Keeping our heads cool when the kids are bouncing off the walls can prove hard but this is heightened when we’ve been confined to our homes.
With mass closures of schools, workplaces and activities which would normally not only mentally stimulate our kids and our own minds, it’s no wonder we’re all running ragged.
UNSW clinical psychologist Dr Georgie Fleming has published some tools and tricks on how to better cope with parenting during the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘The combination of increased parenting time and responsibilities and less self-care almost guarantees that parents will experience huge blows to their frustration tolerance alongside heightened feelings of stress and anxiety,’ she says.
So if you’re feeling irritable or moody, it’s totally okay, there is no right or wrong way to handle the situation we’ve all been thrown into.
The strategies she has put forward to help parents she says can take time and patience but will go a long way in the long term.
Special Play During Isolation
This refers to designated one on one time that is free of distractions, is child-led (letting them run the show) and allows for creativity.
“Daily Special Play will do help maintain your parent-child relationship at a time when it’s harder than usual. It’s five minutes everyday without disobedience and back-chat, filled instead with all of their good qualities,’ explains Dr Fleming.
It can also help regulate big feelings. This pandemic is scary. It provides unfettered access to the person most helpful for sorting out their big feelings: you. For parents, it’s five minutes without worry and uncertainty, filled instead with fun and laughter.’
Using praise to improve positive behaviour
Using praise reinforces that you see the good your child does rather than bringing them down with the negatives. It can be a powerful tool for bringing out more positive behaviour.
‘Make your praises specific. Specific praise tells your child exactly what you liked about their behaviour. For example, “you did so well playing by yourself while daddy finished his work call” lets your kid know that the specific behaviour you liked was ‘playing by yourself’,’ says Dr Fleming.
In a time that as adults we feel the anxiety of the change of our daily routines, it can also be felt by our little people. Their big feelings are often forgotten so a family meeting allows everyone to talk things out, explain the ‘why’, and generally reconnect in a designated way.
Self care during isolation
‘The first step in taking good care of kids is taking good care of yourself,’ says Dr Fleming.
We’ve all heard the putting the air mask on yourself before your child analogy and in this situation it’s the same. In order to be the best parent to your kids, you need to ensure you’re not running on empty.
‘Self-care will differ from person to person, but regardless of how you do it, make sure you schedule it in. Protect it. Prioritise it. This is especially true if your usual way of doing self-care has been affected by closures because you’re probably in a self-care deficit. Figure out something else that fills up your cup because there’s only so much you can pour out for others when your cup is empty,’ says Dr Fleming.
It’s not an easy time we’re having, so again, remember you’re doing your best. Keep at it and we’ll all come out of this at the other end.