Ever since the schools and workplaces shut down, there has been a lot of pressure on parents as well as children to be productive and to use this crisis as an opportunity to use this extra time to their fullest. There is a lot of stress about working from home for parents and the children not knowing why they are not allowed to go outside.
So we decided to conduct a zoom panel session with parents who are working from home and during this session, they shared how they have set schedules for their children and how they try to keep them engaged in various activities. There were several questions coming from parents about what to do in these times of COVID for, and with, their children. Our team of experts – Aarathi Selvan, Pooja Agarwal, Ruhi Sameena, Lalitha Pooja, Pooja Gupta and Swetha Turlapati, discuss several of these questions.
Now that children are home, they are constantly on either their phones or iPads or T.V.’s for about eight hours a day. How do we deal with something like that? What can we do about that?
The important thing to understand, says Pooja Agarwal, is that a child genuinely doesn’t know or grasp as to what is really happening. With the pandemic and the lockdown, the sudden and drastic change in the routine, possibly the lack of it, and the changes surrounding the engagement children usually had, like going to school or hanging out with friends, has had an impact on them. Due to this lack of accessibility, it is only natural for the child to reach out for the gadgets as a way to keep engaged, to keep busy. Hence, the parents need to engage in something that the child also enjoys because as a parent, if they engage in something that does not involve the child, then it’s only natural that the child is going to engage in something that is accessible to them. Therefore, it is hard to create accountability or even a simple routine, as the routine is all over the place not only for the parents but also for the children. So, it helps to find or set aside time during the day to work with the child, to engage into something together as this pandemic is also impacting them as much as it is impacting the parent.
Both Latitha Pooja and Pooja Gupta agree to this and add on by saying that there are so many stressful conversations which take place regarding the pandemic in the households and the children can sense this stress. Which can lead to a lot of restlessness and whatever is accessible for the children right now could be a form of coping mechanism. So, if the parents also understand this and come from a space of engaging with the child, then this will allow the child to realize that there are many other ways of coping as well. It also helps to show compassion to them. As adults, we can binge watch shows on netfilx and give ourselves that space and compassion that, during this difficult time, its okay for us to not do anything. The same compassion could be given to the children. So, sitting down with them and just talking to them about it and letting them have this access to the gadgets, if they feel like that’s where they feel safe right now, can help them.
From the above discussion arose the question:
How much conversation about COVID needs to be had? What is the conversation that needs to be had?
Like mentioned earlier, children can sense the anxiety and stress in the environment, so it’s important to sit and talk about this with them. They might also already be hearing or are aware about the circumstances as it has directly impacted them as well. The children’s lives have also changed and they don’t have the answer, just like the adults, as to when or how things are going to get normal again, if they are ever going to be normal again. Keeping all this in mind, it is important to talk and find out what the children already know or understand about this situation and how the parents can better explain to them what is going on.
As children are also put into similar spaces as the adults, it is important to check in with them at the end of the day and talk about what they are really feeling right now. Having these back and forth conversations can be very powerful. Providing language to the child for what is happening because then they are able to make sense of why they are feeling how they are feeling.
The biggest thing that comes out of the above conversation is that communication is central to helping children cope effectively with this pandemic, which is being experienced by everyone around the world. Another point that can be noticed is that really being honest about how one might be feeling at the moment, acknowledging one’s feelings. These times are uncertain and there is no control over it. It can be scary and stressful, however, the best that can be done is that both parents and children can focus on what they both are feeling and what are the precautions that can be taken. “The potential of building an emotional connection is profound in moments like this”, says our Director.
How to deal with bored children? What to do with the constant demands, for mothers, to make magic happen, in the kitchen?
Pooja Gupta started the conversation by remembering a mantra ‘first count to 10 before saying anything or doing anything’. It is more about showing compassion to yourself as well as your child. Individuals tend to say something or do something, entirely dependent on their emotions, which they might regret later. It’s the same when dealing with bored children.
“Boredom is a painful and a restless feeling and we try to find ways to deal with it”, says Pooja, “One of the things that can really help is to start a routine together”.
It is also sometimes important to just let go and allow yourself as well as your child to whine a little out of boredom, allowing them to release some of the frustration and pent up energy which they don’t know what to do with. Again, as mentioned earlier, communication is the key. Communicating with your children, and when we say children it includes all ages, is imperative and this allows both the parents as well as the children to build deeper bonds emotionally.
As most of our conversations were about encouraging children and parents to communicate, our next question was:
How to work on building deeper communication with the children?
Adding on to the previous conversations, Pooja Agarwal says that it helps to remember to be gentle with yourself as a parent as well as with your child. However, there may be times where the child might not be in that space to hold a conversation about these things and sometimes you as a parent might also not be in that space, so trying to hold conversation to feel connected with your child sometimes may not be possible and that is okay. Letting the child know that the channels of communication are always open is very important. Exhibiting gentleness and coming and meeting the child wherever they are at emotionally and acknowledging it, is another thing that might be helpful.
“Parents need to acknowledge that whatever the child is going through, even I am going through. So whatever solutions I am giving to myself, I think I am going to share it with my child also”, says Nikilesh, who is a coach and a counsellor.
“Compassion and gentleness is really required in times like this”, says Aarathi Selvan.
Parenting in these times is difficult and can be frustrating sometimes, however, by practicing just a little mindfulness, it can become a little easier. Children are full of energy and it takes a lot of creativity to keep them engaged, but it is not impossible. Our expert therapists answered questions which parents had regarding parenting in a pandemic and held a conversation on mindful stages of psychological development. Practicing mindfulness encourages one to experience and acknowledge all these difficult and demanding emotions without judgement and constantly reminding oneself and the children that it is okay to feel stressed and anxious. At the end of the day, we are all human beings and uncertainty is an unavoidable part of our life. So, try to relax and enjoy and make the most of this time.