PARENTING DURING THE PANDEMIC
by Kathryn SacoulasBeing a parent is hard enough without having to deal with a crisis. Add to that the isolation that comes with it and you’re left feeling helpless, alone and frustrated. I’m totally with you and throughout the last month, I’ve been trying to find ways to adapt and cope, while helping my kids do the same.Keep in mind that what we thought was normal is now going to change and that this crisis is going to change us for the better, if we let it.
We will all be deeply be affected by the loss and damage that this will cause and it is imperative that we find ways to connect during this time and after. If we allow ourselves to go through the process and face all the feelings that come with it, we will only be stronger for it. Sometimes, we pretend like everything is ok and try and go along like everything will be the same but that’s only going to prepare you for disappointment.
So, for me, I am trying to keep myself abreast of all that is happening, feel all the feels while also maintain some type of routine through it all for the kids. I’m not quite there yet balancing all this out but at least I know what I have to do.Some things I feel that have been helpful are:
- HAVE A SCHEDULE. As a martial artist, I am big on discipline and an important part of discipline is maintaining a routine and schedule. Habits are created from routines (both good and bad) so it’s important to create a routine for the family that is healthy and filled with a variety of activities. So, on the weekdays, I wake the kids up at 8am and start school between 8:30am and 9am. School runs until about 2pm and after that, we either go outside for a walk or go workout. Then, they get to free play until dinner. After dinner, we either do a movie, board game or other types of games. Bedtime is usually the same at 9pm. Weekends are more flexible and here’s when they can decide how to plan their day, although we do clean every weekend as a routine.Remember that having a schedule is a way of providing some safety and security for the kids. When they know what is going to happen during these unexpected and chaotic times, they are less apt to be anxious.
- FIND WAYS TO MULTITASK WITHOUT BEING SO HARD ON YOURSELF. This is harder said than done. Working from home and home schooling your kids is a HUGE challenge. In the beginning, I would find myself getting exasperated and yelling a lot. The expectations of doing your job well AND being your kids teacher and parent is an almost impossible endeavor. Over the last month, I had to adjust my schedule where I would work intermittently in between helping my kids navigate school. But the most important thing I learned was that I had to be present to them, no matter what they were doing. Shooing them away because of work seems to be more detrimental than even yelling. And at the same time, I’ve had to let them be more independent when it comes to their school work. I’m entrusting the teachers to do their job remotely, as I have take on that task teaching my own students. So, in turn, I can be more present to my work when I’m doing that as well. I’m no school teacher (and my kids can attest to that fact —boy do they miss their teachers!) and so I have to be the parent and just be of assistance at their request.
- LET YOUR KIDS GET BORED. With all the time on their hands, it’s important that the kids get off those devices and find some time to slow down. Let them get bored, let them discover things and get creative. This is a good time for the kids to learn how to cope without outside stimulation. In these times, they will discover their inner problem solver, creator, and inventor. If they have siblings, their bonds will only grow and this time will prove to be an important time for their relationships. You don’t always have to entertain your kids.
- WRITE IN A JOURNAL, SHARE WITH OTHER PARENTS. It’s important as parents that we are able to share our experiences so as to become better parents. Whether that’s in a journal or with our friends or family, it’s important that we do something that contributes to a healthy mindset. Sharing our feelings is vital to getting through this without leaving lasting negative effects. Being introspective will allow you to become more grateful for what you have and will lead to an awareness of what you need to do so that you can care for yourself and thus, become a better parent.
- COMMUNICATE. Finally, this is the most important thing I’ve learned over the last month. While it’s easy to get bogged down in things to do, it’s equally if not more important to talk to your kids about what is going on. I’m always watching the news and they hear all these scary words and it’s important that we let the kids know what’s happening and why we’re doing what we are doing. Building your relationship with your kids is important and while they may not communicate the way that adults do, you have to be attune to behavioral changes that may signal they are anxious, afraid and unsettled. Remember that communication doesn’t always have to be with words. Hugs, kisses, and just listening can go a long way right now.
At the same time, being away from their friends, teachers and schools can also be scary and it’s easy to forget how those people are an outlet for them, too. Make sure they stay in touch with their friends and teachers and make it a point to help them feel connected to people outside of your home. We are all going through this together and if they feel like they aren’t alone, it will help them so much more.
I hope this was helpful. For me, just writing this was cathartic. I know we are all having our separate types of experiences with this but the one common thing is that we are doing our best to be the best parents possible. Share some things that have been helpful for you during this time. I’d love to hear some ideas.