Many children are being affected by the disruption to their ‘normal’ school setting, childcare, play and/or learning environment. What would you recommend to parents who are dealing with this at home?
We know that children often do, or emulate what their caregivers do, so I think parents need to find supports around managing their own stress as this can ultimately help their children’s wellbeing. My children are grown up, and I cannot imagine having to juggle what parents with growing children are doing now! They are having to help with virtual or in person school, many have to handle childcare at home and at the same time they’re worried about their jobs and their health as well as that of their family.
Parental guilt has intensified during COVID. Parents are concerned about their children’s social isolation. They worry about their children’s social skills, play opportunities and their learning. Children have great antenna for their parents’ worries, so sometimes giving voice to that is reassuring to your children. Let children know what you are feeling worried about in a developmentally appropriate way, such as: “This is hard for mum and dad too and we’re trying to do our very best to help you learn and play the best way we can.”
Parents are feeling very alone during these difficult times. Many find it helpful to hear that other parents are feeling the same way as they are.
Parents feel comforted in knowing they’re not alone, but the stress and anxiety can quickly return when children are not doing the work that the teacher sent, not listening to the virtual lessons and maybe even refusing to attend virtual school. I do not have a magic solution here.
Just know you are not alone, and you are going to feel helpless, frustrated, guilty and worried. It is really hard.
Many parents worry about their children catching up after the pandemic. Do you think children can catch up?
I do not have the ability to predict this. By staying hopeful and appreciating children’s natural curiosity, motivation and resilience, I would say yes, they will. In the meantime, read to your children and find ways to be together. Think and talk about what is going on outside. Play together and try to learn and grow together. Always remember the greatest thing you can do for your children is to provide them with love and care.
What advice would you give to parents right now?
Hang in there! We’re all doing the best we can.
Not everyone parents in the same way, so do not compare yourself to other parents or your children to other children.
You know what your values are, you know what you want for your children. We’re doing what we need to get through this.
Nancy Close, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the Yale Child Study Center; Associate Director of the Yale Program in Early Childhood Education; Lecturer in Psychology and the Clinical Director of the MOMS Partnership® and the Yale Parent and Family Development Program. She is a mother of two and grandmother of two.
Interview by Mandy Rich, Digital Content Writer, UNICEF.
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