There are many ways parents and caregivers can help children cope with the pandemic and everything it has brought about. One of the simplest is just to ask. But those conversations can be difficult, particularly if they’re new for your family or if your child isn’t particularly talkative.
Resilience is the process people go through when responding to difficult times. Everyone experiences disappointments, setbacks, failures and challenges – resilient people tend to thrive as a result of these. Each child’s experience of COVID-19 is different, as is their capacity to respond with resilience. Resilience is dynamic and will change depending on a child’s personal and environmental context. It’s also relative – what might be a big deal for one child might be insignificant to another.
Parents are no longer parents. They have become reading specialists, math support, school counselors, librarians and principals. They are being asked to extend themselves into new roles, and the pressure is building for everyone.
Most parents acknowledge that the quiet consistency of a bedtime routine is comforting and calming for their children, but parents rarely reflect on the effect the bedtime routine has on themselves. At least one research study suggests that regular routines buffer/decrease parenting stress, which in turn has a positive effect on children’s emotions, behavioral regulation and readiness to learn.
Creating space and time for both our parenting and professional roles has always been the big challenge for working parents. But nothing could have prepared us for the stress of these roles colliding under quarantine conditions. Now we aren’t just parents who work, we are balancing multiple full-time roles—parent, employee, educator. Even if you’re fortunate enough to be able to work from home right now, the stakes have never felt higher. We aren’t just employees doing a job, we’re also shouldering the responsibility of managing entirely new ways of working and communicating with colleagues—all under the shadow of intense fear of job loss.
To be graceful is to move smoothly, both physically and emotionally, as well as to be gentle and kind. Parenting gracefully through this quarantine is no small feat, but I believe there are a couple of simple steps parents can take with their elementary-age kiddos.
I began to realize that children’s books were a way into a conversation that our family had not been having. And it wasn’t just that we weren’t talking to our 3-year-old about differences in race and ethnicity. My wife and I had not been talking about it, either, at least not directly and not often, and this was despite our being a multiracial family.
With families around the world spending unprecedented amounts of time in close quarters – and under varying degrees of stress – emotions can run high. In good times and in hard times, parents can take steps to help their children strengthen their emotional competence. Parents may not always feel up to this task – especially in challenging moments – and yet parenting can be an opportunity for adults to strengthen their own emotional intelligence.
For work-from-home parents, one of the most challenging things to do is figuring out ways to keep the kids quiet during business calls, conference calls, and virtual meetings. No one said working from home would be a walk in the park, but it can sure be enjoyable even for the kids, especially when parents designate activities that allow them some quiet time and personal exploration.
People often say that practice makes perfect. Research certainly supports this, especially in children. In fact, studies have shown that repetition can be critically important for learning in general—especially for memory and language learning. So while adults can easily pick up new information from a single exposure, when kids ask to watch the same movie they’ve already seen a hundred times or read the same book before bed for the 10th night in a row, it might just be their way of learning the storyline. And although it might be boring or even annoying to do the same thing over and over and over (and over and over) again, this extra practice might be just what children need to learn new things.