Perfect Parenting During Covid-19
It is often difficult to know how to respond when a child is upset, scared or fearful; especially when you can’t control the situation. As a parent, we often feel that it is our responsibility, our duty, to solve our child’s problems and vanquish their fears. That is hard enough when someone has been mean to them at school or when they wake from a nightmare. But how do you deal with it when the apprehension is connected to changes in their life caused by a pandemic.
There is no perfect solution, but thankfully perfection is not required. Your child needs to feel that they have been heard, that you understood their fears and that you cared for them. They also need for you to be genuine in the answers that you provide to their questions. With Covid-19 there is much that a child cannot fully understand, that they are not developmentally capable of processing, but they know what they are feeling, they know the world around them has changed and they likely know, or at least sense, that you are more stressed than usual.
- It is easy to say to a child who asks questions about Covid-19, “Don’t worry everything will be fine.” It is more genuine to say, “things are different now, this is hard, I understand your concern, I also have lots of questions.”
- With a scared child, we can emphatically say “you have nothing to be scared of” or we can help them to deal with their apprehension by saying “it’s normal to be scared.” A child that understands that it is okay to be scared can learn strategies to assist in dealing with the fear. A child that is scared, but is told that they shouldn’t be, begins to believe that there is something wrong with them.
- Attempts to distract a child, who is bored or frustrated, by saying things like, “this will be over soon” will likely give them a message that you did not intend to send. Over time, they are likely to conclude that you didn’t know what you were talking about or that you lied to them. You are better off to say, “I don’t know how long this will take. It could be a while. Is there something that we could do to make today a good day?”
- Fear of getting sick or of a family member getting sick may present with your child. Instead of saying “I promise we won’t get sick”, a promise that you can’t guarantee, you might consider responding by saying something like “Following the guidelines we have been given and taking good care of ourselves can help us to stay healthy.”
Acknowledging and communicating an understanding of your child’s emotional reaction to any stressor, in this case, Covid-19, is a valuable step in decreasing the emotional toll that the stressor has on their life. Remember you don’t need to be perfect; you need to be genuine and available to your child. Finally, remember that routines are very helpful to children (and adults and pets) and should be established and maintained, especially in times of increased stress. Routine will lower the level of apprehension for your child and for you.
Breathe, Relax, and Be Genuine