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Parenting During a Pandemic

Dr. Rimjhim Duggal Stephens, MD

We are living in an unprecedented time, in an era that will be remembered for years and will leave an impact on the way we shape our decisions, not only for ourselves but for our children.

In recent weeks, parenting dynamics have changed.  While some may have already parented from home, many families are living a new reality while juggling multiple children all day, figuring out e-schooling, working, meeting deadlines, contemplating health concerns, and all from one location.  Many of us are anxious, with the uncertainty of what’s to come, thinking about our loved ones and their safety, job security, educational and workplace pursuits, and how to organize our time and living space.

Here are some vital tips on how to approach our current lifestyle with a healthy mindset:

1. SLOW DOWN

Take a deep breath.  What we are all trying to do is new to us.  Parenting without the extra constraints of the current world climate are already a lot to deal with.  Take it one day at a time. While it’s easy to get lost in a sea of information coming our way, try to focus on the present and how to get through the day peacefully.  An enjoyable dinner with the family, reading or connecting with our children through play, taking a walk, and participating in simple activities can be very grounding and keep our mind from constantly thinking about the uncertainty of the days and weeks to come.

2. BE KIND

Be kind to yourself, be kind to your children, be kind to your partner.  Everyone is under duress in the new life we have been catapulted into.  Combating stress with compassion, and allowing ourselves to learn every day so that we can improve the next, will not only bring us peace, but our attitude will also transfer to our family and positively impact the behavior of our children.

3. EMBRACE SIMPLE PLEASURES

Think of the simple pleasures that you enjoy when at home—a hot cup of tea on the porch, the early morning sun, playing with a pet, taking a nap.  Try to incorporate a little alone time every day, solely to do what makes you happy and then involve your children in other activities that bring joy like family yoga, nature walks, baking, danceathons, game nights, creative crafts, and coloring.  Block out other distractions at this time and simply focus on what is bringing you joy.

4. CONNECT

Connect with your family, connect with your loved ones, connect with nature, and connect with yourself.  In a world where we are physically isolated, it’s useful to feel a connection to those around us and also to our surroundings.  Make time to connect and check in with each child individually for at least 20 minutes a day.  Keep in touch with your family and loved ones, and encourage your children to do so as well.  Connecting with nature can help calm our bodies and soothe our souls, so get outside and play together!

5. LOOK WITHIN

We all have a sense of strength within us. Take time daily to sit still and meditate, journal, reflect or contemplate, and connect with yourself.  Make stillness a priority.  Meditation has been found to positively affect our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being, and these are all areas we could use a boost in during these trying times. Taking time in your day to make these quiet efforts won’t shorten your time with your children but will demonstrate to them lifelong skills of how to self-regulate, manage anxiety, decrease stress, and be calm in the midst of whatever life unveils.

6. WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

Engage your children in thinking of ways to help others!  Many cities are gathering outside their homes nightly to clap in solidarity for first responders.  You can share supplies with your neighbors, check in with those you think may need assistance, create cards or care packages with your children for those helping the community, or support local businesses.  These are trying times and anything we can do to help will go a long way. It will also create in our children an appreciation for helping others.  Remember, we are all in this together, and every effort makes a difference!

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