We don’t want to speak for everyone, but we’ve been tying ourselves in knots trying to figure out how to do the right things for ourselves and our kids lately. You’ve probably heard it countless times, but it’s so true: There seriously is no playbook for parenting during a pandemic. And while we totally accept that to be true, this is HeyMama — when there’s no playbook for something, we immediately want to write one ourselves. Just because no one knows how to parent during a pandemic doesn’t mean we don’t want to be amazing at it.
With that in mind, we recently held a live Q&A with Dr. Alan Greene, brilliant pediatrician and co-founder of Bambini Furtuna & our mamas about not only staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic but also what we can do to foster an overall condition of wellness — physically and emotionally — in our kids right now. Bambini Furtuna turned our community’s Covid-19 conversation into a podcast episode to share this important information with all mamas out there.
You can listen to the Homebound & Healthy episode of Mom Driven, Doctor Aligned here.
What steps can parents take right now to help their kids feel healthy and calm during this time when we’re all staying home a lot more than we’re probably used to?
You already know all the basics:
- Get fresh air and sunshine as much as circumstances will allow (and “circumstances” include your own time and energy)
- See if you can get your kids interested in meditation and yoga and do lots of it if they are
- Limit sugar — it not only makes children even less fun to be trapped indoors with, it also bombs their immune system
- Nutrient-dense foods are another great way to bolster young immune systems
If a lot of this sounds like what your gut is telling you to do, that’s for a good reason: Most of what kids need right now is just the baseline attention to their physical and mental health that, as parents, we are always endeavoring to give them. Think of what’s ideal for your family’s health, and then think of what kind of day-to-day choices are sustainable for weeks or months on end (hint: it’s not the ideal of perfection) — the intersection of those two is where you should aim.
Kids who are out of school have largely swapped classroom time with remote learning, which means a considerable increase in screen time. Are there things parents should be doing to support kids’ wellness during these long days of looking at screens?
As with all things, balance is key. If your kids’ school day involves more time in front of a computer or tablet than it did before, don’t panic. It’s not going to ruin their eyes or their minds. But it does mean that they’ll benefit even more than usual from taking regular breaks from screens. Little things will go a long way right now, like replacing family movie night with game night, or committing to not eating dinner in front of the TV. Your kids are only socially interacting with the people they live with right now — just do what you can to squeeze all the humanness out of your moments together as possible.
We all know even when kids aren’t acutely aware of what’s happening in the world, they are sponges for ambient stress. What are you advising parents to do to tend to their kids’ mental health and help foster a safe vibe for them right now?
A good answer to this is a good caveat to everything else written here: Don’t be too hard on yourself or your kids right now. Here are a few thoughts on this:
- Creating structure in your kids’ days (and your own) does foster a sense of stability and safety at this time when everything is amorphous and unclear and time can feel like one long, unchanging line — but being too rigid or overly adherent to a schedule will merely create stress where there needn’t be. And we have enough sources of stress right now.
- Figure out a place where everyone can be alone at home if they need a little space. This can look differently depending on kids’ ages. For instance, even a 3 or 4 year old will delight in setting up their “I Need Space” corner that they can retreat to when they, you know, need space.
- We all know that exercises in gratitude are great, but it can be helpful to make a habit of venting your frustrations just as openly with each other. Not heated rants — more like controlled, mindful releases of pressure. This helps kids get practice expressing the full range of their emotions, prompts greater sharing and connection between family members, and validates all the feelings your kids are probably feeling, instead of nudging them to only focus on gratitude.
- So much about this current time we’re in — the real, nitty-gritty, daily life part of it — is about perception. For example, have a mask-making art party with your kids and turn it into an act of self-expression, not a fearful precaution. This kind of stuff matters for everyone’s mental health right now.
- Along those same lines, when you talk to your kids about social distancing measures and precautions around limiting exposure, try framing it as “this is something we’re doing to keep our neighbors safe” as opposed to “this is something we’re doing because we fear our neighbors’ germs.” Again, it matters tremendously how we position this stuff in our kids’ minds and our own.
The biggest thing is just not sweating how well you do at any of this. It is objectively fine (expected, actually) to not excel at doing something that none of us has any idea how to do, let alone do perfectly. You know how you know your kids are going to come through this okay? You care enough to question what you should do. The fact that you’re reading this means you’re trying to do your best, and that’s all kids need during a crisis or any other time.
Kids take their emotional cues from their parents. That’s always true. So they’ll look to you to figure out how to process everything going on. That doesn’t mean plastering on a fake smile and acting like nothing is wrong. It’s okay to acknowledge that things are weird and scary right now! But you’ll convince your kids that you’re all going to be okay by believing it yourself. So take some time for yourself to get centered in your own mind each day and remind yourself that you’ll get through this together, whatever “this” ends up looking like for your family. And when you really believe that and feel it, so will your kids — and then it will be true.