It’s an incredibly difficult time to be a parent. Amanda Grehan, Kids Helpline Specialist, shares her strategies on how parents can best support children during the COVID-19 crisis.
STRATEGY 1: Keep the communication lines open
There can be a lot of different information, including conflicting opinions and fake news. This can be confusing for kids. There is also a lot of uncertainty/unknowns which can cause anxiety.
STRATEGY 2: Get creative
With social distancing, quarantine and lockdown, families will be seeing more of each other and spending less time apart. This is a great opportunity to bond.
Children and young people really value your time, attention and affection. Focus on ‘making the most’ of the time together. What family projects have you wanted to do if only you had more time together? What personal development could your child realistically do from home?
Your family can create a plan around new and different activities to try. This could include:
- New games to play
- Books to read
- Movies to watch
- Old-fashioned games like charades
- Learn a language
- New meals to cook
- Family chores, e.g. gardening, painting a feature wall, cleaning out a cupboard
- Teach your kids games you played when you were a kid, e.g. building a fort out of blankets
- Music, e.g. learn an instrument, write a song
- Create a family tree and share family stories about when you were a child, etc.
- Organise old photos or create a scrapbook/photo album
- Teach the pet new tricks
- Ask your child to teach you about/share their favourite online games, apps or social media platforms
- Learn something new, e.g. research something together
- Practice meditations and mindfulness together
- Set fun ‘homework’ or projects (e.g. ‘write a play’)
- Set a ‘random acts of kindness’ challenge where you try to do something nice for another person in your family each day
- Plan a ‘staycation’ – a day where you act like you are on vacation and having a holiday in your house
STRATEGY 3: Routines for children during COVID-19
Coronavirus might mean a disruption to usual routines. Despite this, your family can talk about and decide on new routines together. Routines can be based around family values. Trial and error is important with routines, so see what works best for your family.
Routines help children:
- Learn about time
- Learn about responsibility
- Establish expectations
- Establish healthy habits
- Bond with family through daily rituals
- Feel calmer in times of stress
Morning routine ideas:
- Organise the plan for tomorrow the night before
- Set an alarm
- Follow a schedule
- Give special responsibilities to older children
- Offer rewards (e.g. reading a favourite book together) for getting ready early/on time
Meal time routine ideas:
- Give a five-minute warning before mealtime
- Involve children in mealtime preparation
- Involve children in cleaning up after mealtime
- Turn off tech and use mealtimes to connect and bond (e.g. have a conversation)
Bed time routine ideas:
- Give a warning
- Prepare sleep environment
- Do something calming together (e.g. read a book)
- Meditate or do a mindfulness activity together
- Give affection (e.g. hugs)
STRATEGY 4: Have a conflict resolution strategy
When people are stressed, it’s inevitable that there will be times when you clash. This is a great opportunity to talk about conflict resolution and try some new strategies. You can also be creative and create something for the fridge that outlines what will happen. Make sure this is clear and everyone understands what will happen and why, as this makes it easier for everyone to give it a go (even when tensions are running high).
Some recommendations for good conflict resolution include:
- Share your feelings. “I feel angry.”
- Be specific about the behaviour. “When you ignore me when I’m trying to tell you a story about something I saw on YouTube.”
- Organise to talk about it. “Can we talk about it now?” “If we can’t talk about it now, when is a good time today to talk about it?”
- Focus on not being defensive by being curious and listening with empathy.
- Don’t blame others or yourself. Try not to take it personally. Remember: the person isn’t the ‘problem’, the behaviour is, and behaviour can change.
- It takes courage to give someone feedback, so be kind to yourself and others.
- Talk about options to solve the problem together.
- Try and find a win/win solution (something everyone is happy with).
If your child/ren are worried or feeling anxious about anything then Kids Helpline is STILL open 24/7 via WebChat, phone or email to support them.
Parentline have trained counsellors available to listen and help guide you through whatever is happening. Call us on 1300 30 1300, seven days a week between the hours of 8am and 10pm or visit our website to link in with WebChat or email support.
By Amanda Grehan, Kids Helpline Specialist
For more on the COVID-19 crisis, visit our coronavirus facts for families.
Struggling to keep the kids engaged and learning? Check out our 12 awesome virtual tours the kids can take right now! and Online education and activities for kids whilst isolated at home.