How to Parent Children During a Pandemic
Even under the best of circumstances, 9 percent of US children have received care from a mental health professional in the past year. More children are at risk of developing these problems due to COVID-19. Here are some tips on parenting and co-parenting during a pandemic.
Parenting in a Pandemic Is Challenging
During your time with your children, you may be facing a world of challenges. Many kids are not doing well right now. They may be struggling with the fact that their camps have been canceled, and they cannot see their friends at school. Many kids, even if they are not very social, are having a hard time with the isolation of the pandemic. They may also not respond well to the uncertainty that is caused by a pandemic that keeps causing things to be canceled.
This may be your greatest challenge as a parent right now. You are probably having a hard time yourself since you are stuck in the house and have been for months. Your own mental health may be under duress right now from the difficulties that you are facing. However, it is vital that you either compartmentalize or work through your own stress to help your children through these trying times.
Calmness and Communication Carry the Day
Parenting during a pandemic starts with two C’s, calmness and communication. You should also keep in mind that:
- Your children will take their cue from how they see their parents dealing with a situation.
- If your kids see you feeling panicky and stressed, that is likely how they will feel too.
- Your children are looking to you for some guidance on how to deal with all of this.
- The younger your kids are, the more likely they are to incorporate your worldview.
Therefore, remaining calm is essential even if you are struggling inside. It is important to put on as brave of a face as you can for your children, so they can see that it is possible to get through this. If you have worries and doubts, it is better not to share them with young children because they may have difficulty processing what they hear.
In terms of communication, your children should hear from you what is going on rather than getting their news from other sources. You should keep an open dialogue with them and explain to them what is happening. Let them know that they can always come to you to talk through what is bothering them. You should also tell them that it is perfectly acceptable to feel down about everything they are experiencing. Try to be honest with them without being an alarmist.
Be Creative to Keep Kids Active
Another important thing parents should do right now is to make sure their kids stay active. Being stuck inside the house can be damaging to a child in the long run. If a kid has any social or other difficulties, they tend to get magnified when he or she is locked down or missing something like camp. Parents of children with some special needs have reported that their children are backsliding during COVID-19.
Finding creative ways for your children to have fun entertainment may be one of your greatest challenges right now. In order to accomplish this goal:
- Try to get them outside of your home every so often in a safe and distanced way.
- You should also engage them in creative activities and come up with some variety, so your kids have something to anticipate.
- Vary their activities, so they are not doing the same thing every day.
Being stuck in a home with children may be tiring after a while, especially if they are not behaving. While it may require significant effort, you should change your discipline model during this time to one that incorporates positive discipline. Yelling and losing your temper will only frighten children more when they are already under stress. This is a time when you need to point out as many positive behaviors as you can and compliment them for them.
You should also model the appropriate behaviors yourself, so your kids can see an example of how they should act. This is where redirection from bad behavior is important as opposed to confronting it head-on by yelling and issuing punishments. When punishment is necessary, try to moderate it and have a reassuring conversation with your child after the situation has passed. If children are stuck in a home with a parent who is always yelling, it will accentuate their own stress.
When parenting your children during the pandemic, you should consider that:
- One of the most important things about pandemic parenting is that you must recognize that even young children have their own way of looking at things.
- Parents need to know that their kids are feeling something, too, and should learn their point of view.
- As a parent, you will need to look past your own fears and insecurities and focus on learning what your child is thinking.
- You can help shape your kids’ worldview, but you cannot impose your own on them.
Co-Parenting During a Pandemic
This is a time when you will need to be more flexible and put past differences aside. The fact that camps and schools are canceled means that parents will need to work together to find alternate arrangements for their children for both the summer and the coming fall.
Combined with changing work schedules, parents may be facing a long-term childcare crunch that they will require them to solve together. This means that each parent will need to be flexible and work outside of the normal custody agreement to take extra time as necessary.
It is also a time for increased and better communication between the two parents. Even if they were not able to communicate before, there are difficult challenges that parents and kids are currently facing. Therefore, ex-spouses need to remain in touch. When communicating with your ex during a pandemic, keep in mind that:
- Even though people are under stress, this is certainly not the time for conflict or letting your frustrations get the better of you when dealing with your children’s other parent.
- If you previously had a poor relationship with your ex, this may be a great opportunity to press the reset button and improve that relationship by cooperating during a crisis.
- Bringing your own stress into communication can inflame the situation.
What you should not be doing right now is making unilateral decisions on how to best deal with the crisis. You should not make unilateral decisions because:
- Even though family courts are not operating on full schedules, judges are still on the case.
- The courts expect parents to abide by the terms outlined in the custody agreement.
- If one parent makes his or her own decision about schools or anything else without the other parent’s permission, that person can still be found in contempt of court when the court gets around to hearing the case.
In other words, the custody agreement remains valid during a pandemic. You should see a divorce lawyer if you are having difficulty with gaining access to your children or being left out of decision-making.
This can actually be your greatest moment and your time to shine as a parent. This is a time that you can hopefully look back on decades from now and know that you rose to the occasion.
If you are a co-parent and have legal needs regarding your custody agreement, contact a Hackensack, NJ, divorce lawyer at the Law Offices of Kelly Berton Rocco. Call us at (201) 343-0078 to set up an initial consultation.