The lockdown is tough on everyone.
It is as tough on your child as it is on you.
All of us need our time and space. You need your time away from your child as much as your child needs their time away from you.
But in the current state of lockdown – both of you are stuck together all day for all the hours of the day.
In addition, you need to work. Whether you are working from home and trying to do office work at home or you are doing household tasks – it doesn’t help to have a child demanding your attention all the time.
In such circumstances – it is normal and natural to feel frustrated, annoyed and irritated. And in the absence of other outlets – to unburden your pent-up negative energy on your child.
But that can only make things worse. A child who is cranky because they have nowhere to go and no one to have fun with, will only become crankier and more demanding when you offload your stress on them.
So what should you do to maintain your sanity, get your work done, be a good parent and use this gift of time that has suddenly come your way to forge a deeper bond with your child?
I am sharing 15 tips that will make parenting during the lockdown easier.
Always remember that working from home is very different from working at the office.
In the office – you are first a professional and then a parent.
At home you are first a parent and then a professional. Plan your day such that your priorities are clear to you and your child.
Also remember that when you are visible to your child – you have to stay connected with your child otherwise the panic of being ignored will make your child very cranky and demanding.
How to connect with your child while working from home
- Before you begin your work for the day – spend some quality time with your child. Make sure you are not checking your phone or thinking about work at this time. Look into your child’s eyes and listen more than you talk.
- Through the day when you are working and your child is around you – frequently look in your child’s direction – catch their eye and smile. The smile must be genuine even if it lasts for a few seconds.
- Hug your child often. Begin the day with a big hug. And promise a hug every hour. Say – “As soon as I finish this call we will do a long hug. By then finish this drawing.”.
- Think of time in your child’s terms – For you – one hour may be a very short time. For a 3 year old – 10 minutes is a very long time. So your child may need a smile every 10 minutes during that hour and a hug every 20 minutes during that hour. Factor that in before you sit down to work. If you are on a video call – share your challenge with the person on the other side and let them know that you will be taking quick interludes to pat or hug your child and allow them on to your lap. Since everyone is now working from home – this should be easy for the other person to understand and empathize with.
Most of us are inclined to believe that doing what we want when we want is freedom and that it brings us happiness. But that is not true.
Freedom from a routine can make us happy for a few days – but when we make a practice of this – it can make us very unhappy for two reasons.
The first reason is unpredictability. All of us – children included – feel safer and more secure when we know what is going to happen next. A routine helps us to feel safe and happy because of that. A routine also gives us a sense of control because we can plan what happens to us instead of leaving it to external circumstances, and in the current scenario of unpredictability – this can be very reassuring.
The second reason is the lack of time and the consequent lack of accomplishment.
How to plan a routine when you work from home
- Make two separate routines. Make one for yourself and one for your child and try to synchronize the two to ensure that you factor in enough pockets of connection time.
- Ensure that meal times and sleep time remain as close to regular working days as possible
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One of the first casualties in a stay at home all the time situation is – exercise. Most houses are too small to afford any place to run and jump and play. And when children don’t run and jump – they are likely to feel stressed. This stress is then expressed as boredom, crankiness and jumping around at the wrong times from the wrong places with the risk of injury.
Make sure you plan a section of time to exercise. This should not be a plan for your child alone. You must exercise as well
How to plan exercise at home during work from home
- Exercise together
- Do something that your child finds fun so that exercise time doubles up as play time
- Do something which involves your child. Like allowing your child to sit on your back while doing pushups.
- Smile and laugh through the routine.
- Mix it up and do different things on different days if you like – but make sure you don’t miss a day
In the absence of school and playtime – when minutes stretch into hours, hours stretch into days and days stretch into weeks – time can seem like a burden and the drudgery of staying home can seem interminable.
This can bring in a sense of purposelessness and make children irritable.
To combat this it is essential to have a plan.
A plan gives you something to look forward to. It creates an excitement that pushes you to get out of bed and finish the mundane tasks so that you can get to the exciting part of the day.
It is also gives you a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day – so that you can drop into bed and fall asleep with a satisfied smile on your lips.
Most of us get this sense of accomplishment from our work – but we need to help our children gain this through a daily plan.
How to plan your child’s day during work from home
- Prioritize both work and play in your plan.
- Suggest the work part yourself. This could be something like learning the multiplication tables
- Allow your child to plan the fun part. The easiest way to do this is to make a jar full of fun activities written on slips of paper. Every day your child can pick out one fun activity to be done the next day.
- Be realistic and flexible with the work and fun part of the plan. Plan the work part keeping your child’s age and current ability in mind. Allow your child to pick one activity in place of another if they so wish on a certain day
On regular days most of us are so rushed that we have forgotten how to relax. Thanks to our rushing them from the moment they are born – our children are used to being in a hurry all the time too.
Modern urban life has become so busy that most of us have developed a fear of free time and boredom.
If we have nothing to do – we start feeling bored. And because we are not used to being bored – it makes us panic.
It is important to spend time with this feeling of panic and understand that the panic is misplaced and that if we give ourselves some time to get used to the boredom – we will be able to overcome the feeling of panic.
How to enjoy the leisure during work from home
- Don’t be afraid of boredom. Don’t reach for entertainment via a device as soon as you start feeling bored
- Allow your child to see you just sitting and staring into space without getting bored
- When your child says they are bored – understand that it means that they need to connect with you or they need to jump around and let go of some energy
- Don’t use devices to overcome boredom. Devices stimulate the reward pathway of the brain and make you want more and more of the device. As soon as the device is taken away you start feeling bored and irritated because of the lack of dopamine that the device was producing in your brain
When children are home all day – you expect that they must be getting all the sleep they need. But they don’t.
Without a routine – children sleep late and get up late. And this has several disadvantages.
Within a few hours of falling asleep they are awakened by the sounds of the adults waking up. This means they get fewer hours of peaceful sleep.
Getting up late also disturbs their circadian rhythm and causes stress.
In addition by the time they wake up – the parents are busy with their work and cannot spend time with them.
How to ensure enough sleep for your child during work from home
- Serve dinner on time and eat with your child
- Then read to your child in an almost dark room and allow your child to fall asleep
- Stick to school night bed times through the week and allow deviations only on weekends
During vacations almost every family tends to eat more junk food and neglect healthy food.
Do not treat the lockdown period like a vacation.
Reduce snacking. And follow a health diet plan with full meals made with healthy ingredients
Most junk food has a high sugar content and increases your child’s propensity to throw tantrums.
Fatty food on the other hand has a concentration of trans fats and sets off the dopamine pathway. Dopamine causes children to get addicted to junk food. And once children are addicted to junk food – they need more and more junk food to feel good. When they do not get junk food they get irritable and cranky.
How to plan healthy meals during work from home
- Sit down and plan a weekly menu with your child
- You are likely to have access to limited ingredients during this time so it is a great opportunity to start with an ingredient and end up with a menu
- Show children how this is a golden opportunity to give the body a break from indulgences
We are happiest when we feel needed. And there is no easier way to make a child feel needed than to assign chores.
Chores satisfy children’s need to be needed. And raise their self-esteem.
Children with high self-esteem are less likely to throw tantrums.
How to assign chores to children during work from home
- Divide chores up among all the members of the family so that your child does not feel singled out
- Rotate the chores and give different chores on different days so that the chores seem more like activities and less like chores
- Do your own chores with enthusiasm and try to make them fun – by dancing or singing or at the very least playing music at chore time to make it seem like fun
- Appreciate your child for a chore well done and point out what would happen if the chore was not done with due diligence
All of us need clean houses. Clean refers to hygienic and is of paramount importance during a pandemic.
It is important to understand however that a clean house may not always be neat.
Neat refers to everything always being in its right place, things being perfectly placed and looking aesthetically appealing.
It is impossible to have a neat house when all the members of the family (especially children) are at home all the time. And yelling and screaming all the time to achieve the impossible can only lead to frustration, unhappiness and strained relationships in the family.
How to keep the house clean during work from home
- Start the day with chores that keep the house clean.
- Involve everyone in the chores that keep the house clean so that they have a sense of ownership and hesitate to mess it up later.
- During the day when everyone is at work or play – do not complain about the messy house.
- Set aside a 15 minute period before dinner during which everyone has to put things back in their places
- Keep a time limit on the cleaning up times so that the work is done fast and does not seem like drudgery.
Sitting at home, not being able to go out and meet friends, not being able to play outdoor games and being compelled to spend long periods of time with adults are situations that children find very challenging.
It makes them anxious and irritable.
And in this state of mind the last thing they need are parents who snap at them all the time for small things.
Parents on the other hand are going through very challenging circumstances themselves and can’t help being short tempered a lot of times.
The only solution to this difficulty is to have communication lines open and operational at all times.
Your child will feel confused and sad if you snap at them without reason. However, if you make the effort to let your child know that you are in the middle of a challenging situation and how you need their cooperation to overcome the challenge – your child will feel empowered because they are able to contribute to the solution.
How to communicate with your child during work from home
- Every day schedule some time to have a real conversation with your child
- Be vulnerable during this conversation. Talk about what you are worried about and what you feel challenged with. Children need real parents. They don’t need Super Mom and Super Dad.
- Ask your child what can be done. Brainstorm for solutions.
- Accept offers for cooperation and help even if you know that it is not possible for your child to cooperate like that eventually.
- Listen to your child without judging or preaching.
When children are going to school, going to play and so on – they are constantly using their brains to solve problems.
When they are home all the time and everything is sorted out for the all the time – they can begin to feel worthless and redundant because there is nothing that they can contribute to.
Remember, that in the house – your child is part of your team. And that you must involve your child in the search for solutions whenever there are problems that need solutions in the house.
How to brainstorm for solutions in the family during work from home
- Schedule a certain time every day for a family meeting. Dinner time is best for this
- Ask everyone for their solutions by highlighting their abilities and talents
- Praise a solution that your child may have offered in the past that worked very well
- Then begin to brainstorm for ideas to tackle the problems that are coming up in the next few days.
One of the greatest secrets of those who succeed in life – is their ability to be empathetic and compassionate.
It is the ability to balance IQ with EQ
It is the fine art of understanding what a person needs and then offering a solution that matches.
And this is your golden opportunity to teach your child empathy and compassion.
How to teach your child empathy and compassion
- Show your child how one disease originating in one corner of the world can affect the whole world.
- Explain how it is important for our own well-being to stop being self-centered and think of the welfare of the whole planet and everyone on it.
- Show your child how in this case the strong are staying indoors to protect the weak – the way it should be.
- Take pride in the opportunity that all of us have been given to save lives
- Show your child that restraint is sometimes the most important action that we can take.
In times like this when our survival is threatened – it is easy to become panicky while trying to be cautious.
However, it is important to remember that caution involves the thinking brain – that can assess dangers and respond with strategies that can keep us safe.
Panic, on the other hand, involves the reactive brain – the brain that makes us plunge into action without thinking and can put us in more danger than before.
Remember to be cautious without panicking. Caution reassures children and makes them feel safe. Panic makes them feel unsafe and scared.
How to be cautious without panicking
- Create standard operating procedures so that every person knows what to do in a given situation
- Do not scream and shout to be obeyed
- Repeat instructions calmly and deliberately over and over again. Understand that all children (including teenagers) forget what they need to do and need to be reminded.
- When precautions are not taken to your satisfaction do what you can to salvage the situation without spiraling into panic.
Familiarity breeds contempt. And it is as true in the parent-child relationship as it is in every other relationship.
Behavior that is cute when you see it once or twice a day for a few minutes – can be very annoying when you have to endure it all day
Also when everyone is out of the house all day – the mess in the house is considerably less than now.
But at this time you may find yourself in the middle of incomplete projects and scattered stationery and toys all day.
This may result in you being snappy and criticizing your child all day. And a child who is constantly criticized is likely to feel small and unworthy and as a result behave badly and throw tantrums
How to stop criticizing
- Make a plan with your child and follow your child’s lead when you do this – this will help you to keep your expectations realistic and you will not get irritated when you find your child lounging around
- If the house is clean – don’t complain about untidiness
- Find things that you can appreciate. If you create a positive vibe you will be more likely to have better behaviour
Feeling helpless in the face of a pandemic that is claiming lives every day is normal.
It is prudent to keep yourself updated about the news and the recommendations about the disease and the virus.
But constantly reading about everything that is going wrong can result in you feeling like a victim.
This can cause panic and paranoia and make you very difficult to live with.
Bombarding your child with all kinds of negative messages all day can terrify them as well and a scared child is likely to behave badly.
There is only one way to stop feeling like a victim and start feeling like a victor.
Start doing something to change things. Yes things are bad. No. we are not scientists who can find a cure. Nor are we policy makers who can change other people’s behaviour and make the world a safer place.
And yet – each one us can contribute in some small way. Find ways to contribute. Involve your child in your endeavour to contribute. Build self-esteem and overcome the feeling of helplessness and fear that can otherwise grip your family
How to contribute
- Stay indoors. Take pride in saving lives by doing what is best for the world – at the cost of living a normal life
- Be frugal. As supply chains are disrupted and shortages loom large it is important for all us to be mindful of what we need – and frugal in what we consume so that we leave enough for everyone else.
- Find someone who is working with the disadvantaged sections of society and contribute in cash or kind. Feel joy in knowing that a family has food because of you.
The world has changed so much in the past 7 days. What we knew as normal and took for granted – no longer exists.
We don’t know how much more the world will change in the coming months and years.
And the only thing that is likely to sustain us as our world is rocked are our relationships – our connections within our families.
Do not allow the irritation of being cooped up to damage these relationships that mean everything when nothing remains the same.
Relish this time you have with each other. And hope and pray for a better tomorrow.