As soon as it's possible, set a routine in place. (Source: Getty Images)
It's a difficult, uncertain time for all of us. There's an atmosphere of anxiety, fear and tension pervading through our households, sometimes unspoken and unaddressed. At others, it comes torpedoing through the television with blaring, loud anchors on network news debating how much longer we have before the coronavirus gets to us. We're grappling with a complete lockdown. We are turning our homes into office spaces, grappling with technology, slow internet connections and trying to keep our businesses running to ensure our economic stability in whatever way we can.
We are dealing with the lack of domestic help, struggling as the dishes pile up. Food needs to be cooked, floors need to be cleaned, clothes need to be washed -daily chores that need to be done. There's a fear of running out of supplies. What happens if we can't access essential groceries, vegetables and milk?
We are worried about our ageing parents. If we are lucky, they live with us and we can take care of their needs. But what if they don't? How do we ensure that their needs are being met when we are sitting a thousand miles away? All of these thoughts and fears racing through our mind while we also have to deal with bored, restless, whiny children demanding our attention, climbing on the walls and furniture and squabbling with their siblings.
Unfortunately, this is the 'new normal'. We don't have a choice but to accept our situation and do the best we can. Parenting under normal circumstances isn't easy. Under these circumstances, it just got much, much harder. It's going to take all the tips, tricks and patience that you have in your arsenal to get you through the next few months. So, what can you do?
Remember that children are extremely perceptive. They are attuned to your tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. Even a baby can sense when their parent is stressed or anxious. They may not be able to verbalise it but they will react in their own way. The atmosphere in the house is dependent on the parents. A happy parent exudes loving, positive energy and children feed off that energy. If you are stressed and anxious, they will react accordingly. So, let the dishes wait. Focus on finding and maintaining your positivity.
Do whatever it takes to find your inner peace
Maybe, wake up a little before everyone else so you can have a quiet cup of tea and do some meditation that sets the tone for your day. Write your thoughts in a journal. Sometimes, getting it out of your system helps to process your feelings. Schedule some quiet me-time, even if it's just for 10 minutes a day. Find a way to fit some form of exercise into your day. Even light yoga stretches for 15 minutes will do the trick.
Talk to your children
Don't brush things under the carpet. Address the elephant in the room. Have age appropriate conversations with them. Your three-year-old doesn't need to know how many people have died in Italy. But, they do need to know that they need to wash their hands often. Your six-year-old may understand and absorb more. Talk to them about how they're feeling. You can draw a happy face, sad face, grumpy face, worried face, relaxed face and ask them to point to what they're feeling. Maybe ask them to draw their own face. You can even do a little role play with their stuffed toys . "Teddy is worried." " Why do you think he's worried?" And listen to their response and address their worries. Children pick up little bits of information through conversations that are being had around them. They try to make sense of it in their own head but don't really know how to. Their anxiety may result in tantrums or extra clinginess. If your child is acting up, try and get to the 'why' of the behaviour. React with love rather than anger. These are difficult times for all of us and they don't have the coping mechanisms that us adults do.
While you are at home, it isn't a vacation
As soon as it's possible, set a routine in place. Children respond to structure. And the truth is, so do most of us adults. There is a certain sense of comfort and control in knowing what's going to happen next. While we may not be able to control the outside world, by putting a routine in place, it allows us to have a semblance of control within our homes. Fix a daily routine of meals, chores, activities, studies, games, exercise, access to screen, quiet time and bedtime. Setting a time-table also helps the children know what to do next.
Get them involved in chores
Even toddlers can help out. Children respond to responsibility. Give them daily chores to do. Ensure that the whole family pitches in. When they see everybody doing chores and picking up after themselves, there will be less whining. It also helps to put the list of chores up so you don't have to repeat yourself a thousand times a day. Use picture clues for children who can't read yet so they know what they need to do.
Some schools have managed to start online classes
Others are yet to figure it out. For younger children, don't worry about academics. Use the time to play, talk, read books, draw, paint, cook and sing. These are opportunities that will not come back in a hurry. Make the most of it. There are plenty of ideas online if you need help in coming up with ways to play with your child. Choose stuff that is fun for you as well. Get them involved in your hobbies. If you don't have any, this is a good time to develop one and you can do it together. For older children, most teachers will have either put a curriculum in place or will be working on putting one in place. All you need to do is support the teachers by ensuring that a routine is followed. Give your child the time and space to figure things out for himself. Children are problem solvers if they are given the opportunity. Let them come to you. And don't worry about your child falling behind. Remember that everybody is in the same boat. Encourage their reading habits. Watch documentaries together. Play family board games.
Yes, these are difficult times. But, you'll be okay. We'll all be okay as long as we.. Stay calm. Stay kind. Stay safe.