Parenting in the Time of Coronavirus – Part 2

By Lisa Powers, Parama Dham,
Madison, VA, USA

Helping Your Children Cope
For countless children, this is a time of great loss — of friends, of activities they looked forward to, and many other things that formed their daily life. Accept your children’s feelings — they are natural — and let them know that you understand if they feel sad.
Young children may not understand what’s going on, but they can still feel upset by changes in the household routine, or by seeing others around them who are distressed.

Maintain Routines
– Routines and consistency help children feel a sense of security. Regular wake-up times, mealtimes and bedtimes give structure to the day. If you children’s school is closed and they are home with you, a simple schedule, alternating periods of schoolwork and play, can be calming and make life feel less chaotic. In the morning, it may help to go over the day’s plan together as a family, so everyone knows what to expect.

– Some schools have arranged for distance learning by computer or sending books and other materials home with students. Myriad websites and online educational activities have popped up in recent weeks to serve children at home. If possible, take advantage of these free resources.

Keep Communication Open Between You and Your Children
– Ask your children how they are feeling. Help them label their feelings. Are they worried? Confused? Scared? Angry? Bored?
– If your children want to talk about COVID-19, first find out what they know about it. They may have gotten incorrect information, or may have misunderstood what they heard. A child who is acting out may be reacting to scary news he has encountered.

– Assure your children that in many people, the infection is mild — like a cold or the flu.

– Encourage your children to let you know if they’re not feeling well, so that you can help them. Not every illness or symptom will be COVID-19.

– Tell your children that there are things we can do to help keep ourselves and others safe and healthy, such as frequent hand washing, avoiding touching our faces, and social distancing. Giving your children actions to take to make things better is empowering. By helping reduce the spread of COVID-19, they are helping themselves, their family and the community; value their efforts.

– Praise, praise, praise! These times can be very discouraging for adults and kids alike. Help lift your children’s spirits by giving your kids positive messages about themselves and their good actions. Whenever your children are doing something helpful, be sure to acknowledge it. Talk about their good qualities. That which we “feed” with our attention will grow.

– Focus on the Positive. Talk about some of the positive things that have happened since COVID-19, such as the reduction in air pollution worldwide, and inspiring news stories of people helping their communities.

Media
– D
epending on your children’s ages, monitor/limit your children’s exposure to news and media reports about COVID-19.

– Letting school-age children use social media (with supervision) to keep in touch with friends can help them feel supported, as they see that their peers are facing similar struggles, too.

– This time could be an opportunity to explore new family activities: cooking together, playing games, drumming, or passing on skills to your children, such as gardening, sewing, or playing musical instruments. Think about the pastimes you enjoyed as a child, and see if you can do them with your children: arts and crafts, putting on plays, playing board games, etc.

– Use creativity! Drawing, dance, music and other art forms can provide emotional release and a means of self-expression.

– Exercise is especially important now, for the whole family. If permitted, outdoor activities could include family walks or riding bikes. Indoors, the internet offers a wide range of exercise programs and routines for various age groups.

Help Others as a Family

– Helping others can help children to feel good about themselves and can inspire gratitude. You might drive together to your local food bank and donate some canned goods or other supplies. Your children could write thank-you notes to hospital workers or delivery personnel. You could bake something together and share it with a neighbor.

Use Humor

– Humor can provide much-needed relief from the stresses and problems of the day. Watch a funny movie or TV show together. Share funny, age-appropriate songs and stories from the internet.

Inspire Hope

– Tell your children that people all over the world are working together on COVID-19, and that throughout history mankind has survived countless challenges.

– While COVID-19 has undoubtedly brought great hardship worldwide, it has also caused people to reevaluate their lives and priorities. For example, it has given some an unprecedented break from the "rat race" of their jobs, freeing up time to spend with family or pursue interests. Lockdown measures have awakened interest in gardening, baking from scratch and other aspects of sustainable living. With older children and teens, talk about ways in which these changes are helping to reshape the future in positive ways.

– Activities such as planting a garden (or even a few seeds in pots indoors) can give kids something to look forward to, and help them feel hopeful about the future.

Now is the time to call forth the highest and best in ourselves. With LOVE and compassion, family life can thrive.

(Lisa Powers and Parvati Rosen-Bizberg are co-authors of The Fivefold Path Parenting Program.)

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