First and Foremost: Parent Self Care
We have all heard “put your oxygen mask on before helping others,” and it is more true now than ever. Many parents report feeling burnt out and fatigued, which is a clear sign they don’t have (or aren’t taking) the time to care for themselves. If you find yourself feeling this way consider some of the following tips:
- Have a sign you can place on a door indicating you are taking some time for yourself, and would like to be left alone for a bit.
- Think about what nourishes and replenishes you and who can help provide those things. Then give yourself permission to ask for what you need.
- Be intentional about when and how you connect with others. As much as we need connection, it also takes more energy to connect right now given the extra safety measures. Maintaining connections must be more deliberate due to social distancing, make sure you are using the time and energy you have to your benefit.
- Take time to center yourself and involve your kids! Meditate. Develop a daily gratitude practice. Practice quiet reflection. 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 (and forgive yourself) when you can’t.
Develop and Keep Routines
Each day post and review the day’s schedule. (A white board is great for this.) A good rhythm can be working in the morning, then using the afternoon for exercise, movie/tv/computer screen time and other activities. Scheduling regular video chats with friends and family members also gives everyone something to look forward to. Having a start and end time for screen time is especially important, as is having a regular bedtime.
Discipline and Rewards
Sometimes children misbehave because they are bored or don’t know any better. When unwanted behavior presents itself find ways to redirect. Make a list of “redirection ideas” and keep it on your phone so you aren’t scrambling to think of something in the moment.
Use your attention to reinforce good behaviors and discourage others. Notice good behavior and point it out, praising success and good tries. Making expectations clear, particularly with older children, can help with this.
Rewards and privileges are also good tools to reinforce good behaviors (completing school assignments, chores, getting along with siblings, etc.), things you may not comment on in less stressful times carry more weight right now.
Know when to NOT 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. If you are wondering how to determine when bad behavior warrants attention, consider these questions:
- 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, it can still be extremely beneficial to set aside intentional time with each child. Encourage the child to choose the activity. Put screens away and provide undivided attention. Even just 20 minutes a couple times a week can go along way. 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 you know is home alone, or putting up a sign thanking people who deliver the mail. Encourage your children come up with at least one act of kindness each day. Keep a journal of all the things you and your family does for others, no matter how small.
Also make a point to “notice the helpers,” as Mister Rogers said. When children hear about acts of kindness and service to others in the world, it gives them (and us) 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.
We hope these tips are useful to your and your families, and, again, if you would like to dive deeper into this conversation and hear what strategies are working for other parents, we will hold a more comprehensive discussion on how to navigate and build resilience as parents on October 7 via Zoom.