How Parents Can Help Young Children Adapt to the New Normal
By Guest Author Michelle M. Barrett, Ph.D.
Staying home is the new normal, and it can be especially challenging for parents of preschool or elementary school children. Try to remember – if you’re doing okay, they’re doing okay – you set the tone. At this age, you are still the center of their worlds. It’s crucial for you to take care of yourself, so that you can be there for your children.
Suggestions for the family:
- Develop a routine: There’s a reason you keep hearing about the importance of routines – they help kids feel safe and provide predictability, which is critical during uncertain times. Allow kids to help create their routines and write them down. Try to make your routines consistent, even on weekends and holidays. You can find some great online resources, created by teachers and parents, to help structure these routines.
- Keep it simple: Keep your life at home as simple as possible. Support what they are doing academically, but don’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself or your kids.
- Talk to your kids: Discuss what’s happening in the world today, focusing less on the details and more on how it affects your younger children personally. It’s a great time to teach them to identify and verbalize emotions – sad, angry, scared, happy – as they are more likely to experience intense emotions during difficult times.
- Allow for boredom: Before jumping in and providing activities when your kids are bored, ask them for suggestions. You may be surprised at what they come up with!
- Allow for more screen time: No one wants kids in front of screens all day, but during a crisis time it’s okay to ease up on your normal screen time rules. Once we are on the other side of this, it’s likely that kids will be much more interested in running around outside than they ever were before!
Suggestions just for parents:
- Give yourself a time out: If you have a partner, make it a priority to trade off responsibilities and make time for individual breaks. Single parents need to prioritize personal break times. Do what you can to give yourself a half hour alone - especially when you’re feeling inpatient or overwhelmed. Try an app to practice breathing and short meditations and join the 14 Day R3SET to manage stress and give yourself a much-needed reboot.
- Tackle over parenting: This is a great time for kids to assume more independence. Even young ones can help with simple household tasks. So, check your over involvement and avoid doing things for your kids that they can easily do for themselves. In her 2015 book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Over parenting Trap and Prepare your Child for Success” Julie Lythcott-Haims describes how promoting independence can encourage self-efficacy, competence, and increase self-esteem. And the book provides helpful and eye-opening lists, broken out by age, for what kids should be able to do on their own! How To Raise An Adult
- Lean into your sense of purpose: Years from now, what kids will remember is how they felt at home with you. This can be an opportunity for you to embrace the extra time, share your unique gifts, and model healthy coping. Dr. Marianne Dunn, licensed psychologist, assistant professor, and mom of three boys under six, explains, “Although I’m pulled in many directions, there is a part of me that is really grateful for the additional time that I have with my kids, and I feel an increased sense of purpose in all that I am doing as their Mom.”