Parenting, by itself, is a juggling act. Words don’t do justice to the experience of parenting in a pandemic though and it’s been over a year! When we carefully considered becoming parents, these weren’t exactly the circumstances we envisioned. In a world where our kids saw only us, their schools had to stay shut and their time outdoors limited or even completely withdrawn. No, it wasn’t part of the plan but here we are living in the second year of this pandemic and the challenges seem to have only gotten bigger while our strength and resilience flicker in and out. As parents we wonder, what is the right thing to do? How do we ensure our kids feel secure and safe in an environment that seems completely alien?Juggling multiple roles while being stripped away from our usual resources and assistance can be overwhelming. We’re caught between managing our own feelings and anxieties while doing everything we can to keep our children cheerful. Then, there’s the “mom-pop guilt”. Are we doing enough? Are my kids coping okay? Are they losing out on academics and socialising?
This year hasn’t been easy for anyone. While on one hand, most parents have had the opportunity to work from home and therefore have more time with their children, it also means they have to fulfil so many roles, all with limited resources and assistance. The important thing to remember is that we will get through this. We must hold on and power through. Here are some practical tips to help you navigate parenting in a pandemic.
Take care of yourself first: Self-care is important now more than ever before, although it might seem like we have no time for it. Truth is, our children feed on our emotions. When they see us anxious, overwhelmed and fatigued, they are not going to feel much different from us. So the key to staying cheerful begins with us parents. It’ll make all the difference. When we are more aware of our own feelings and anxiety as parents, we can learn to cope in meaningful ways. This will make our children more likely to feel safe and secure. We may not have the luxury of long breaks, extended time alone, but we must find and take the small opportunities that come by. Whether it’s getting a quick walk in the morning or enjoying a hot cup of coffee, or finding 10 minutes to read a book.Keep communication lines open: Young minds can’t really process these strange circumstances. And while our silence won’t work, our kids don’t need to hear constant coronavirus updates. When children overhear conversations their imagination can run wild, trying to fill the gaps. So be open to communication, answer their questions, tell them important things they need to know about staying safe and maintaining social distancing and how the vaccines are being developed. Avoid talking about the number of cases or news that they really could do without. Tell them the necessary information and answer their concerns in a way that makes sense to them. Make sure to end your conversations on a good note, reminding your children that they can always come to you for comfort and that you love them.Find a routine: It’s not just babies that love and need routines, all kids do. Routines help children navigate the day with better expectations of what is in store for them. While online learning might have come to an end with summer vacations, and many parts of the country are facing partial lockdowns, children are spending all their time indoors. That doesn’t mean, they needn’t have a structure to their day. Make a routine that’ll work for you. Try and stick to their usual meal and bedtimes, while keeping some free time for fun and flexibility. Make sure they get some form of physical activity, some exercise or some fun dancing.Stay connected: The biggest change that the pandemic has brought in our lives is not being able to meet family and friends as often and as much as we’d like to. This has been particularly hard on our children. Toddlers and young children cannot fully understand why they can’t see their friends or grandparents as they did before. Although video and audio calls cannot replace the joy of meeting people in person, it gives children the opportunity to still connect with the people they hold close. Schedule regular calls with their friends, grandparents so they don’t feel as isolated. It also gives them a chance to talk about their day and know how others are going through a similar experience. Acknowledge their feelings: Our kids are going through an array of emotions, just like we are, although they don’t have the skills to express them. Children express their emotions in different ways and it might be hard to see the link. They might act out, some might become extra clingy, while others might have frequent meltdowns, temper tantrums and be irritable. They are yet to develop the tools to process their anxiety and the disruptions in their environment. Children may be disappointed they can’t meet their friends, worried about a relative who is sick and anxious about the disease. Acknowledge their feelings and let them know you are there for them. When they act out, keep your calm, the best you can, which will help them regulate their emotions.Give kids a creative outlet: Although many parts of our typical lives might have come to a halt, our children are continuing to grow and evolve. They are ready for new learning and gaining new skills. Children tend to act out when they are bored and stressed. While they are missing out on the time to learn in classrooms, we can give them plenty of opportunities to learn through the mundane tasks at home. Sorting the laundry and separating colours, counting the spoons while putting out the dishes can be a time for learning too. Give them a creative outlet to put their curious minds to task. Art and colouring for younger kids, kinetic sand, play dough for toddlers, journaling or drawing for older children can be useful in expending energy. Be generous with your affection. It’s a stressful time. Extra kisses and hugs will be more than welcome and appreciated. Your kids could do with lots of giggles and cuddles. When there is so much anxiety and uncertainty lurking around, your children can find a safe haven in your warmth and love.Be kind to yourself: You are doing your best. Social media might make you feel like you aren’t doing enough, that your kids should be baking cookies and learning instruments to make use of this extra time indoors. But take a deep breath, remind yourself that you are doing what you can and that’s all your children need from you. Don’t beat yourself up. We are in unusual circumstances, cut off from our usual resources and help and we’re doing an amazing job holding our family together. You don’t have to plan elaborate activities or make a toy castle to keep them happy. Give your children plenty of love and that’s what they’ll remember the most. Given all the challenges parents are facing currently, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or experience burnout. Don’t hesitate to seek out help, from your friends, family or mental health professional. We are in this together and this too shall pass.