Being a parent to young children can be hard at the best of times. They keep changing! The goalposts keep moving, and trying to stay ahead of the ball – even to just keep up – can sometimes be a daunting task. But what about during the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic? We’ve been heading in and out of lockdown. Friends and family may be geographically distant and unable to visit, and support networks can feel tenuous. How, through all of this unpredictability and tension, can we look after our own wellbeing? As well as the emotional, social and mental wellbeing of our children?
What can we do for our children during Covid?
With Covid-19 constantly humming away in the background to a greater or lesser degree for nearly 18 months now, it is normal for us to feel stressed and to sometimes feel overwhelmed. However, it is how we deal with this anxiety, within ourselves and within our families, that will shape our children’s ongoing experience of the pandemic. Especially for younger children who don’t yet have school classmates and teachers acting as another sphere of influence.
Remembering that children may respond to stress in different ways – from clinginess to withdrawal, outbursts of anger to constant tears – what methods can we employ to help them cope?
Flexible but consistent routine
Children thrive when their environments are predictable. With old routines upset by Covid-19, making new routines can help. Regular mealtimes, bedtimes and morning rise-and-shine times can help children feel safe and secure.
Affection and one-on-one time
It is not possible or practical to be engaged with our kids all of the time. What we do need to do, though, is find moments across the day to give them our full attention and to share affection. Be it a moment of play while hanging out the washing. Or time spent curled on the couch with a book.
Maintain social connections
This point is important for you, too, because a range of responsive relationships help to buffer us against the effects of ongoing stress. Even though we might not be able to meet up in person, young children can recognize and build a relationship with someone they interact with often on video chat. This can also become a looked-forward-to part of an established routine. Perhaps lock in giggles with nan and pop on Wednesday afternoon. Then a chat with an uncle/aunt/close family friend on the weekend.
What can we do for ourselves during Covid?
When it comes to our kids, have you ever noticed how our emotional state can be reflected back to us? If you can take care of yourself, you’ll be much better equipped to model positive and resilient behaviours for your children.
Remember: you are enough
Being perfect is not the goal during a global pandemic (or at any time!). The goal is to meet the needs of our children with love and affection. The way that we do this may not look exactly the same as the family next door or the polished pictures on an Instagram account. You are who your children want and need, though, and you are the right person to help them feel secure and loved.
Remember: this is hard
It’s okay to acknowledge that this is a difficult time. Indeed, recognising and accepting uncertainty can be an effective step towards a positive outlook. If you can prioritise managing your own stress and set aside time for self-care activities (favoured hobbies, exercise, mindfulness, relaxation, good sleep), you’ll more likely have the emotional reserves to respond calmly to your children’s moments of heightened emotion or anxiety.
Remember: you’re not alone
The compelling thing about a global pandemic is that millions of people are experiencing the same fears and anxieties as us. Some of those people – friends, family and colleagues – are just a phone call away. It can help to reach out and share any burdens you are dealing with. Keeping yourself supported and sustained won’t only be better for your mental health, but for the emotional health of your family as well.
Contact our Compassionate Ocean Grove Psychologists
It may help to talk to a qualified therapist. Especially if you feel that your own fears about Covid-19 are affecting your ability to nurture and support your child. Happy Minds supportive counsellors are here to listen, understand and – using evidence-based psychological therapies – support you to create meaningful and sustainable positive change.
Counselling sessions are available face-to-face in our Bellarine Peninsula office or via Telehealth across Australia. Reach out to the team at Happy Minds Psychology on 0431 666 050, fill out our contact form to request a callback or email us at [email protected].