As we think back over the past year and the challenges we’ve faced as individuals and a nation, one word stands out: unprecedented. You may be tired of hearing this, frustrated to the brink by what we’ve all had to endure, and longing for the days when things were normal. However, most parents don’t have that luxury. Parenting is very much a learn-as-you-go type of practice that requires creativity, flexibility and adaptability.
During this time, parents were sandwiched between the mandates of the ruling authorities and the protests of their little ones. Finding the middle ground, no matter the age of your charges, has presented an interesting opportunity.
Below we’ve gathered some tips for each stage of parenting.
Parenting Tips: becoming a parent and parenting infants during the pandemic
No matter how challenging the circumstances of your time are when you become a parent, you will be a unique one, approaching the new situation your way. Even when it comes to dealing with your obstetrician and cancelled or now-video appointments, you’ll handle that in a manner only you could, interacting with your child(ren) in the womb the same way you would have during any other historical tragedy.
- Relax. The pandemic is a relatively short-term suffering introduced during our time, as opposed to a longstanding suffering that cuts across generations, such as slavery or racism. It will come to an end, and you may find a greater appreciation for all the little moments.
- Relinquish control. There is very little impact you will have on the duration of the pandemic and prevention efforts. You only change your parenting style further when you react with excessive anxiety or rage against “the way that things were supposed to be”. Find the hidden joys in this time, and hold onto what’s helpful, rather than what drives your frustrations.
- Enjoy the intimacy. We are most intimate with our children (with or without more sanitizer) during their infancy and during the time that they are in the hospital, perhaps now even more due to reduced staff, etc. One woman described “…her ‘secret relief’ not to miss a single developmental milestone in her baby’s first year.” (Gilbert, 2021). The time given with your child is precious, and there is no shame in the secondary “secret relief” to soon be able to invite more sources of support into the parenting process.
- Realize you are more similar to pre-pandemic parents than different and be comforted. You are experiencing a tremendous disruption and so did they. Every parent hears the same things, receives conflicting advice, and must find their own way through.
Tips for parenting toddlers and preschoolers
Neither toddlers nor preschoolers are going to calmly sit down (for the most part) and be obedient without direction now that they have mobility and personality. The pandemic, while successful in cramping physical proximity and heightening the desire for socialization, has been unsuccessful in changing the impressive willpower of your little one to explore and question and roam.
- Allow the child to feel in control in safe circumstances by letting him/her learn that you are predictable. You’ll have put this into practice far earlier, of course, but during the pandemic when life is unpredictable, you want to reinforce that you are a source of stability.
- Meet their need for novelty. As much as possible explore outside, or follow the direction of creative parents online who have developed sensory play exercises and other ways of engaging little ones. Balance this with your own need for sanity and taking breaks to find a routine that works for your family.
Middle Childhood through Adolescence and the Pandemic
This is a parenting tip for middle childhood, preadolescents, and adolescents. All children, really. And, parents. (As well as neighbors, people close to us, and those friendly strangers on the street who smiled, pitched in, and gave time, effort, and kindness when they could). The pandemic has been and will continue to be a perfect time to have compassion for them and catch them being good.
- Catch them being good. These children will have given up a great deal in terms of initial time with sports teams, clubs, socialization, and lunch tables, so love them. Reward them with observations about how polite they are, how observant, how friendly, how hard-working, etc. Praise them for both skill and talent, for things they are poor at but continue to do because they love as well as activities they are good at, and praise them for things they are not doing but try to avoid doing in comparison to children who are acting out.
- Encourage socialization. As school resumes, encourage involvement in whatever activities feel comfortable for them. It is thought that the prophylactic social isolation has likely had an aggravating impact on anxiety in children (de Arau’jo et al., 2020). Schedule routine family discussions if what has been chosen by your child seems like something based on worry, perhaps in an effort to make up time with a peer group, or connect with particular peers based on popularity.
- Spend time face-to-face. No matter how good your computer camera angle was, it was no substitute for looking people in the eye. Help lifetime socialization skills by ensuring regular family eye contact via conversation, even as they return to in-person communication elsewhere.
For your children, no matter their age, recognize the power that your stability and calmness offers them, and how they continue to look to you for cues on how to act. Continue doing what has helped you get this far in light of all of the challenges you’ve faced, and be open to areas where you may need some additional support.
We have parenting experts on our team that can help you in your specific situation, that can help you find what you’re looking for in your relationship with your kids and with your parenting style. Sometimes, all you need is a quick check-in to know that you’re on the right track. Get connected with us today to get started!
de Arau’jo, L. A., Veloso, C. F., Souza, M. dC., de Azevedo, J. M. C., & Tarro, G. (2020). The potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child growth and development: A systematic review. Jornal de Pediatra, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7510529/pdf/main.pdf
Gilbert, S. (3 March, 2021). Becoming a parent during the pandemic was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The Atlantic.https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2021/03/isolation-becoming-new-parent-during-pandemic/618244/