6 Parenting Challenges During COVID-19 & Tips to cope with them

Parents taking care of kids during covid-19

Dr Chetan Ginigeri, Consultant Pediatrics & Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, ASTER CMI Hospital, Bangalore

Matt Walsh, an American comedian once stated, “Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about, but the hardest thing to do.” This already hard task has now overwhelmingly burdened parents across the world much more during the Coronavirus outbreak, with school closure, virtual classrooms, and work from home, while also trying to run households.

Parenting may or may not come with a ‘to-do-list’ but, thankfully, there are a few tips that can scale down the anxiety and stress that has elevated multi-fold during this ‘new’ or ‘ever-changing’ normal. 

So, if you are also facing this unrelenting stress of juggling multiple roles while trying to keep a sane mindset, then this article is meant for you.

  1. Being there for your Children

Coronavirus has hit everyone, but for kids, it is harder since they are neither allowed to venture out of their homes to play with friends nor are they going to school. They are facing mixed emotions: apprehension, boredom, and irritation. They may even act cranky sometimes, but this is where you need to be easy on them by doubling up as a parent as well as their teacher. These engaging tips will help your children manage and thrive in this Covid situation:

  • Importance of self-care: Teach them the importance of washing hands regularly and maintaining hygiene.
  • Spend quality time: Connect with your child in every possible way, so that you are able to understand any worry or stress, they may have. Such a free environment would also ensure that they do not become unruly or aggressive.
  • Importance of reading: Inculcate reading habits, so that children can experience the world through stories. If your kids are not interested in reading, then you can read stories to them in a way that they can understand the message.
  • Create a passion: Life gets interesting when there are hobbies and a desire to achieve. Let your children know all the options and help them learn. Investing in ourselves is always the best investment for the future.
  • Online education: Online learning is new to them. It is, therefore, imperative to be with the kids during their virtual sessions and keeping an eye on their learning process. Help them complete their homework instead of complaining.
  1. Addressing your child’s stress & panic

The world of children always revolves around playing with their friends, watching TV, and having delicious food. With restaurants being closed down, no new programs on TV and not being able to go out to play with or meet their friends due to social distancing protocols, children may start feeling frustrated. During the pre-COVID era, ordering snacks (read: unhealthy food) could have been an option, but not anymore, because COVID has also taught us to be very careful with our eating habits.

Foods to avoid during COVID-19:

Even if the children start throwing tantrums, parents need to make them understand that ordering unhealthy food is not an option anymore. It is the right time to teach them the difference between healthy and unhealthy food:

  • Parents should help the children understand that foods rich in sugar, salt, and fats are not suitable for health.
  • Every snack should include raw vegetables, fresh fruits, and legumes to stay fit and healthy.
  • Ensure that the children are having enough water so that they stay hydrated. Avoiding carbonated and packaged drinks is a must in these challenging times.
  • Even if restaurants open up, parents should exercise strict control and refuse to order as the food may be contaminated.
  1. Patiently build a holistic routine

Coronavirus has upended all schedules, be it of the parents or the children. Therefore, it is crucial for you to create a routine so that a sense of order can be attained. This will reassure the children that their parents are taking care of everything and they will not feel flummoxed. Also, do remember, that your children will imitate you so you need to follow the routine yourself.

  • Maintain a schedule for all tasks: Having tasks culled out always keeps the children excited as they know what to do next without getting bored.
  • Create a time table for waking up, studying, playing, eating, bedtime, and even small household chores so that the family can spend time together.
  1. Your mental health is also important

No one was prepared for the pandemic. It is a learning lesson for everyone, and all the family members need to cope with it. It is a pre-requisite, therefore, to protect your mental health so that you are able to safeguard the interests of your loved ones.

  • Do not bombard yourself with COVID-related information: Learn and stay updated only from trusted sources like the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Social distancing is compulsory: Restrict yourself from meeting others. If you are forced to go out, take all precautions.
  • Children will imitate you, so do not get addicted to your screens: There are numerous activities that can be undertaken at home. Make sure to keep your family involved in such fun activities.
  • Empathy is key: Support your workers and those who may look up to you in these troubled times. We are all in this together, so help them as much as you can.
  1. Engage children in a productive way

As we have already discussed, children will rely on their parents to give them a sense of safety and the onus will be on you to give them this reassurance that everything is, and will be fine. To achieve this, the parents need to engage them productively:

  • Routine Preparation: Every day is a challenge for kids as they come up with new ideas. Create a routine for them, which includes study time, playtime, and TV time.
  • Top 5 interests: Create a list of their top five interests and make a schedule that incorporates these. The kids will feel excited as they will get to do what they want, while also fulfilling your objectives.
  • Mealtime planning: Keep a strict routine for meals and snack times. Otherwise, the kids will munch whenever they want, and this will affect their diet.
  • Motivation rings the bell: Motivating kids is an easy task by giving them incentives or appreciating them. Help your kids complete their homework and other learning activities while setting goals. Once the goals have been achieved, celebrate by giving them small rewards.
  • Organize activities for kids: Help your children segregate all their toys and games so that you can plan fun activities with them.
  • Limit screen time: Limiting screen time with kids is a tedious task. Do you know how to make it easy? Let the kids feel responsible for the time they watch their favourite shows. Help them understand how playing video games or watching too much television can take a toll on their eyes. Once they have agreed to limit the screen time, set an alarm or reminder, and reward them for switching off the screen before the alarm rings.

 

  1. Focus on family harmony

You, your spouse, and your children are destined to feel overwhelmed at some point in time, with so many changes happening in your daily lives. It is, therefore, very important that the family, especially the elders stay calm so that the parent-child relationship is not hampered and you can practice positive reinforcement.

Tips to overcome any fear or uncertainty in children:

  • Positive communication always helps children and adults alike to stay cool and calm. Practice empathy and remember that we are the role model for kids, especially in these challenging times.
  • Allot household chores to your kids so that you can all spend some time together and they also feel responsible.
  • Speak to them and address their anxiety. This is the best way to show them you care.
  • Plan some games and activities to spend quality time with your kids.
  • While communicating with kids, always be specific and tell them what they must do. Please do remember, that getting irritated or screaming at them never brings any change.  

Always remember that we are all human beings. It is human to make mistakes, but it is important to learn from them. If you feel overwhelmed, take a ten-minute break, and calm yourself down. Practice meditation or pamper yourself with a lukewarm bath. However, the main lesson is not to beat yourself up if things are not measuring up according to your expectations. Great bonding with your loved ones during these times will finally unravel as the secret of a happy and holistic family life.