The current pandemic is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced, so children need to be shown how to cope, especially when adults themselves feel anxious? The key lies in acknowledging our own fears and concerns, while understanding how each individual child handles emotional challenges.
Parenting during a pandemic can be challenging as one balances the changes in work, home and school. Here’s how you can provide support and reassurance:
Start with yourself
Even infants pick up on their parents’ moods, so your emotional state will affect how your children cope. As instructed on airplanes, during turbulence you should put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. The same is true of turbulent times: Take care of yourself first.
Are you angry about disrupted routines? Worried about the future? Missing loved ones? When you’re stressed, practise self-care: exercise, meditate or talk with a friend. This will help you feel more ‘centered’ so you can model calm, positive attitudes and behaviour.
Limit media exposure
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by negative news. Stay with your children during news reports and encourage them to ask questions. Limit your own exposure too, as it can affect your mood. Babies and toddlers won’t understand what’s happening, but they respond to emotional cues. Though it’s not always easy, if you can stay calm and positive, they’re more likely to relax.
As all children thrive on predictable schedules, it is good to maintain daily routines. Knowing when to expect meals, playtime and bedtime helps them feel more safe and secure. Preschoolers have many questions about everything, but keep your explanations simple. Discuss the virus as being like a very bad cold or flu when explaining why everyone is wearing masks or why they can’t go on play dates.
Let your children connect with others safely. Make video calls to relatives or socialise with a small group of neighbours outdoors while practicing social distancing. Help your child write letters to friends. It’s a great opportunity to start new hobbies together, while also letting them pursue their own interests.
Include children in chores and activities that give them a feeling of control. Let them assume responsibilities like folding laundry or cleaning, offering choices about what activities they prefer. This period is hardest for teens who derive energy from peer interactions. Help them find creative ways to make this time memorable and connect with peers who practice social distancing.
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