Parenting during pandemic
How do I keep my child motivated during the pandemic? What can I do to help protect my child's mental health? Psychologist and child development expert Dr. Lisa Damour answers these questions and more.
How do I approach the topic of mental health if it is considered to be a taboo in my family?
Experiencing a wide range of emotions, including uncomfortable feelings, is an important part of being human. You should not feel ashamed or be made to feel ashamed if you experience sadness, anger, frustration or any other feeling that can be sometimes painful. When we have uncomfortable emotions, the healthiest thing we can do is to talk about what we're feeling with the people that we love. Doing so is actually how we protect our mental health.
What can I do to help protect my child's mental health?
Nothing protects a child's mental health like having a warm and loving relationship with adults. So anything you do where your child is having fun and you're having fun with your child is good for your kid. So that might be playing together, kicking a ball back and forth together. But it can also be things like cooking dinner together or fixing something around the house. As long as you're having fun and your child is having fun, it's good for your child's mental health.
How can I best balance providing attention to my child and my busy work schedule?
Raising young children takes a lot of time and energy, and it can be hard to juggle that with having a busy job. One thing you can do that helps is to try to focus on only one thing at a time. Focus on your child or focus on your work. If you try to do both at the same time, you'll become frustrated and your child will become frustrated too. And remember, children grow up quickly. The phase of being a parent raising a very small child will be gone before you know it and everything will feel easier.
How do I keep my child motivated during the pandemic?
It has been hard for kids to feel motivated during the pandemic. They are tired and worn down. Don't worry that there's something wrong with your child if they don't feel like doing their schoolwork or the work around the home. It's okay to support them by doing things like offering to do your work next to them while they do homework that they're not in the mood to do, or finding playful ways to get things done around the home, such as making a game of it or having a plan to do something fun after the hard work is done.
How can I manage loneliness as a parent?
Being a parent can be a very lonely time of life. Working to meet your child's needs can make it hard to meet your own. As a solution, see if you can connect with another parent who's raising a child about the same age as yours, either talking over the phone or getting together at a safe social distance. Other parents know what you're going through and make for excellent company.
How can I stay positive while struggling to keep my family functioning during the pandemic?
We are living through a very difficult time and it's easy to feel despairing. To help yourself feel better, one thing that works well is to focus on what you feel grateful for. A joyful moment with a child, a beautiful day, the presence of loved ones. When we practice gratitude, when we think about the things for which we are thankful, it almost always boosts our sense of well-being.
How can I emotionally support a child who has lost a parent during the pandemic?
Children who are mourning their parents are often very lonely and miss their parents terribly. While we might think that the most helpful thing we can do is to help kids focus on the here and now, what's actually true is that we help them most when we talk about their parents. What their parents liked to do, what their parents were like, how their parents would feel about the wonderful person their child is becoming. When we keep parents memories alive, we address children's feelings of loneliness and we help them to process their grief.
How can I help my child adjust after experiencing the social isolation of a lockdown?
It's not unusual for children to feel cautious in new situations. To help, you can let your child know that they are allowed to warm up slowly. They don't have to dive in with both feet. You can say to them: "soon you will feel comfortable playing with your friends. Until you feel ready, you can stay here with me, watch what's going on and then join when you want to."