The past few months have undoubtedly been a time of stress and uncertainty.
And as many of us deal with new challenges and emotions we’re concerned about what affect these might be having on our children.
It’s reassuring to know that these feelings of stress, anger, sadness and frustration are completely normal during these times. But it’s never been more important to be kind to yourself and look after your needs and your children’s needs during. Here are some tips from Triple P — Positive Parenting Program on how you can best do that.
10 tips for parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic
Make sure your child knows that family is your priority
Make sure your child knows — through your actions and your words — that it’s part of your job as their parent to do everything within your power to keep them safe and that’s exactly what you are doing.
Take care of yourself
It’s entirely reasonable to feel anxious, distressed, confused and angry at times during the current situation. Dealing with your own emotions effectively means you’re better placed to support your children. You’re also setting an good example for your child.
Some ways you could do this:
- deep breathing
- taking a break
If these strategies do not work reach out for professional advice.
Make sure your child knows you’re always available to talk
Let your child know that when it comes to COVID-19 and this difficult time, you’re there for them. Some children might ask questions, but others may show they’re concerned through their behaviour.
When talking to your child about their feelings, stop what you are doing and listen carefully. Avoid telling your child how they should feel (avoid saying things such as ‘don’t worry about that’). Instead, let your child know it’s OK to be worried, sad, angry or disappointed.
Be truthful in age-appropriate ways
When your child asks you questions, the first thing to do is find out what they think they know about the issue already.
Then, keep your answers simple and appropriate to your child’s developmental level and make sure your information is from reliable sources (e.g. UNICEF, the World Health Organization websites). If you don’t know the answer, offer to try to find it out for them.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep (e.g. things will be back to normal by your birthday).
Maintain every day routines
We all do better when we have some structure and predictability around us — especially in times of stress and uncertainty). So, as much as possible, stick to your regular family routines (e.g. mealtimes, bedtime routines).
You will also have introduced new routines (e.g. more regular washing of hands; keeping more distance than usual between yourselves and others if outside the home; managing a situation where you are working from home while your child is also at home).
It might take time for the family to adjust to the new routines — be as kind and patient with both yourself and your child as you can.
Have a family plan
Each family needs to develop their own plan. The plan should include regular handwashing; keeping a distance between yourselves and others; and physically staying away from vulnerable family members and friends.
Where possible, include kindness to others in your plan (e.g. offer to pick up and leave groceries for an elderly neighbour or someone with special needs). In this way, you are showing your children one of the qualities you want to encourage in them.
Have plenty of interesting things to do at home
When children are busy, they’re less likely to be bored, anxious, sad or get into trouble. Work with your children to come up with a list of 20 or more activities they can do if they’re bored.
For younger children, activities might include drawing, painting, building an obstacle course, playing with blocks and play dough; and playing hide-and-seek.
For older children and adolescents, activities might include cooking, completing an online exercise program, drawing, playing catch or handball, and listening to music or a podcast.
Board games and puzzles are great for children of all ages.
Put a copy of the list somewhere in the house where your children can easily see it (e.g. on the fridge).
Also, at times like these, it’s OK to loosen up on your usual screen time rules and allow more than usual. Some screen time could include other family members or friends (e.g. having a family movie night; playing online games with friends; talking to family or friends online).
Notice and comment on the behaviour you like
Pay careful attention to your children’s behaviour during this time. Whenever they do something you like and want to encourage, specifically name the behaviour and then use plenty of praise and positive attention to encourage it in the future — you will find this is a very powerful thing to do.
For example: “that was lovely that you suggested we phone your grandmother. She really appreciated it.”
Help children learn to tolerate more uncertainty
The COVID-19 crisis is creating uncertainty for everyone. As parents, we need to find a way to accept this uncertainty ourselves. Then, through our actions and words, we need to demonstrate this acceptance to our children. For example we could say “we don’t know when this is going to be over. I know it’s hard to not know. We just have to remind ourselves that we are doing our best to stay well and safe, and that the whole world is working together on this problem”.
If you have serious concerns about your child’s emotional health, seek professional support.
Connect with loved ones
Social/physical distancing does not have to mean that you, your children or your extended family members feel alone or isolated. We are all in this crisis together. Make greater use of phones, online communication tools (group video conferencing) and social media to keep in touch with family, friends, and neighbours.
Children love being experts — maybe they can draw on their knowledge of social media to teach other family members how to use these tools to stay in touch.