Episode 35 – Parenting In a Pandemic with Andrea Klepatz
written by Andrea Klepatz (Counselling Psychology, Clinical Social Worker) on 10/04/20
So much is being asked of us right now. We all try to do our best to flatten the curve and keep our loved ones safe. Parents especially are faced with many pressures right now- trying to work from home, ensure their kids continue to learn, pressure to help kids with their learning packages and communicate with their teachers. Many Parents are faced with real financial pressures and have worries about caring and protecting their aging parents. If parents work in essential services they may struggle with the need to work and worries about exposing themselves and their families to COVID 19.
Ensuring/Protecting Parent’s Mental Health is important.
- It is important to protect the mental health of parents particularly now – Kids are looking to their parents to feel safe and secure and to help them manage with all the uncertainty
- It is difficult to help others/ support your own family if you are feeling overwhelmed and your fears are out of control
- This is an unprecedented time; it is normal to feel anxious and have worries
- Do your best to manage, take good care of your mental health, practice self care, avoid excessive exposure to media coverage, add extra time for daily stress relief
- Connection with friends and family is key—we are stronger together.
- You may need the help of a mental health professional to ensure that you are coping well- to talk through your anxiety and develop healthy coping strategies. You may also need support to be able to support your children through this
How to help your children manage with these uncertain times
- It is important to talk about what is going on with your child. There are great resources to help you do this if you are uncertain- Anxiety Canada website- awesome source of info, and has scripts of how to approach topic of COVID 19 with your child and links to other resources, and videos you can watch together with your child. https://www.anxietycanada.com
- Ace Burpee’s UTube series where WPG pose questions and get the facts and answers to their questions from the MB health officials. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oj2HyrGvsJQ
- Lego version of PM Justin Trudeau’s speech to Canadian Children
- Check in with kids, ask them what they know, what they are worried about and what they want to know
- Don’t be afraid to talk about- it helps to talk. It’s also OK not to know the answers- you can find out together.
- Children may need more reassurance during this time- reassure them that they’re safe, they may need more hugs, more 1:1 time- Remind them that this will inevitably end, and we will be able to gather together and see our family in person again.
- Predictability and routine help children, but this can be a routine that is fluid and flexible one that fits your family and child’s personality.
- Don’t be afraid to let your child know that you are anxious too- this can help to normalize their fears. It is healthy to have some anxiety/worries- by helping them know it’s OK and healthy to worry a little, it helps keep us safe, but we never want to let worry take over and become unhelpful
- Remember to explain things in terms and language they can understand, in simple explanations
Use what Works
- What positive strategies does your family use to manage worries- Model your own coping strategies
- Help your child generate alternatives to their worried thoughts, like “what else could happen” instead
- Help your child sort out helpful worries and unhelpful ones
- *Many resources available to help- Anxiety Canada
- Ideas to stay active and burn off energy can be found Online with programs like Go Noodle, Yoga for kids, YMCA has virtual work outs
- walks -while maintaining appropriate social distancing
- Getting enough sleep helps us manage our stress and cope effectively with stressors
- As appropriate, get children involved in cooking and helping
Some final thoughts about School….On the pressure to recreate your child’s classroom and Educational experience in your home.
We are going through a historic time right now, never in living memory have we been faced with such challenges on such a global level. What guides me, is the thought- How do I want my kids to remember this time- because they will remember this time. Will it be a time of stress or a time of connections where they learned important lessons of being part of a family, of working together to maintain the home, cook, clean, organize and care for others. I am trying to think of this time as a gift, where I get to pause and get back in touch with my kids, we live such busy lives, they grow up so fast. Be curious, ask questions, encourage them to talk about how they feel, their interests and their unique point of view. Have fun, be in the moment enjoy and savour each other’s company. Give more hugs and just “be” together.
I know many parents are worried about school and feel pressure to ensure the learning continues. The learning will continue, but it does not have to look like traditional classroom teaching- nor do they have to have a rigid routine. Routines are good, yes, absolutely but we can adopt a more fluid routine that works for your family. Learning does not have to happen between the hours of 9am and 3:30. It needs to change because it is different. It does not need to be endless worksheets. It can be independent study of a subject that your child is passionate about. It can be simple fun experiments…It can be learning the basics of living together, being kind and helping out. Or just managing. Kids will not be left behind; they will not miss out- Teachers will adapt and adjust programming to be a fit for students where they are at when ever they return to school.