Parenting in the age of CORONA

Today I would like to share with you some of my thoughts and musings on the struggles that parents all around me are experiencing while trying to work, teach and parent all at the same time. Now, it is self-evident that wearing multiple hats all at once is a challenge, but it seems to me that parents are struggling much more with the parenting/teaching aspect than the work aspect. Now, why would that be?

I think I know why – although love and attachment come easily to most parents, the skill of parenting is not so easily attained. When I work with parents in my office, I am often blown away by their professional accomplishments – they are heads of the major university departments, they are genius surgeons, they argue cases in front of the Supreme Court – but one recalcitrant toddler brings them to their knees! They are funny, articulate, fascinating and intelligent – but one tween hissy fit, and they are ready to drink at noon!

            So, here is my brief summary of Parenting 101 for parents who feel they are winning at every aspect of life, except parenting:

1.     Your kids are learning from you – from the first minutes of their lives. Your ability to self-regulate (meaning don’t blow their lid when your kid is losing it) is one of the most things you can teach by modeling it, not demanding it. So, do whatever you need to do to stay the adult in any situation, and you have won half the battle.

2.     Be really clear which problems belong to you/the adult and are your responsibility to fix, and which problems belong to the child, and is their responsibility to fix. For example, children’s social problems are very much their issue – and their responsibility to fix. The parents can be a good listener and a great advisor, but you don’t have to fix friendship problems – kids have to manage this on their own as practice for managing relationships for a lifetime. Ditto with forgotten and lost items – not your problem! You can try offering ideas to how to organize life, if you feel your child is being receptive, but you don’t have to fix this. The sooner they take responsibility for lost gloves, forgotten homework, unwashed laundry and uncharged devices, the better off they will be.

3.     Learn to say “no” in a multitude of ways: “no”, “not right now”, “sure, after…”, “absolutely, as soon as you …”, etc. Sometimes, a softer approach will yield better results.

4.     Allow all feelings to be expressed and discussed; do not allow all behaviors. It is perfectly ok to be angry/furious/frustrated etc. but it is certainly not ok to hurt people, pets or property.

5.     Schedules and routines are king! There should be very little variability in mealtimes and bedtimes for all kids, year-round, no exceptions.

6.     Daily outside time does wonders for everyone; they are especially great for anxious or overly active children. Countries where outdoors are a daily part of life have significantly lower rates of common childhood mental illnesses.

7.     Take all necessary precautions to shield children from adult problems – young children don’t need to be exposed to the news, teenagers don’t need to know about every bad decision their parents made in college, and young adults don’t need to carry the burden of being their divorced parent’s best friend.

8.     Simplify your child’s environment as much as possible – offer fewer choices in toys, clothes and food. Sign them up for very few very carefully curated activities, and allow plenty of time for chores, rest, and simple boredom. More is definitely not better for kids!

9.     And lastly (at least for this blog) – maintain the position of authority in your home at all times. It is crucial to teach children that they are a part of a family, not in charge of the family. This powerful stance will not only lower children’s anxiety, but will also lead to more cooperation and happiness all around. Or, as we say in my family: “Everyone will have their say, but not everyone will have their way!”

I wish you luck on your parenting journey! Feel free to reach out to us at Natasha Kendal and Associates with questions, concerns and comments!

Natasha Kendal, Ph.D., L.M.F.T. ©2021