Parenting Through A Pandemic

LIZ DECKER, Therapist, LMFT

Parenting can be difficult, add in a pandemic, homeschooling, loss and fear and it can become really REALLY difficult!  We hope to provide some practical tips and reminders to help parents navigate these challenges.  Keeping routines, and helping children develop calming strategies and resilience can provide lifetime behaviors that will serve us well.  Below are some suggestions on how to get through these difficult times.

We have all heard “put your oxygen mask on before helping others” and it is truer now than ever.  Many parents report feeling “burnt out”, and that can be a sign that you need more self-care.  Consider some of the following tips:

PARENT SELF-CARE

  • Having a sign on the door for a quiet zone for yourself.
  • Think about what nourishes and replenishes you and who can help provide those things… Then ask.
  • Be intentional about connecting with others- it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of life; maintaining connections must be more deliberate due to social distancing.
  • Meditate and include your kids. It can be as simple as asking what are three things you would like to hear, see or smell today?
  • Be gentle with yourself-Do what you can – be calm as much as you can – and apologize when you can’t.

DEVELOP AND KEEP ROUTINES

Post and review the day’s schedule each day. (A white board is great for this)  Some work time in morning when fresh – then some exercise, regular meals, and some movie/screen and activity time. Schedule screen start and end times.

Keep usual bedtimes – parents need the time for themselves at the end of the night and kids need their usual sleep.

Set up regular video-chats with friends, family members or other important people in your family’s lives – it will be helpful for all parties.

DISCIPLINE AND REWARD

Redirect unwanted behavior. Sometimes children misbehave because they are bored or don’t know any better. Find something else for them to do.

Use your attention to reinforce good behaviors and discourage others.  Notice good behavior and point it out, praising success and good tries. Explaining clear expectations, particularly with older children, can help with this.

Use rewards and privileges to reinforce good behaviors (completing school assignments, chores, getting along with siblings, etc.) that wouldn’t normally be given during less stressful times.

Know when NOT to respond. As long as your child isn’t doing something dangerous and gets attention for good behavior, ignoring bad behavior can be an effective way of stopping it.

    • Does the problem represent an immediate danger?
    • How will I feel about this problem tomorrow?
    • Is this situation permanent?

Finally consider time with you as privilege.  Even though many of us are together 24/7 set aside time with each child.   Encourage the child to choose the activity.  Put screens away and provide undivided attention even for 20 minutes a couple times a week.  Add it into your routine/schedules.

CARE FOR OTHERS

Helping other people makes us feel better about ourselves. It can be as simple as calling a neighbor or family member who is home alone or putting up a sign thanking people who deliver the mail. Help your children come up with at least one kind act each day. Keep a journal of all the things you and your family does for others—even the little things.

Make a point to notice helpers. When children hear about service in the world, it provides hope. During this stressful time period, highlight the healthcare providers, grocery store workers, drivers, and all the essential workers who are helping to keep everyone in the community safe. University of Florida’s Meet the Helpers is a great online resource that gives young children developmentally age-appropriate information on this global pandemic’s helpers.

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