Parenting little ones came with it’s own exhausting set of challenges prior to COVID 19. Now, many parents are expected to continue to manage those challenges, all while figuring out how to work from home, home school their children of different ages, and cope with the stress of the “new normal”. Below are some quick tips to help parents through this time.
In times of emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first.
This is a time in which we may be experiencing heightened emotions that are difficult to manage, such as anxiety and/or depression. For your health, you want to ensure that you are prioritizing your own self care. Below are some quick self care tips during this time:
Take quick mindful moments throughout the day. One mindfulness activity to do by yourself or with your kids is to name five things you see, four things your hear, three things you can touch, two things you smell, and one taste. This activity allows us to focus on our environment and redirect our own thoughts to the present moment.
Have realistic expectations of yourself. As much as you can, slow down. All your home improvement projects or additional life projects do not need to be completed during this time. Children do not need any extra expectations and genuinely thrive with unstructured time with a parent who can be fully present with them. Just being present with your kid is doing more than enough.
Practice Gratitude. Take time to reflect on something that made you feel proud of yourself or something that you did well each day. You can discuss proud moments or gratitudes as a family at mealtimes or just before bedtime.
Take media and screen breaks. Put your phone and the news away. So much of our days are consumed with screens at this point, give your eyes and your brain a break from all the input to allow yourself to recharge.
Practice Emotional Regulation Skills
No one is at their best when their normal routines have been thrown and new stressors have developed; it’s understandable that little things will come swinging with big emotions! One of the best things you can do for yourself and your child’s well being during this time is to practice (and in result, role model) skills like labeling emotions and intentionally coping with emotions. Littles ones look to their parents for the appropriate response to a situation.
- Remember it’s okay to have emotions, even if that includes some challenging emotions. All emotions are valid and appropriate to have during this time.
- When you are feeling overwhelmed around your child, name your feelings and tell them how you are going to cope with your emotions. “Oh man, I’m feeling a little sad about not getting to see grandma. I’m going to take a deep breath, think kind thoughts about her, and give her a call.”
- Find your calm before engaging in discipline. Remember discipline means to teach. If you need to take a break, drink a sip of water, and then talk to your kid about how we don’t chase Fido with a baseball bat, that is more than okay. It allows you to reset and find some peace and will improve communication around expectations for your family. It also teaches your child how to handle frustration through modeling.
Set a Consistent, yet Flexible Schedule
We are living in the paradox that most humans (and especially children) thrive on consistency and yet things are constantly changing. Setting a general schedule to your days will provide consistency, and it can be adapted to the needs of your family that day.
- Have a general schedule of the day that your child can see. Use pictures for littles ones. For example, you could have a picture of things they would need for their morning hygiene routine, then breakfast foods, and you can write in a morning activity to start the day after breakfast. Allow your children to help create the schedule by choosing a morning activity that could change day to day.
- If you are trying to do skill building or academic work, it is best to do it in the morning. Young children tend to have the most brain power in the morning.
- Be flexible with your screen time rules. Giving kids a little extra time on their device can give you a little extra time to take care of yourself. Give yourself permission to let them watch a favorite show while you recharge your batteries.
Discuss COVID 19 in Age Appropriate Ways
It is okay to talk about stressful topics at a developmentally appropriate level. Make sure your child knows that they can ask questions and come to you with their concerns. Making a topic taboo can raise children’s anxiety.
- It’s okay to say that you don’t know all the answers. Children will feel more comfortable if they know you are being honest with them. For example you can say, “ We don’t know for sure when everyone can go back to school, but we know that you are safe with me and you will see your friends again.”
- Read a book or watch a video. A lot of children process things better visually. There are many resources available online. Some of our favorites have been Time to Come in Bear and How to Explain Social Distancing to Kids.
- Kids process through play. If your child starts to act out fighting COVID or taking their dolls to the doctor, that is totally normal and okay! This is part of their process of understanding the world around them. Unstructured play time, in which parents let kids lead, is vital to young children’s development.
- Keep answers simple and focused on safety. For instance, if your child asks, “why can’t I see my friends?” You can say, “there’s a rule that we can’t see our friends right now. This helps us stay healthy and safe.”
Know that Help is out There:
For more information/resources, you can reach out to Aimee Spooner to schedule a virtual parent consultation session with a licensed mental health counselor. You can also reference these websites:
Kelly Jean Tucker is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor with Carolina Pediatric Therapy. She is a part of a multidisciplinary team including occupational, speech, and physical therapists supporting and promoting children’s development and well being.