The Pandemic Parenting Handbook: How to Enhance Your Child’s (and Yours) Emotional Well-Being in Times of COVID-19
In this unprecedented novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many parents struggle to navigate a new, uncharted territory of challenges while trying to grapple with and establish new norms in the household. Given the rapid and drastic changes in daily life that the world has witnessed recently, it is not uncommon for parents to doubt their parenting approach, whether they are doing enough, and wonder about what else they could be doing. Many parents are understandably feeling overwhelmed. While you’re very likely doing the best you can as a parent in these challenging times, below are some key strategies to refer to if you’re looking for more effective parenting in this pandemic. These may help reduce overall anxiety in the household and help enhance the emotional well-being of your child/teen. Remember- the goal is neither perfection nor achieving maximum productivity, but rather dynamic and physical wellness.
Give Some Structure to the Day:
An open-ended day without a set schedule is not a good idea for teens and children and can lead to anxiety Pandemic. The structure can provide some predictability during uncertain times. This may also help children feel accomplished and have a sense an agency. It is essential to keep it in check and not over-schedule. A restrictive or excessively detailed schedule can also be a problem. Flexible scheduling is possible as long as regular bedtimes and wake-up times occur.
Give positive feedback and pick your battles:
Parents often must correct and redirect every child/teen’s annoyance. This tendency is more common now that many parents stay home with their children. Do not do this. Instead, notice and praise the good behavior your child displays. It is better to praise specific behavior than general praise. It is essential to distinguish between annoying behavior and dangerous/risky behavior. Sometimes, what seems annoying maybe your child’s way of coping. Giving attention to the undesirable/’annoying’ behavior is more likely to reinforce it. Also, children can be negatively affected by constant negative feedback and criticism.
Spend some quality time with your child/teen.
Even 10-20 minutes of quality family time can make a difference and help them feel more supported, understood, and calmer. This can be either ‘child-directed’ or ‘freely selected play’ for children between 2 and 10 years old. As the name implies, child-directed play is not about giving directions or telling children what to do, nor engaging in competitive play. Instead, it allows the child to direct and guide the space. This type of play can strengthen the relationship with your child and help them gain self-esteem and confidence. You can learn more about the do’s and don’ts of child-directed space through this excellent resource: https://www.seattlechildrens.org/health-safety/keeping-kids-healthy/development/child-directed- play/. You can engage in a child-directed activity with older children (without directing, controlling, or criticizing). You can converse with your teen and set a goal to listen to and support them. You can read more about active listening and validation
Slow down and pause: Mindful pauses throughout the day can improve your emotional health and help you feel calmer when things get overwhelming. You will be more patient, less reactive, and more effective in parenting. Check out mindfulness exercises for yourself at: https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/accessing-your- ability-mindfulness-times-stress. You can learn more about mindfulness-based breathing exercises for children at:
Encourage your child/teen to resume and cultivate hobbies:
While schoolwork is important, creativity is equally essential for the brain’s development. You can encourage your child’s imagination by spending time at home, whether singing, playing the guitar, writing, drawing, or painting. Engaging in creative activities can enhance your child’s happiness and joy.
Explain the Meaning of the News and Set Limits on Media Use. You might have already heard this, for children and teens, repeated cycles of coronavirus news can be overwhelming, frightening, confusing, and overwhelming. Your child’s/teen’s developmental level and age should dictate the information they receive daily. This will help everyone feel calmer. It may be necessary to explain certain news to your child. This should be done authentically and developmentally for your child. Children, especially younger ones, will benefit from the safety and security of their parents.
During these difficult and uncertain times. Excessive reassurance, when there are nearly constant/frequent requests for comfort throughout the day, could be better in the long term.
Help Your Teen Stay Electronically Connected With Friends The CDC recommends that children have as little contact with people outside their immediate family due to the new coronavirus. Following the CDC guidelines will help your child/teen keep in touch with their friends through digital media. This includes phone calls, video chats, emails, and other forms of communication. Teens with social media accounts should continue monitoring and supervising their use.
Let Your Child Do Developmentally Appropriate Tasks.
Children can help you do simple household chores appropriate for their age and development. Teens can help younger siblings with their learning activities or order groceries online. Your child/teen can gain confidence, mastery, agency, and mastery by helping to select items online for delivery. This is important to remember. You should supervise and monitor the tasks.
Take care of your children’s needs and take care of yourself. This includes getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and engaging in enjoyable activities. It is essential to take care of yourself when you want to be a good parent.
For optimal brain function and emotional well-being, it is crucial to get enough sleep. This is true for all ages, especially adolescents and children, whose brains are still developing. We all know that sleep deprivation can cause irritability and exhaustion. It also increases the risk of developing depression symptoms and impairs alertness. Children and teens can experience decreased sleep, hurting key physiological processes essential for growth. You can improve your sleep hygiene by taking simple steps to ensure a good night’s rest. These measures include having a regular bedtime and maintaining a comfortable temperature. You can learn more about this here: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/what- poor-sleep-could-be-doing-to-your-child-or-teen/
b) Coronavirus Preventions:
Teach your child/teen to implement the new coronavirus precautions according to CDC guidelines. Monitor your child/teen closely for any signs and symptoms of illness.
Discuss with your child’s school the learning activities your child is participating in and any difficulties your child might have accessing or completing schoolwork.
d) Exercise –
Encourage your child/teen to engage in regular exercise, as recommended/permitted by their doctor.
e) Professional Assistance:
If your child/teen has a mental illness, ensure that you seek/continue professional assistance. Most physicians and mental health professionals are seeing patients via telepsychiatry/telehealth.
Show Compassion to your child/teen and yourself.
Compassion is an innate trait that allows us to see suffering and desire to relieve it. We all know that suffering is part of human nature. Compassion does not require being lenient about limits. It simply means recognizing the common humanity of others and ourselves. Compassion practices have been proven to improve emotional well-being and decrease stress. You can learn more about compassion exercises.
Note: The pronouns child/teen are used in this article to indicate that the words’ they,’ ‘them, and ‘there’ have been simplified. These should be replaced with the appropriate pronoun for your child/teen.