Parenting Through the Pandemic by Dr. Lisa Dissinger
Angela Duckworth writes a Sunday column in the Philly Inquirer. On October 11, 2021, she wrote a piece called “We need to say what matters to us”. Dr. Duckworth makes a case for parents needing to make clear to their children what matters to them. When so much is going on outside of the family, […]
Angela Duckworth writes a Sunday column in the Philly Inquirer. On October 11, 2021, she wrote a piece called “We need to say what matters to us”. Dr. Duckworth makes a case for parents needing to make clear to their children what matters to them. When so much is going on outside of the family, it is hard for parents to “focus” on what is important and to say what matters most to them. Here are some suggestions to help you through the winter:
- Make sure there are periods of time during the day when there are no screens on /park all phones and screens; Create screen free zones like meal time, outdoor time, family game time, “playing alone” time, yoga time (kids can lead their parents/siblings); art time; dance party time; obstacle course time (have your child or kids set up an obstacle course inside or outside); bike or scooter time, “make a tent” time etc.
Why? To ensure that our kids (and ourselves) do not fall into the technology addiction trap during the pandemic; To help parents and kids be more present; To help parents and kids have the “room” for good communication during a time when families are struggling with different levels of anxiety and conflict; To ensure that kids are actually “playing” and using their imagination.
- Develop resilience and an ability to solve problems; Help your kids see the “the glass half full” and to build optimism; Resilient, optimistic kids “are made not born”.
Why? While it is difficult to thrive during a pandemic, resilience, optimism and problem solving will help your child continue to move forward developmentally. When children can learn to bounce back from adversity, to solve their own problems, and to see what is good in their lives, they will have an easier time navigating difficult times, like getting through a pandemic.
- Play old fashioned games like cards, board games, puzzles, checkers/chess
Why? These games encourage social interaction in person (not via screens); They build grit and perseverance in a child; They teach strategy and problem solving as the difficulty level increases; They are old fashioned fun!
- Go outside and play with your kids!
Why? Our kids love to build fairy houses and to dig in the dirt to find bugs. There is so much to discover outside. In the fall, you can make a big pile of leaves for them to jump in. Have special collection days when you go out to find leaves or nuts of different colors and shapes; In the winter, bundle up and take a walk in your neighborhood or park.
- Be silly and laugh together.
Why? During the pandemic, many families have experienced increasing levels of anxiety due to safety concerns and being unsure of the future; We need to remember to find time to laugh and see the “funny” or “silly” side of life; We need to remember kids love to play, to be silly and to have fun.
- Be curious about what your child is thinking/feeling.
Why? Children need to know that their feelings and thoughts matter to you and that you accept who they are emotionally. You are your child’s emotional container, a place where their feelings are safe. The family mantra could be “All feelings are ok; it is just how we show them that matters” or “It is ok to be angry; it is not ok to be mean”; “It is ok to be sad; but it is also important to recover and bounce back”; “It is ok to have worries; but it is important to find ways to cope with our anxiety”.
- Let them play by themself.
Why? Kids need to learn self sufficiency and be able to tolerate being alone; otherwise they will always feel anxious unless an adult is with them; we need to prepare kids for their future and that includes being able to function independently.
- Don’t forget the power of the arts- music, art and dance can provide creative outlets, even during a pandemic.
Why? We need to ensure that our children have creative outlets now and in the future. In addition, the arts provide a natural outlet for coping with emotions. We need to provide our children with a wide scope of coping tools such as playing music, dancing, and making art.
- Rely on the three R’s!- Reassurance, Routine and Regulation.
Why? Kids want to know grown ups are working hard to protect them so provide reassurance. Stick to a routine. Make sure there is a time to sleep, to wake, to learn and to play. Preserve a child’s schedule as much as possible. Finally, encourage your child to be regulated emotionally by building coping skills through exercise, breathing, reading or quiet time. Develop a strategy that helps your child manage their feelings.
- Look to the future! Make plans as a family, create a wish list to be filled in the future.
Why? We need to get through the pandemic and to help our children see a bright future ahead. It is important to teach your children valuable life skills like being patient, making plans, and being flexible when having to change plans.
Dr. Lisa Dissinger is a child psychologist and parent coach who has been in practice for 30 years. Dr. Dissinger specializes in early childhood and has worked in many of the Montessori preschools in the Philadelphia area. She has been Greene Towne’s consulting psychologist for 24 years.
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