Parenting in the Time of Anxiety
What a life-changing year 2020 is turning out to be. None of us ever imagined ourselves to be characters in a global pandemic. All our well-laid plans flipped on their head with the path unclear even a few steps away.
Everything has been hit, especially our children's education. No more smooth running on the rails routine with hobby classes post school. Home schooling is in whether you want it or not. Even with online schooling (for the lucky kids) there is a deep sense of disorientation for parents and kids alike. Everything looks the same but everything has changed forever. Plus there seems to be no end in sight.
This is the year of anxiety parenting when as parents our scale of worry begins with classes and extends to mortality.
Cabin fever lies lower on the worry scale but mental health issues are greater causes for concern. And then there is the actual virus that has forced us to say goodbye to our older lives, even as we resist changing our ways. All of this anxiety has led to a condition of fear, anger and deep uncertainty brewing within us. The dangers are very real and the pressure enormous.
Children have gone through stressful times through the years. During World War II it was common to evacuate children to safer areas, away from their parents. Many schools were bombed and children often had open air classes. Rationing was prevalent. During the 1918 Spanish Flu children were kept at home. It was well known that a vaccine could take a long time. Children often took on chores like helping on their farms, delivering the newspaper and some went to work in factories. In terms of learning, children used some standard texts for reading and numbers. In addition, they read religious texts or learnt speeches by presidents.
How is it even remotely possible for us to be pillars of strength and a reservoir of faith for our children in these Covid times? The simple answer is don't.
If anything thanks to the pandemic it is time to be frank and honest with our children about our circumstances and feelings. It's okay to accept we don't have everything under our control. In fact it's time to accept we have very little under our control.
Yet in this chaos, whatever passes off as order we must claim. If your smaller children want to sleep in let them. In the absence of school if they turn heavily to drawing, painting or craft let them. If they decide they are going to put up a performance every week, encourage them. If you see a tent propped in the living room, a home within a home that your child retreats to, embrace it.
An older child may be active on social media, which is fine. They will amble in from time to time to touch base with you. Use those little windows to discuss or chat about anything under the sun.
Encourage children, small ones and teens alike to think of themselves as part of the team who need to chip by undertaking simple tasks. Play lots of board games. Expect lots of drama from yourself and then the kids.
If you live in a smaller space don't let that stop you from playing ball in the living room. For most of us our apartments are the bubble in which we will live, learn, laugh and cry.
Many children will be shouldering much more than they can to help their households sustain. For some others there is no want but they may still feel lonely. Having a routine with a special lunch on weekends or a movie with home made popcorn can introduce some fun in otherwise monotonous days. Try involving kids in making things to eat, to play with and to learn.
You can for instance go on an online safari to Africa or visit the finest museums of the world with your children from home.
Here is one such online safari link specially designed for children:
These are a few of the best museums around the world that have enabled online viewing. Click on the links below for a virtual museum visit.
Both children and adults can borrow books to read from the well stocked digital library, Open Library. A fine collection of picture books, fiction and non-fiction awaits the young reader and their parent.
For parents working from home juggling office projects and household chores can be very stressful. The steady stream of cooking, laundry, vessel washing and cleaning will seem endless. The list of daily tasks will mount and can lead to greater anxiety. This is why parents too should specially make sure they indulge in self-care whenever possible. It could be chatting with a friend or unloading to a therapist. These conversations will help them feel connected socially despite the physical distancing.
We are all doing the best we can and if we hang in together even if it is at each others throats we will get through this.