If you haven’t already noticed, parenting during a global pandemic is basically an EXTREME sport: a lot of hard work, feels a little dangerous, and seems to test the limits of what is humanly possible. I still don’t understand how my children got through 8 hours of school without 43 snacks. Or how their teachers got through 8 hours of school with my children. If you’re also a working parent, a single parent, a parent who is still in school, an essential worker, a parent of multiple children, or a parent who thought this would be a good time to buy a puppy because hey, we’re all home so we have time to train it and everyone can chip in, then even more so, this is a really difficult time! And I’m here to provide some parenting advice so we can all survive this.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you are not alone.
As we’re approaching summer and are finishing up e-learning from the school year (or as I like to call it, more screen time), you’ve already spent quite a bit of time getting used to your new normal. You’ve already overcome challenges that parents of previous generations didn’t have to face: teaching 2nd-grade math, convincing a toddler not to touch their face, explaining the epidemiological origin and mode of transmission for a novel communicable disease using only words that a 4-year-old understands.
You’ve come a long way already, but this is far from over.
Below is some parenting advice to help you survive the rest of quarantine with children.
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Parenting Advice: Stick to a Schedule
Here is something I’ve learned about being a therapist/counselor/life coach for the past 10 years – people have FEELINGS about schedules. Some parents are hyper scheduled (“Jack, it’s 10:05, time for your morning snack!”) while others… not so much (“Jack, this is your 43rd snack today and it’s not even 10:05.”).
Regardless of which camp you fall into, during quarantine, schedules are your friend.
Sticking to a routine that works for your family promotes feelings of stability and safety in your child’s life. Especially during times of chaos (read: global pandemic with no definite end in sight), the predictability of a schedule helps us feel some semblance of control.
With the school year ending and most summer camps sending their cancelation emails, you might be facing a summer full of nonstop quality time with your offspring. For parents who are working from home and need their kids out of their rooms/hair/laps for a few hours a day, this is even more important.
The first thing to schedule: A family meeting to *create* your new schedule!
To get started, you need wake-up times, bedtimes, and meal times. Even during the summer and on the weekends, these should be consistent! No matter the age of your child, they’re going through some major brain development, and these things matter. When parents come to me for parenting advice for a concern about their child, the first question I usually ask is: “How much sleep is your child getting?” You’d be surprised how much tween drama can be mitigated simply through a full night’s sleep.
Screen Time vs. Everything Else
Because you probably don’t want your kids on screens all day long, all summer long (because you know they would!), you should probably block off some designated screen time – and yes, there is a difference between educational screen time and free screen time, depending on how specific you want to be!
Also, depending on where you live and the age of your children, outside time is also helpful to put on the schedule. Outside time can also help your kids stay active, reap the health benefits of being in nature, and get a little Vitamin D!
Don’t forget to allow for socialization time – which might mean FaceTiming grandma or setting up a Netflix Party for your older kids. Staying connected with people outside of your home is vital to protect against feelings of isolation and meeting the developmental needs of your older kids.
Another important bullet point on that new schedule that you’re making? Clean up time. I do not feel the need to explain that one.
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Think Outside the Box
Finally, summer is the perfect time to dive into pursuits that interest your child outside of the school setting. Schedule a little “learning time” in your schedule, but keep it flexible.
Ask your kids to make a list of what they can do during that time. Want to know more about dinosaurs? Sweet, me too! Interested in coding? Jealous, my kids aren’t, but that’s neat! Loved learning about outer space in school and want to know more? Obviously, space is super cool.
Ask your kids what they’d be interested in learning and plan ahead – there are so many free resources, documentaries, and virtual camps available right now and experiences like this teach your children that learning can be fun! Pinterest has so many ideas for fun activities and sample schedules, so no need to reinvent the wheel.
Oh gosh, am I trying to convince you to be a… gasp… Pinterest Mom?
If by Pinterest Mom you mean that you don’t like coming up with activities/recipes/parenting advice all by yourself because you recognize that you are a person with limited time and resources so you take advantage of the information shared by other internet users, then yes.
You should TOTALLY be a Pinterest Mom.
Now that you have a reasonable schedule to structure your day, here is the key: be flexible! The point of this schedule is to give you MORE freedom, not less. If something on your schedule is not working for your family, change it! If everyone is having fun outside but it’s time to learn about the color wheel, chill out!
The schedule is your friend, and friends don’t judge.
Parenting Advice: Expect a Regression
My neighbor’s 4-year-old son is being uncharacteristically whiney and clingy. My friend’s 8-year-old daughter is throwing temper tantrums again. My niece, who is 18-months-old, stopped sleeping through the night. Want to know what all of these kids have in common?
- They are actually my kids.
- These behavioral regressions are completely normal.
Regardless of how much you want to protect your kids from the dangers and stressors of this global pandemic, there is still a lot that you can’t control. Kids are missing their friends, their teachers, the structure and routine of school, team sports, grandma, time away from YOU… the list goes on.
While this inevitable stress and grief is an opportunity for your kids to learn grit, resilience, and perspective, it’s also a process that takes a lot of patience, compassion, and empathy.
Kids and adults can regress to less mature levels during stressful times – our brains are going into survival mode and we don’t have access to the methodical, calming, and higher-level functioning parts of our brains.
Resist from punishing or shaming your child for exhibiting regressive behaviors.
Instead, validate your child’s experience, acknowledge the pain they may be experiencing, and remember that this is temporary.
Parenting Advice: Learn a New Language
This is not where I tell you that this is the perfect time to learn Mandarin – if you have kids, you have about .5 seconds to yourself at the end of the day and I’m pretty sure that’s just enough time to start watching a reality TV show then promptly pass out on the couch.
I’m talking about feelings.
(Shocker – a life coach/therapist talking about the importance of feelings, I know). It’s time to start working on your feelings vocabulary!
In the therapy world, we call this “emotional literacy” but in my house we call it “talking to mom.” The importance of emotional intelligence in a child’s future success has been proven time and time again, all over the world.
One of the first ways to build up emotional intelligence is simply learning feelings words.
Based on the age and developmental level of your child, this may be as simple as mad, sad, or scared, or for older kids – jealous, resentful, or apathetic.
When you correctly identify and acknowledge a feeling, this helps to integrate the brain towards a healthier and more efficient state.
Identifying emotions not only calms the chaotic amygdala by activating the more rational prefrontal cortex, but it also strengthens the connection between the emotional right side of the brain with the more logical left side. Chances are, there are a LOT of feelings happening in your house right now – so you have ample opportunity to practice this one!
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Parenting Advice: Take Care of Yourself First
Although this is by far the most important piece of parenting advice on this list, I put it last because I can already see parents all over the world rolling their eyes at this one.
There is nothing selfish about self-care.
You’ve heard the same adages:
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Put your oxygen mask on first.
I’m sure there are more, but you get the point.
This whole parenting during a pandemic thing is HARD. If you don’t take a break to attend to your own needs, you will burn out. Quickly.
Self-care might look like extra screen time for your kids while you take a long bath, or do a little yoga, or scream into a pillow… Or it might mean talking to a therapist or life coach an hour a week to gain a little perspective and get some personalized support.
You can’t expect children to know how to handle their own stress and hard times without showing them how to handle stress and hard times.
You are your child’s first and most important teacher. Teach them the importance of self-care.
While this is far from an exhaustive list on parenting advice to survive quarantine with children (that would be a REALLY long list!), it should provide a little direction on how to navigate this weird new reality.
Obviously, not all of this parenting advice applies depending on the ages of your children or your living situation. If you need additional support, sign up to talk to one of our Blush coaches – we will be so proud of you for prioritizing your own mental health!
Parenting Advice Quotes
I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite parenting advice quotes to give you the boost we could all use right about now!
“Life is not safe, and so our tasks is not to promise our kids there will be no turbulence. It’s to assure them that when the turbulence comes, we will all hold hands and get through it together.”Glennon Doyle
“Rest easy, real mothers. The very fact that you worry about being a good mom means that you are one.”Jodi Picoult
“The way we learn how to be resilient and how to handle difficult things is by practicing sitting in, dealing with and walking through difficult stuff.”Tina Payne Bryson
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of being.”Daniel J. Siegel
“The most important thing she’d learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and million ways to be a good one.Jill Churchill