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Practical Parenting During COVID-19

On March 23, the Governor of Virginia announced that our schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year. The game changed. We went from two weeks to the next two and a half months with our children at home, learning from a distance when able, and with us trying to figure out how we can create a new normal for the entire family.

Naturally, during a time like this, we yearn to connect. But now we are advised to maintain physical distance. Social media, FaceTime, Zoom calls – this is our new normal for connectivity as parents, as children, and with our loved ones. This goes against everything mental health experts recommend, as generally we are asking folks to minimize their time in front of a screen and create opportunities for social interaction in person. And it’s OK to relax those rules, to encourage digital connection, and to support our own mental health and well-being in the process – all while maintaining safe and healthy practices of social distancing.

The coming weeks (maybe months) are uncertain. When will life return to normal? What can we do in the interim to parent effectively and support our loved ones? I’m sharing 10 practical tips from one parent to another that you may find useful.

1. You know your child best, follow your instinct and allow yourself some grace when things don’t go exactly as planned.

2. We are all looking for control in a situation where there really isn’t any. Children respond well to schedule and routine, attempt to create that to the best of your ability. It’s also OK if it isn’t always followed.

3. It is OK to relax screen time limits and expectations if you are comfortable doing so. Kids naturally will be looking to connect with one another, and we should encourage healthy connection via screens during this time of social distancing.

4. Kids will feed off of our emotions and reactions. They are looking to us for reassurance that everything will be OK, and that life will one day return to normal. Though we can’t make any guarantees, we can be supportive and acknowledge their fears.

5. This is a tough time. Kids are mourning the loss of their school year, their graduations, their senior prom, school trips, sports teams, and so much more. They may show a wide range of emotions, which would be a very typical response. This becomes a concern when they are unable to reasonably recover, they remain withdrawn, they have difficulty sleeping consistently, their emotions are all over the place, or their appetite is affected. Should this last for more than two weeks, please reach out to your child’s pediatrician for help.

6. Take a walk. I’ve seen more families outside together than ever before and this is good for all. Fresh air and nature are good for the soul.

7. Cook together. Spend time preparing a meal or snack, and do your best to maintain a good balance of nutrition.

8. Be mindful. Know your limits. Respond to your limits in whatever way possible to support and care for yourself throughout this challenging time.

9. Find humor. Laughter can create a change in mood, atmosphere, and response. Laugh often.

10. Just breathe. Breathe together, in through the nose, and out through the mouth. Even five to 10 breaths can create calm in the midst of chaos.

We are all in this together. Each and every person around you is experiencing the impact of this health crisis right now. It’s a shared experience that will undoubtedly bring about different responses. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Dig deep, pull from within, and when you are feeling low, seek support and care from others.

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About Stephanie Osler, LCSW

About Stephanie  Osler, LCSW Osler has cared for children and their families in various clinical settings for over 20 years. She has been at CHKD since 2003, first as a licensed clinical social worker in the emergency department and then as program manager of the social work department. Having the experience of providing direct services to children and their families over the past two decades, Osler has a solid understanding of current systems of care and the need for additional services to focus on treating the whole child.