paParenting was never easy, not in the 50s or the 90s. Having children and raising them is a full-time job in itself. The previous generations didn’t have the internet or the smartclasses that we have now which supposedly makes it easier. Yet, we’ve all heard our elders say, “Parenting is not as easy as it was before” when they talk about the children in this generation. It’s true. The 21st century, with all its resources and internet, is facing a more difficult challenge when it comes to raising children.
And just when the parents (of this generation) were handling the ‘new’ way of parenting quite well, in came a lock-down. There’s a lot of stress about work from home with children. The children don’t know why they’re not supposed to go out to play. They don’t know why their parents are home yet don’t play with them ALL the time. Children do not know what to do all the day.
A lot of whats and whys are being asked by the children and the parents themselves. How does one deal with the stress of working from home AND having children around? How do you explain to your child about a pandemic?
We conducted a zoom session with parents who are working from home to ask these questions. During the zoom session, the parents described the ways they have set their schedules and how they are dealing with children. They expressed their fears and also reported the various ways they were engaging their children in different activities. Parents shared their experiences about what was helping them deal with this situation. We had 30+ parents join us for this free session and it was here that these ideas of parenting came about.
How to Parent in Covid:
Re-define productivity with your child.
Instead of demanding productivity from the child, it is important to be with your child and make your own definition of productivity during these times. What does productivity mean for you and the child, in these times? In any time? Do you really want to subscribe to a capitalistic notion of it or make your own combined meaning out of it? Do you want your child to be on the iPad while you do your work? In times like these, we have to make sure that the child is not overwhelmed with uncertainty. For this, parents should be more compassionate and kind. One way to do this is to deepen the communication channel between family members. This is the time to sit down with your family and talk.
You can engage with your child in various ways. Take their help around the house. They can help you cook (give them tasks according to their age!) or help you do the laundry. This ensures that they learn essential life skills early on. (Remember: learning doesn’t always have to be academic.)
Acknowledge yours and your child’s distress.
These are distressing times we are living in. Acknowledge your distress and fears as an individual and honour that a similar fear is being evoked in your child as well. Your child also might be feeling anxious. Sit with them and validate their feelings. “I know you are feeling sad” or “it’s okay that you are feeling bad” are some of the things you could say to your child. This shows that you understand them and that they’re not alone. It is important to communicate with your children in any way that you can.
Communication is key!
Your child doesn’t know what a pandemic is or why they’re being asked to stay home all the time. Don’t leave them hanging in this uncertainty. Explain to them that there are ‘germs’ around that have to be avoided. We know that children ask interesting and different questions so don’t be hesitant to admit that you don’t know the answers to the questions they ask. Also keep in mind that the conversation won’t go in the direction you are expecting it to. Children are complex creatures, so be prepared for any sort of conversation. And it’s completely okay to say “I don’t know.” Those three words make a very valid and good enough explanation in this current distress.
Mantra for Parents: Count till 10 before you say or act in any way.
Often we loose our cool around our children. It could be that they are constantly asking questions or interrupting your zoom meetings or that they could be making a mess in the house because they’re bored. During these times, it’s natural to be a little irritated. But before you lash out on those little humans, stop and think. Counting to ten is a good way to get collected. When you do that, you will notice a change in your demeanour and you can calmly talk to your child instead of saying or doing things you might regret!
Build a routine together!
On the zoom call, the parents swore by this rule. Wake them up as you would on school days, have breakfast together, and engage them in lots of activities while you work. A routine helps in providing the stability that seems to lack in distressing times. This is a beautiful opportunity to include all the family members and feel like one family, instead of leading different lives under the same roof.
Use your space creatively.
Indulge in play with your child. It is essential. Unstructured play time is extremely important for the development of the child. Play by their rules. If they want their dolls to have spaghetti at their high-tea party, let them. If they want to colour the horses yellow, let them. This helps in building expanding their imagination. Write love letters to your children! This is a great way to show your love for your child and helps them also learn different languages of love. The more they play, the better it is. Allowing them to play by their rules helps them build essential skills like leadership skills and allows them to harness their energies in what they love.
Allow plenty of body contact!
Humans are social beings. We love and thrive on physical contact. Children, especially need it because it provides them warmth and a sense of security. It helps them know that they are safe and sound. Give your hugs and kisses. These are also ways of communication that are not given much importance. A young child needs different sensory stimulations for normal development. A hormone called oxytocin is secreted which is called the bonding hormone. Increased levels in oxytocin can help strengthen our immune system. So, hug and kiss your children as much as you can (too much is never enough in this case!)
Doing ‘everything’ and balancing ‘everything’ should not be a goal.
As parents, it’s very easily to get caught up between balancing work and chores. But it’s important to note that it is not the end goal of parenting. Sometimes you won’t be able to balance both and it’s okay. Not just in times of Covid, but after this ends as well. We have to remember that sometimes our children will demand more time and sometimes work can be demanding. Parents are also under pressure to make the most of this situation. It can get tiring but remember your child doesn’t have to do everything. They don’t have to learn three new skills or an instrument to be smarter during this quarantine.
Binge-watching is valid.
Binge-watching shows is form of coping with this situation. For children and adults alike, a healthy amount for binge-watching is normal. You can binge-watch children shows with your little ones or you can watch your shows (like Money Heist!) after you have put them to sleep. It’s a good distraction and a nice way to end the day.
Take care of yourself!
With a busy schedule between work, chores and being with children, it can get tiring. But with the help of your family, you can take time out to take care of yourself! Take some time out for yourself and do the things you enjoy. you could binge watch or take some time off to be alone. Do the things that would help you cool down and ground yourself. We recommend these.
Parenting is hard in these times but just a little bit of tweaking here and there, and it’s not impossible. Dealing with children requires quick thinking and lots of creative ideas to keep them engaged.There is a way around this sticky situation and it requires some sort of shuffling around till you get used to it. Things get easier once you’re settled into your routines and keep communicating with your family. Make the most of this time with your family and remember to have a little bit of fun as well!
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Pause for Perspective