Post on: 2020-04-28.

Posted in: Read.

Have you ever said, “Oh, I’m okay,” when you really weren’t? It comes from a good place, wanting to not worry others, but when it comes to your kids – it might be a bad idea. Parenting on a regular day can be a challenge, but when your mental health isn’t at its best, it can be even harder. After surveying a number of parents, talking with experts, and researching journals, here are 3 pandemic parenting hacks, and other tips to help you and your family be at your best during stressful times.

You’re a good parent!

Don’t let this be something you worry about. The fact that you worry about how your kids’ feelings automatically makes you a good parent. By instinct, we want to tell them, “Everything will be okay.” But, perhaps we’d be better to just sit with them, and let them feel their emotions. Teaching kids to honour their feelings is a skill we can help them learn – one that will prepare them for the future and all of its uncertainties.

Parenting During Stressful Times

First, though, to be able to teach them, we have to learn to honour our own emotions. Not sure when the last time you did that? Me, neither. But, I’m working on it. Here’s why:

In a recent study, Assistant Professor, Sara Waters and colleagues at the Washington State University Department of Human Development, studies the interaction between parents and their kids (7-11 years old). They wanted to see how the kids responded when the parents tried to hide their emotions. Of the 107 parents in the study, those who tried to suppress their emotions were less warm and engaged with each other. The kids picked up on the suppression of emotions, and reciprocated it. 

Kids pick up on our emotions, and how we may be suppressing them. They reciprocate what they see. Honouring emotions can help the whole family in difficult times, reports researchers.

Parenting During COVID 19

Parenting is hard on a regular day. Pandemic parenting is a whole new ball game! It’s going to be different and may be difficult. Be kind to yourself. In times of stress, people can have moments when they are not at their best. Those around you may be struggling. give space, compassion and try not to hold grudges. Everyone is doing the best they can to cope and manage stress. “Extend kindness to others around you, particularly those struggling to communicate their stress and sense of worry,” advises Psychologist Dr. Eileen Feliciano, based in New York. Remember that children can also be affected by stress, sometimes needing additional attention, hugs or reassurance. Pandemic parenting starts with finding ways to manage anxiety naturally and improve your mental health during COVID 19.

Also, some of your parenting rules may have to change slightly, such as screen time; when the school work is 1 hour a day, it’s hard to stick to the maximum one hour of screen time by the Mayo Clinic and other health organizations. Add in trying to work from home yourself, it can be hard to balance everything. It’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay to parent differently during a pandemic. Here are 3 pandemic parenting hacks for real life you might find helpful.

3 Pandemic Parenting Hacks from Real Life

  1. Share the load. Get others in your family to help out with everyday chores from taking out the recycling to putting away dirty dishes. Even the smallest kids can help clean plastic dishes in a sink of bubbly water (just have towels at the ready). Older kids can learn to cook. If 10 year olds can cook up a storm of recipes on Kid’s Baking Championships on the Food Network that are better than mine, it’s time to reconsider how much your kids get into the kitchen. It’s wise to start simple: get kids to make their own snack. Other simple kitchen tasks can include learning to make toast, or with some adult guidance learn to chop fruits and vegetables. Baking marshmallow rice crisp treats, or pancakes is also a fun way to get kids active in the kitchen. Cooking is a life-long skill your kids will be eternally grateful they learned. Plus, having more hands helping around the house can help lessen the parental load when life goes back to normal.
  2. Connect with each other. The Canadian Pediatrics Association has tips on parenting during COVID 19, suggests connecting with each other through books, new activities and using social media to talk with friends and family members. Let the kids pick. Families I’ve spoken to have mentioned reading a new book series together, or discovering a new board game. The Canadian Pediatrics Association has tips on parenting during COVID 19, suggests connecting with each other through books, new activities and using social media to talk with friends and family members.
  3. Do the routine. Young kids thrive on routine, but so do us older kids. Keep things going on a fairly regular routine that includes realistic bedtimes and wake up times. Young kids most commonly focus better in the mornings making that a great time to focus on educational projects, while teenagers sometimes do better to focus in the afternoon. Active kids may do better with some outdoor physical activity early in the morning, while we all do better when our routines include exercise, (even if you’re thinking I hate exercise) of some sort. Routines are also helpful to ensure everyone eats healthy foods more often – when you wait too long to eat you can feel deprived, increasing cravings and weight gain.

Pandemic Parenting through Physical or Social Distancing

The more out of control you feel, the stronger our parental impulse to reassure our kids everything is okay. Consider instead, letting your kid take a moment to feel how crummy they are feeling. Don’t immediately try to fix the problem, just honour the feeling. Later, there’s lots of ways you can offer them more help:

You got this!

Focus on things that help your mental health (breathing, eating properly and frequently enough, drinking water, getting enough sleep, time to yourself, physical exercise). When you take care of yourself, you can take care of others. The World Health Organization’s Parenting in the Time of COVID-19 has lots of helpful tips, including: