Social distancing, remote learning, working from home – all changes to our regular routines for the foreseeable future. So how do parents cope? How do we continue to purposefully parent our children at a time when they need us the most, and we feel the least prepared?

To be clear, there is no easy answer and there is no one right answer – unfortunately. But there are a few fundamental parenting principles that apply to all situations and are important to try and implement during the current crisis.

First of all, we as parents set the tone for our children.

Although these are very anxious times, reducing that fear and uncertainty for our children is crucial. That doesn’t mean pretending that everything is ok or lying to our children. But it does mean considering your child’s chronological and developmental age and only sharing what is appropriate.

For young children that may be explaining that schools are closed because of the virus so that everyone stays healthy. For older children, understanding how the virus spreads and why social distancing is being encouraged/mandated is appropriate. Whatever the age of your child, reduce the amount of news they are watching and your own “adult conversations.”

Even little children have big ears – and are probably processing more than you think!

Attempting to establish routines is another important step to help reduce children’s anxiety.

Children are used to structure and thrive with knowing what is expected. Although different schools are utilizing different forms of remote learning, education and keeping their brains active are important.

Off-line opportunities for learning can also be utilized at these times – many websites are offering free services at these times (including free children’s stories from Audible, and curated art education from Google) to allow students to take virtual tours of museums or listen to books.

In planning out the day, be sure to incorporate times for physical activity, artistic expression, and social interaction – via group facetime! Utilize “when/then” statements throughout the day – “when you have finished that math assignment then we can go in the backyard and play.”

Attempt to keep non-learning electronic time to a minimum, but utilize it when you need to (for example, during your own work conference call). Successful routines incorporate realistic expectations and wiggle room for the unexpected.

As always, one of the most important fundamental principles of parenting is to remember self-care.

We can’t take care of others without taking care of ourselves first. Although your self-care routine may have changed (goodbye gym), try to set aside times throughout the day to exercise, meditate, relax, have a cup of coffee in silence. It is not selfish to take time for yourself!

It makes for a calmer and more patient parent – and a parent that is better able to cope with their own anxiety. 

Help is also available – teletherapy sessions with trained therapists can help you cope with your own anxiety, problem-solve issues occurring at home, and help you support your own mental health.

Southeast Psych’s Purposeful Parenting team is available to help during these unprecedented times. Please feel free to reach out to our office at 704-552-0116 if you would like to schedule a teletherapy appointment.

Click here for more content by Terri James, Ph.D.!

Dr. Terri James
Terri James has a Bachelor of Science degree in Child and Family Studies from Cornell University and a Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical and School Psychology from Hofstra University. Dr. James specializes in the assessment of children with learning issues and in helping children, school and parents plan appropriately for the child’s success.


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