COVID-19 Parenting Tips
Life during COVID has been hard for everyone. And now with the recent talk of school re-closures and increase in infections it can cause a lot of people to experience trauma. It is natural to feel anxiety and dread as we remember back to past times when 'normalcy' was lost.
It certainly is a tough time, but we are here to remind you that you don’t have to go it alone. And we want to make sure you are taking good care of yourself while you are helping your child.
Here are 7 COVID-19 parenting tips to help make life during the pandemic a little easier.
1. Adjust your expectations
You may feel completely powerless and frustrated right now. You’re not alone. While you may normally be able to better handle the challenges life throws your way, this time may be different. You or your child may be feeling the fatigue of the pandemic as well as the grief that comes with another round of changes.
Adjusting your expectations about what is doable and setting new goals that are achievable for the current environment will help both you and your child feel more successful.
Help your child realize when they have a reason to celebrate or have achieved something. This will help them stay focused on the positive during hard times.
2. Help your child find some perspective
As parents, we often forget what it is like to think like a child. Because a child has limited experiences and cognitive ability, they are limited in their ability to predict the future based on the past. Or to know that challenges will not last forever.
For a child, their life experience is so short and insulated to their immediate world that the worries, stress and challenges brought on by COVID may seem overwhelming and never ending. Especially as there is a new surge in infections that are beginning to impact their sense of normalcy again.
As a parent or caregiver, you can help your child by giving them some perspective and assurances that these circumstances will not last forever. Talk about past events that you or they experienced that felt like they lasted a really long time, and how they ended. Even bringing attention to how things are different now can help to highlight progress being made.
You can also talk about the 1918 flu pandemic as a way to explain the story a pandemic follows and to talk about where this pandemic is in the story line.
3. Name it to tame it
COVID is a time of many emotions. And it is perfectly normal for you or your child to feel negatively right now. But if you tend to ignore negative emotions or push through them, it’s time to take a different approach.
Emotions are made to have a life cycle. And when we ignore hard emotions we are actually causing those emotions to get stuck inside us. This means we feel hard emotions longer and can have a harder time transitioning to a different state of being.
The best way to solve this problem is to acknowledge the feelings you are feeling. By naming your emotions can actually help bring yourself out of a bad mood faster.
So the next time you or your child is having a tough time, name what each of you are feeling. Realize that children may need your help putting names to the strong emotions they are feeling. Drawing is also another good way to have children express big emotions. Have your child share their picture with you when they are done and ask them to tell you about their picture.
Once named, acknowledge what you or your child are feeling. Tell yourself or your child it is okay to feel that way, that a lot of people are feeling that way right now. You’ll be surprised how fast everyone will feel better.
4. Find the next best thing
Life can feel hard and sad when we take notice of all the things we are missing due to COVID. This can come out as challenging behavior in children. This is because children and teenagers are still developing coping techniques, emotional intelligence and executive functioning. So in addition to naming your emotions (Tip 3), it is important to help your child figure out what the next best thing is.
In doing this, you are helping your child learn problem solving skills. This can help them to feel a sense of agency and build resiliency.
If they are still resistant to alternative options, teach them to say 'it is not something I would have chosen, but this is the next best thing'. This helps to acknowledge their feelings and can help them move on faster.
Re-framing choices and circumstances in this light can help children, and adults, feel more control and power in their lives, which helps with overall mental health.
5. Get outside
There are plenty of sources that explain how beneficial the great outdoors are for mental health and children. So even if you are not the outdoorsy type, try to get outside for a walk or activity at least once a day for 15-20 minutes.
If you are looking for something a little more creative than a walk, try boot skating/ice skating, sledding, a nature scavenger hunt or check out your local nature centers for a list of outdoor activities. For kids and teenagers, usually the hardest part is getting them out the door. But once they are out they generally find a plethora of things to do and play with without you having to entertain them.
If you have a hard time getting your child out the door, set up a consistent time everyday so that it becomes a part of their routine.
6. Get moving
On the days when it is too cold to go outside, or you have lost motivation to make it out the door (because let’s face it some days are just like that), make sure you and your child are getting some kind of physical movement during the day. Walk like a crab around the living room, better yet have a crab race with your child. Walk like a bear, do some yoga or jumping jacks.
For teenagers, having sock snowball fights or playing a game like Throw Throw Burrito can get them moving. Teenagers are still willing to play if you take the lead. So make it fun, light and optional and they will eventually become curious enough to participate.
Even 3 minutes of activity can get the heart rate up and can change the disposition of a child or teenager who is struggling.
7. Remember trauma can be triggered
COVID-19 has brought some form of loss to everyone. From normalcy, to jobs, to illness and death, everyone has been effected in some way. Because of this, we have all experienced trauma due to COVID-19.
So it is not hard to understand how setbacks and changes to COVID 'normalcy' acts as a trigger to many of us and our children. Once again, when trauma is triggered it can come out as challenging behaviors, tantrums, impatience and being rigid.
If you or your child have trauma in your past, it is important to understand this can also become triggered. Open up communication and have age appropriate talks about COVID as well as any fear being felt. It is important to remember that trauma can be triggered in many different ways, but that when trauma is triggered, it needs to be met with compassion and understanding.
Responding in anger, frustration or by withdrawing will worsen the trauma reaction and result in a more intense emotional response. Try to remember your child is coming from a place of fear. Reflect back to them what they are expressing in their words and actions. Remember trauma can be triggered anytime and it takes time to process. Being willing to talk openly as many times as needed about your child’s fears is one of the best ways you can support your child during this time.
If you have a history of trauma or notice that you are becoming triggered, be kind to yourself. Make sure you have a safe space to decompress and take time to care for yourself. It's okay to tell your child that you are sad or mad, and how you are taking care of yourself. It is good for children to hear healthy ways the adults they love show feelings and self-care. But children are not a substitute for having a support person you trust. Make sure you make your self-care a priority if you have a history of trauma. It will allow you to parent your child better.
The above COVID-19 parenting tips are meant to help the majority of parents. Parents and caregivers who love children who struggle with certain disorders, high sensitivity, anxiety or trauma may need more support during this time that is individualized to their needs. If you would like to discuss personalized options for your child, we invite you to schedule a free 30 minute chat with us so we can tailor tips that would work best for your family.