Parenting in the time of COVID-19 can be challenging—schools are closed and many parents are balancing their own careers while helping their kids with school assignments and keeping them occupied. Add in economic concerns and the fear of a deadly virus we don’t know much about, and it’s no surprise that stress is higher than ever for many people.
But UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other trusted groups have some advice to help you get through this time and maybe even build stronger relationships with your kids in the process. Here’s what they recommend:
Set aside one-on-one time with your kids
Spending one-on-one time with your kids is a great way to make them feel secure and loved, while also reminding them they are important to you. Set aside some time each day to spend time alone with each of your kids —even 20 minutes will do.
Make sure to get input from your children to decide how you’ll spend this time together, because selecting activities can be enjoyable and help them build confidence. Ideas will vary based on your child’s age, but could include cooking, reading a story together, talking about one of their interests, doing an art project, dancing, or helping with school work.
Keep things positive
It’s easy to get stressed, flustered, and angry these days, but your kids are far more likely to do what you ask of them if you provide positive instructions and give plenty of praise for good behavior, the WHO says. Try to speak calmly, use positive words and phrases when telling your kids what to do, be realistic about what you ask of them, and provide praise and reassurance when they behave well. For teens, it’s also particularly important to help them stay connected with their peers.
Create routines and structure
Routines are a great way to help everyone get through this time. Try creating a daily routine that’s consistent yet flexible and allows for both structured activities and free time. Keep in mind that your kids are more likely to follow a schedule if you allow them to help you make it.
You’ll also want to incorporate daily exercise to help kids deal with stress and excess energy. This could include heading outdoors if that’s allowed in your region. Remember to model positive behavior around hand washing, treating people with compassion, and keeping a safe distance from others. Your children will learn from this behavior, the WHO says.
Know how to manage bad behavior
Remind yourself that it’s normal for kids to misbehave, especially when they’re afraid, hungry, tired, or learning independence. But there are still some important ways you can manage bad behavior. The WHO recommends catching bad behavior and redirecting your child’s attention toward good behavior. If you notice your kids getting restless, stop bad behavior before it starts by suggesting a fun activity you can do together.
If you feel yourself getting angry, give yourself time for a 10-second pause before reacting—usually this results in a calmer response. Finally, use consequences to provide controlled discipline and teach your children responsibility for their actions.
Manage your stress so you can stay calm
In order to support your kids, you need to take care of yourself. This includes taking a break to do something fun or relaxing from time to time and finding someone you can talk with about what you’re feeling. The WHO suggests avoiding social media if it makes you feel panicked. Relaxation and breathwork might also be helpful. You can find some tips on those here.
Talk with your kids about COVID-19
Honesty and openness are important during a time like this. The WHO suggests asking your kids questions to find out what they know and answering their questions honestly—this includes letting them know if you don’t know the answer, and being supportive when they’re scared or confused. When speaking with your children about COVID-19, highlight stories of people who are doing heroic work to fight the outbreak, encourage compassion, and remind them that the virus is unrelated to the way someone looks, the language they speak, or where they’re from. Finally, remind your child that you’re always there for them with support or to answer questions.
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com. We have offices in Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Casa Grande, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Gilbert, and Chandler.