From school closures to working from home, the coronavirus disease (SARS-CoV-2) has dramatically changed family life. Fear, uncertainty, and quarantine at home to slow the spread of coronavirus disease can make it difficult for families to maintain a sense of security and stability. But it’s important for children to feel safe, keep consistent routines, manage their mental health, and build resilience.
Here are some healthy parenting tips to support your children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Talk about COVID-19 with your children.
To manage your child’s anxiety and stress, it’s essential to have conversations about COVID-19 and safety precautions to minimize the spread of COVID-19. According to the United States for Disease Control (CDC), moms and dads, family members, educators, and other trusted adults play an important role in helping children make sense of the current situation.
When talking to your children, remember that they’ll react to both what you say and how you say it. Remaining calm and reassuring children that they’re safe can help them stay positive. Additionally, make yourself available to listen, talk, and answer any questions your child might have about the current situation.
Whether you’re raising toddlers, young children, or adolescents, be sure to teach your children everyday actions to minimize the spread of germs. The CDC recommends advising children to:
- Cover coughs and sneezes with their elbow
- Wash hands regularly with soapy water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid touching their face or mask with unwashed hands
- Wear a face mask in public settings if they are over 2 years of age
- Reduce the amount of time they’re in close contact with non-family members
- Practice social distancing by staying six feet away from others
- Report any flu-like symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, and fever
Create flexible (but consistent) household routines.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken away our normal work, home, and school routines, leaving children who thrive on routine vulnerable to mental health issues. Fortunately, creating consistent daily routines can give toddlers, young children, and adolescents a sense of security and stability at home.
Depending on your household and parenting style, your daily routine might involve:
- Making a schedule for family members that has time for structured activities and free time
- Letting young children and adolescents help plan the routine for the day
- Calling or video chatting loved ones to stay in touch
- Exercising daily to help reduce stress and anxiety
- Consistent bedtimes to make sure your kids get enough sleep
- Eating healthy, balanced meals at regular times each day
Make decisions in your child’s best interest.
With schools reopening across the United States, many parents are facing the decision of whether to send their children back to school. While there’s no right or wrong decision, it’s essential to make decisions in your child’s best interest.
Before committing to in-person classes or remote learning, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of each decision. If you’re worried about your child getting the coronavirus, consider their school’s COVID-19 response. Does their school enforce face coverings and social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19? Do you feel comfortable with the school’s plan if a student or educator has symptoms or test positive for COVID-19?
In addition to the school’s COVID-19 response, consider your family member’s needs and situation. For example, if your child has a grandparent at home with cardiovascular disease or a serious illness that puts them at higher risk for complications, consider keeping your child home until the high-risk family member can get the COVID-19 vaccine. If your child has a medical condition that puts them at higher risk, talk to their pediatrician or healthcare provider for guidance.
Some other considerations may include access to school meal programs, extended child care services, extracurricular activities, and the role of social interactions and friendships in your child’s development. You know your child better than anyone else, and the best way to decide between remote learning and in-person classes is to carefully consider both sides.
Practice positive discipline.
Young children and toddlers might not have the words to describe negative feelings, making them more likely to act out their emotions through their behavior, such as through temper tantrums. Adolescents might be irritable and depressed as they miss out on normal events and activities with friends.
Practice positive discipline by redirecting bad behavior whenever possible. Additionally, reinforce good behaviors and discourage negative behavior. Setting clear expectations, especially with older children and adolescents, can give you the opportunity to praise successes.
Bad behavior can be upsetting to parents, especially if you’re already stressed. Avoid using domestic violence (spanking, hitting, and other forms of physical punishment) to discourage your children’s behavior. Physical punishment increases aggression, fails to teach children good behavior, and interferes with your child’s development. Domestic violence can also take away your child’s sense of safety at home, which can significantly damage their mental health.
Seek help if you need it.
Everyone is more anxious and stressed during the pandemic. If you’re struggling to juggle working from home, remote learning, and new routines, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help.
The experienced psychologists and psychiatrists at the Ross Center can help your family learn healthy coping techniques to effectively manage stress. Through family therapy, moms, dads, and other family members can learn good parenting skills to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you’re struggling with back-to-school anxiety or burnout, we can help improve your children’s lives and start feeling better.