As families navigate virtual learning, social distancing and isolation throughout the lockdown, feelings of anxiety, stress and uncertainty have been the elephant in the room.
“The disruption to education, lack of space in challenged communities, technological literacy, mental well-being and relationships, absence of group work and social contact have impacted our kids. They are deprived of other opportunities for personal growth and development,” said Ma. Cristina Padilla Sendin, human resources consultant and writer, in a recent talk for Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals Alabang East Chapter.
“There are also breaks in continuity in learning and in health care.”
She noted that for teens, being away from their friends and significant others is a big deal. They may have also missed celebrating major life events, like birthdays and graduations.
This is why positive parenting is what our children need, especially now. Sendin advises parents to recognize and address fear, stress and behavioral changes in their children, and to talk honestly and openly about COVID-19. Children should have access to healthy food, water, playtime and exercise. They should stay socially connected to family members and friends via phone or video chats.
“Ask your child what he wants to do. Listen to them, look at them and give them your full attention. Have fun!” she said.
Sendin has more tips on how to manage kids at every age during this time:
Keep baby safe through social distancing, limiting your baby’s contact with others and practicing good hygiene.
Is social isolation bad for baby? Child development and socialization with peers is usually more of a concern from the preschool years and beyond. Parent bonding is more crucial, so connect. A baby’s parents are the most important people in their lives; they learn most about communication and love from them.
Toddler through big kid
Be a good role model in practicing health and safety protocols. Treat others with compassion, especially those who are sick or vulnerable; your kids will learn from you.
Help with schoolwork. Read a book or look at pictures. Draw. Dance or sing. Do a chore together (make cleaning or cooking fun).
Tweens through teens
Discuss why social distancing is important. Empathize with their frustrations. Provide stability and support: Adolescence is a difficult stage. They need to connect with their friends.
Encourage them to be good role models in practicing health and safety protocols, especially for younger siblings to emulate.
For mental wellness, talk and listen to them, acknowledge their difficulties, clarify their doubts, reassure them, generate hope and provide emotional support in resolving issues.
Talk about something they like (sports, music, celebrities, friends, favorites). Cook a favorite meal together. Exercise together to their music.
Sendin stressed that the keys to a peaceful, happy family life are positive language, active listening and empathy.
“How we talk and behave in front of others is a big influence on how they behave, too. Try to talk kindly to everyone. The more we practice modeling peaceful, loving relationships for our kids, the more secure and loved they will feel,” she said.
Say, “Please put your clothes away” instead of, “Don’t make a mess.”
Mind your delivery—shouting makes everyone stressed and angrier. Get their attention by saying their name in a calm voice.
Praise your child when they are behaving well. It will reassure them that you notice and care.
“And, get real. Can your child actually do what you are asking them? They can maybe stay quiet for 15 minutes while you’re on a call, but not all day,” she said.
She suggested creating a flexible but consistent daily routine with structure and free play; older kids can help plan it.
“In handling stress or anger, give yourself a 10-second pause. Breathe in and out slowly five times. Try to respond in a calmer way. Call a truce when you can see arguments building up. Go into another room or outside if you can,” said Sendin.
Do things as a family. Let each family member take turns choosing a whole-family activity. Find ways to spend quality time with your partner, too.
Aside from self-care, Sendin recommended parents have good social support (someone to tell worries to, a person or group to feel connected and accepted) and happy distractions (a mental vacation from the pandemic or from the challenges of being a parent, doing something you enjoy that recharges you).