Parenting has always been tough, but homeschooling, working from home, and all the financial insecurity surrounding this pandemic. Maybe these parenting tips can help you cope.
With many schools and workplaces closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, many of us have found ourselves dealing with a new, and often very stressful, family situation. As well as having to work from home and run the household, you're likely also trying to keep your kids on track with their virtual school work - all while enduring the restrictions of social distancing and even being cut off from the world, and or support of friends and loved ones. With the whole family often occupying the same space day after day, the strain can seem unrelenting. If you or your spouse has been furloughed or lost your source of income, the financial pressure can add even more stress. Left unchecked, that can be a recipe for disaster.
As a parent at this time, it is easy to feel that you have so many roles to fulfill that you cannot possibly perform any of them well. But it is important to remind yourself that this is a unique situation, a global pandemic that none of us have had to face before. Do not beat yourself up if you are not functioning at your usual standard. This can apply to your quality of work, your upkeep of the home, or your ability to keep your kids focused on their learning. By going easy on yourself and following these tips for maintaining a sense of balance, you can keep your stress levels in check and make each day a little easier for your family, and for yourself.
(1) Helping your kids with their virtual learning
The pandemic has thrown many of into the role of being a teacher, in addition to all your other responsibilities, you may be finding it difficult to keep your children on track, especially if they are in different grades. Keep in mind that this is a stressful time for kids as well, and that it is normal for them to regress or act out in ways they normally would not. Going easy on your kids can help reduce their stress levels as well as your own.
Connect with your child's teacher.
Remember, they are also having difficulty getting through this transition by trial and error. If you child's school is still closed, be honest about what is working with home tutoring and what is not. Your child's teacher has a good understanding of their academic strengths and weaknesses, so they may be able to help you come up with a more individualized learning plan.
Create a learning routine.
A routine gives kids a sense of normalcy during an otherwise uncertain time. But you do not have to go crazy with color coded schedules and sticky's all over that you think you can maintain on most days that still leaves room for flexibility and down-time. If possible, try to designate a workspace for each member of the family.
Set goals and celebrate their completion.
Since so much has been stripped from our everyday lives, having something to look forward to can help kids stay motivated. Setting up small rewards, like watching a favorite tv show can help them tackle that unpleasant math assignment. Use food or their favorite toys. Get the whole family involved; if you all set a few goals and plan breaks together, your kids will see that you are a team.
Get creative with lessons.
Doing a science experiment, for example, or cooking with measurements, can be a good way of bringing lessons to life. And consider your child's strengths, if they love to illustrate, now is a good time to set them free with pencils and paper.
(2) Dealing with your child's stress
After watching the news or overhearing an adult conversation regarding the pandemic, young children might get scared. COVID-19 has changed their schooling, friendships, and normal routine, so it should be a top priority to address your children's fears and reassure their physical and emotional well-being.
Talk at an age-appropriate level.
If your child is young, do not volunteer too much information, as this could cause their imagination to run wild. Instead try to answer any questions they might have. It is okay not to know everything; if your child is older, help them find accurate information from the CDC.
Answer questions simply and honestly.
If your child has questions about the pandemic, know that honesty is always the best policy, as they will always hear it from someone, so make sure it is you. While you do not want to frighten the children, there is nothing wrong with talking about the need for taking safety precautions such as social distancing, washing their hands, not sharing drinks, and hand sanitizer.
If you are forced to quarantine as a family, your child will be disappointed at not being able to see friends or visit with other family. Be receptive to this. Explain to them that you understand their disappointment, and you are missing out on friendships and special occasions as well.
Arrange a virtual playdate.
Offer an alternative to in-person playdates via the internet. Set your children up on a video conference, like Zoom or Facetime, so they can keep in contact with grandparents and close friends, for example.
Give extra love and affection.
This is a stressful time for all of you and we could all benefit from extra affection. Your child will appreciate extra hugs and kisses.
Designate special one-on-one time.
If everyone is at home with each other all the time, having one on one time with each child is a great way to forge a closer bond. Have your child choose an activity for the two of you to participate in together.
Find things to be grateful about.
Each evening, share with your child one fun or positive thing you experienced that day and encourage them to do the same. It could be a work or school accomplishment, a home repair, or something as simple as witnessing a beautiful sunset. It may sound corny, but acknowledging gratitude and positive experience can provide a respite from negative thinking and really boost your family's mood.
(3) Keeping healthy routines.
As the pandemic drags on, it can be easy to neglect your normal daily routines. But structure and consistency are important for kids. Maintaining regular meal times and bedtimes, for example, can help your child feel safe and secure.
Establish healthy new routines.
As you readjust to a new normal, you may need to establish new daily schedules for your kids. Even if things like bedtimes have changed without school every day, try to be consistent and follow the same schedule each day, try to be consistent and follow the same schedule each day. Make time for activities such as exercise, family dinners, and household chores as well as time for your child to socialize with friends, whether that is done safely in person or online.
Follow safety advice.
With different areas facing different restrictions, it is important to follow the advice of trustworthy sources such as CDC and your local public health authorities. Playgrounds, schoolyards, and parks are all high contact areas where your children should follow your instructions about keeping themselves and others safe. That may mean wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and regularly washing their hands.
Reinforce the importance of hygiene.
Hand washing might have been a mundane task a couple months ago, but now it can be a life saving measure. Get your children into a routine of washing their hands every time they have been outside or come in contact with other people. To encourage the habit in young children, make up a song or tell them to sing 'Happy Birthday' to themselves while they wash their hands.
Practice what you preach.
Follow social distancing and other safety protocols yourself, treat others with respect and protect the vulnerable. Young children are impressionable and will mimic your behavior, so make sure you set a positive example.
(4) Managing behavior problems.
Often when children misbehave, it is a reaction to the amount of stress that they are under and a way to vent their frustration. Try to keep this in mind when action as a disciplinarian during these difficult times and do your best to remain calm. Start by managing your own stress levels through exercise, a healthy lifestyle, making time for fun, and adopting a regular practice. The calmer and more relaxed you are, the better you will be able to handle the situation.
Redirect your child.
If your child is misbehaving, redirect them to another activity, such as playing outside or reading a book. As a parent you can sometimes tell when your younger child is beginning to get restless. Take the opportunity to distract them with an interesting task or a fun game and you can curtail bad behavior before it starts.
Take a breath.
There a plenty of ways to relieve stress in the moment when you feel like you are losing patience with your child. For example, take deep breaths and count to ten to allow yourself to simmer down. Then you can respond to your child's behavior in a calmer more positive tone.
Give your child a creative consequence.
If your child goes outside without a mask, ask them to draw a picture of your family or friends with masks on. Creative consequences simultaneously engage your child while teaching them that their behavior was wrong.
Reward good behaviors, such as doing well on a school assignment, making their bed, doing a chore, helping their sibling, and or brushing their teeth. In normal circumstances, you might not reward this kind of behavior, but during a stressful time, nothing positive should go unrecognized.
(5) Monitoring screen time.
At this time of social distancing and isolation, many of us and our kids are relying on internet and social media to keep in touch with friends and family and up to date on the news. While it has many positive aspects, social media can also negatively affect your child's levels of stress.
If you are worried about your child's social media use, you may be tempted to simply limit their access to their phone or other devices. But that can create further problems, separating your child from their friends when they need them most. Instead, there are other ways to monitor their online activities and help them use social media in a more respective way.
Or in my personal opinion, take them back to the good old days where they use their imagination. Build a fort, throw pillows on the floor and pretend its lava, or get some cars and pretend a race is about to happen.