them. Not all information is accurate or delivered in an age-appropriate manner. Reassure your kid(s) that they are strong, their bodies are strong and as a family you are doing everything you can to keep each other be safe. They are going to need your reassurance during this time of instability and fear.
I know we are calling it social distancing, but really it is physical distancing. Keep your social connections. Technology is a wonderful tool to help with this. Schedule phone calls and video chats with the significant people in your lives. If your child is used to seeing their grandparents on a regular basis then schedule a video chat so they can still connect. Plan a play date and prepare in advance. They may feel and look different, but they are still possible. There are online platforms where both parties can log in to play Uno or other board/card games together. If this isn't possible, have one person bring the game and play from a distance. Have art supplies ready and create a picture together. Just because we are physically apart does not mean we cannot connect or share in an activity together from afar. Get creative, plan ahead and make social time a priority.
While COVID-19 has left a lot of us feeling negative emotions and high levels of stress and anxiety, it has also left us with time we may not have otherwise had. There is always a silver lining and being stuck at home with our kids may be one of them - - even when we feel like pulling our hair out. Kids grow fast and one day they will be off on their own creating their own world. Soak up this time you have with them today because one day you're going to wish for it all back.
Parents need help too
Managing our kids emotions, helping them understand what is going on and providing reassurance that it will all be okay is hard. It's even harder if we aren't sure of our own emotions or how to manage them. It is okay to ask for help and gather support. Get support from other parents, friends or a mental health professional. Therapists all over the country are making the switch to online counseling and are ready to help you through this. Learn more about online counseling here and schedule an appointment with The M.A.D. Therapist today. You may feel isolated, but you are certainly not alone.