OPINION: Parenting during the pandemic

COVID-19, or the coronavirus, has spread across the globe, creating a global crisis not only in public health and economic stability but also in the family well-being. With the closure of educational institutions, children remain at home with family members, and this places both challenges and opportunities for parents in educating them with life surviving skills.

This highly contagious novel coronavirus has led to occupational damage, financial insecurity, uncertainty, anxiety, fear and high levels of stress among parents. These stress factors challenge the parents’ capacity for tolerance. On the contrary, this pandemic is also an opportunity to bring positive self-transformation and create a strong emotional bond with the child and family members.

According to Dr Damour, a child psychologist, parents, of course, are anxious and express high levels of stress due to uncertainty about COVID-19 and its impact on all aspects of life. But parents should not share their anxiety and fears with the child as these make him/her vulnerable. A child seeks safety and security from parents, and in this sense, they need to be a safe driver.

It is really challenging for parents to have control of the overpowered aggressive impulses due to the stressful situation. However, they can be managed by managing an organised routine for different things like meditation, breathing exercise and entertainment with music and dance. Once the mind becomes calm and positive, it will help in better parenting.

Parents should take this situation as an opportunity to build more connectivity with children to assure them of a happy life. When it is viewed from a positive light, it brings about constructive transformation to both the parents and children. UNESCO estimates that 1.38 billion children are out of school due to closure of schools, and this really reduces group activities with their peers.

First, parents need to understand the present situation of children; that is, how they are prevented from engaging in group activities, team sports or the playground and socialising due to COVID-19. And parents should work on themselves first to create a stress-free life. Since a stressed mind never leads to good parenting. They can expose children to different activities like academics, sports, cooking, gardening, meditation, physical exercise and positive affirmation. In order to make learning more fun, they should self-engage in teaching through fun activities. If parents become a friend, the child will take learning as a fun activity and develop an interest towards learning anything.

Similarly, they should take part in both indoor and outdoor sports, which will help strengthen the bond over time. In order to enhance their imaginative faculty of the mind, parents should tell stories with morals, have the child read books and draw, which will also develop concentrating skills.

In addition, positive affirmation is a requisite as it reinforces the mind in a positive direction and develops a positive self-image. Comparisons must be stopped as it lowers the self-esteem of the child, resulting in poor mental growth. Parents should also manage time for dancing and exercising together for stimulating happy hormones. This pandemic is a golden opportunity for parents to bring positive changes within them, which will have a positive effect on children and overall family well-being, resulting in better immunity to fight this disease.

According to UNICEF, parents should praise their children when they behave well as it will imbibe positive motivation in them. Shouting at children is never a solution, rather it will make both of them more stressed and angrier.

According to WHO, children sometimes misbehave, and it is normal as they are tired, hungry, afraid or just starting to become independent. In such a situation, parents should listen to their breathing. Put your hand on the stomach and feel it rise and fall with each breath. Start saying, “I am okay with whatever it is”. Children always assume their parents to be role models. Perceiving this, parents should strive to make a positive impact on children.

Hardships in life come with creative opportunities. Grasping this concept in practice will transform one into an inspirational being at times of adversity, and this pandemic is no exception. It is an opportunity for the parents to change themselves first and guide children accordingly. This is a good time to have better relationships with children, make them feel more loved, secure and special.

There are plenty of good sources of information on good parenting by agencies such as WHO, UNICEF, USAID, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Parenting for lifelong Health. Many viruses like COVID-19 could strike countries in the future, too. Therefore, we need to help children grow mentally, physically and emotionally strong in order to cope with a similar devastating situation.

Priya is a lecturer in English. pushpaapriya@gmail.com.