Parenting during coronavirus (stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, quarantine, lockdown…whatever you are calling it) is going to be challenging if it hasn’t been already.
These times will absolutely accentuate the positive and the negative of your existing family system and structure, no matter what age are your children.
Some of you are home with wee ones. Some have school-agers. Maybe you have a wrangle of multiple ages with bigger children capable of giving a hand. Still others of you are home with moody teens or young adults wrestling their own disappointments: social opportunities shut down, dating relationships challenged, questions about their future looming.
No matter what, it’s a challenge.
On top of it, you know parenting is one of the BIG THREE that affects marriages, right? Mishandling differences in parenting style, money management, and the sexual relationship can ring the death knoll for any marriage. Notice I said mishandling differences. Having differences is not the problem. Many of us need help figuring out how to handle the differences.
No matter what your parenting styles, even when they differ greatly, here are guiding principles you can each use and adapt for good (not perfect) parenting right now.
Parenting during Quarantine
It’s Parenting 101 all over again.
Some of you have heard me use the model that good parenting consists of nurture, guidance, and limits… in physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and sexual realms. All that nurture, guidance, and limiting is age-appropriate, of course. Not very many of us GOT that growing up but we CAN intentionally offer it to our children…at any and every age.
How are you doing with that matrix?
And if it’s just complete pandamonium and you’re thinking, “Yeah, right, Beth. Nurture, guidance, and limits!? I’m just trying to survive over here” skip down to the numbered points below. 😉 Those should help.
No worries. You’re human. And you already have a family system in place and working or not working so well, in which case, use this time to revisit your family norms, structure, operation, and health level.
I’m not saying start from scratch and drum up All the Good Stuff right this minute under pressure. I’m saying you can use the matrix to continue to shore up your parenting even now. Use it to spend some brain space envisioning what you can do to be a better parent.
And pay attention to and emphasize all the great things that actually work. Then remind children of their positive family identity. “We prize family and togetherness. We’ll get through this together. ” Or maybe you can say “We always get through hard things. This is no different.” It is true that “this will definitely be a time to remember.” You ARE creating family memories…even now.
Above all, and in all, be kind and gentle with yourself and others. Just as much as you are able. And get some help if you’re having a hard time with that.
Parenting in Quarantine can be pure chaos
…if you let it. You are in charge of the kids, not the other way around. Even though you’re exhausted, stressed, and sleep deprived while relationships may be strained, you really are in charge. I know your brain might be in fight, flight, or freeze mode and if you identify with that, let me know. I’ve got specific tools to help get you to a more regulated state. And don’t worry, I’ve been helping people with that and more…not just the last three weeks, but for years.
Here are parenting principles to help:
1. Know that your kids are individuals who will have varied and unique responses to stress. Respect that. Honor it. In fact, acknowledge it out loud in a sentence or two even if your audience is likely to respond with an eye roll. Even teens need to feel seen and respected by their parents.
2. Everyone wants to hear things are going to be okay. (They ARE going to be okay. If you don’t know that, let’s chat.) There’s no need to overemphasize this or to fake it. Be genuine. Your kids always want to know that you have got this. You are the adult in their world. They do take their cues from you. It’s okay not to know everything and have all the answers. You can admit you feel scared sometimes too. But it’s not okay to make your kids take care of you right now.
3. Don’t neglect yourself. If you’re freaked out about something, tend to your own freak out. Call your therapist. Lots of us are doing video telehealth now and it is super helpful and safe. There are concrete skills a good therapist knows and can teach you to help address your issues and get you solidly feeling so much better. Then you’ll be ready to jump back in and be a great parent. (Of course, call me. I’m here for you.)CONNECT
Plus these important parenting tips:
4. Do provide structure. The creation of predictability and certainty in uncertain times is soothing to EVERYONE, including you, whether you realize this or not. Create structure. Order play times, designate time for work (homework, chores,) time for taking care of business, (when Mommy or Daddy need to be alone for a limited amount of time) and times AWAY from the parenting task…even if it is just for a long, luxurious shower. Or, if they are the correct ages, do get some away time when they are in bed for the night.
5. Rest. Literally, like all of us were told when our babies were born, rest when they rest. Do that now if you can. Don’t expect yourself to go, go, go…even though most of us are doing this within our own homes now. These ARE stressful times. Give yourself and your kids a break. (And remember, a break implies that they were previously on-task or hard at work. 😉 But I mean this figuratively as well. Leave room for human responses. Keep your discipline and consequences within reason. If you’re having trouble staying reasonable because you’re just overwhelmed, call a friend, take a break, and of course, get some professional help if you need it.
A few final tips for parenting now
6. Play. No matter what age your children -and I mean grown ones too- play together. On purpose or spontaneously, do something FUN. Board Games, competitive ones, made-up ones, goofy ones, whatever. But PLAY together. It’s a great way to experience JOY.
7. Be grateful out loud. Make lists of good things. Count blessings. Say a prayer before meals. Whatever fits you. But do it and let your kids see and hear you as well as contribute their own ideas. You might not force surly teens to add to the list, but let them hear you doing this.
8. Enjoy this time. It IS unprecedented and that means there will never be another time like it. It’s new and different, which means your brain is on high-alert recording memories and experiences. Make some good ones for your kids.
In addition, Psychology Today has published the first of a series dealing with parenting during crisis. Read it right here. You’ve got resources to make the most of your quarantine.
If you’re having a hard time with any of this, related to parenting or just related to you, reach out. I am here for you.CONNECT