Juggling Parenting Roles During Physical Distancing

You have been appointed the leader of all things in your household.  You are the highest ranking official and your child is looking to you to guide them and make them feel secure and calm.  As parents we are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated and impatient.  It is a very stressful time as parents are taking the lead as teachers and homeschooling during this pandemic of COVID-19.  
Lives have been turned upside down, people have been laid off from work, facing financial struggles and not knowing how to care for their children’s needs.  Parents are having to wear many hats.  The hat of a teacher, a counsellor, a mediator, a coach…juggling all of these roles is overwhelming.  You are doing it and it will one day be a fond memory of how you were able to rise to the challenge.  This is a rare opportunity to connect with your children.  Do not fret, you’ve got this…Here are 5 tips to manage and balance your new role at home.

1. Ask For Help

You are not alone.  By admitting to your child that you may not know the answer is teaching them a problem solving skill.  It is showing them that it is okay for you, and for them to learn from others.  You are teaching them that they do not have to be perfect.  It is absolutely okay to not know the answer to everything.   You are allowed to say, “I do not know, let’s ask the teacher.” 
There is a misconception that you need to know everything.  Do the best that you can because your best is enough.  Teachers are available to offer their guidance.  Ask the teacher for any resources they can offer.  The teacher is expecting you to ask for help.  Share your concerns and experiences with other parents, and lean on each other for support.  Ask your child for help.  When given the choice, a child will always want to do the right thing.  Asking a child their opinion, makes them feel loved and secure, and shows them that they are important.  When they are involved in the decision making process they feel empowered and will readily complete a task that is required of them. 

2. Recharge With Brain Breaks and Fresh Air

Children will rebel, and misbehave, especially now that they are cooped up in the house.  In order to maintain everyone’s sanity, get outside.  Offer “brain breaks” for you and the kids.  This means a bit of outside fun.  It is imperative that you get outside into the fresh air.  This is a valuable time for your kids to recharge.  All of their pent up energy can be released by getting out and running in nature.  At this time you can take advantage of the alone time by wearing headphones and listening to your favourite playlist.  Enjoy deep mindful breathing in nature to ground yourself.  Just a few minutes outside provides a brain break that will reset the energy of the kids and give you a break.  It is mutually beneficial.

3. Consistent Predictable Routines

Provide structure.  Having a daily consistent routine allows for the child to expect the same thing which alleviates anxiety.  When the child knows what is coming next, they will feel calm.  This makes interactions less combative, more calm resulting in  an easier day for everyone.  Having structure allows for transition between activities seamlessly.  Make sure to schedule 20 minutes of quiet silent reading or drawing time which will allow for you to recharge your sanity.  Another activity to calm the energy is yoga stretching.    

4. Rewarding Positive Behavior

Children are much more likely to do what we ask if we give them positive instructions and lots of praise for what they do right.  Premacking is a technique in which a desired behaviour is achieved through another behaviour.  For example if you want your child to finish one math sheet, you can reward the child with 15 minutes of video game time.  The easiest way is to identify your child’s currency and then offer that as the reward.  This way the accountability is on the child.  You can say, “Of course you can play a video game, as soon as you finish this.”…this also allows the child to feel a sense of accomplishment, afterall you feel so much more accomplished when you earn something.

5. Escape From Real Life, Screen Time Can Help

Contrary to what has historically been a negative opinion of screentime, studies are now showing that an escape into the digital world can be helpful during this pandemic.  Screentime, and gaming provides a temporary escape from the pressures of real life.  In this time of physical isolation it is imperative for children to connect with peers.  Social media or online gaming can be a way to relieve fear and anxiety, while maintaining a sense of normalcy. It is a great idea to incorporate physical activity with video games such as dance, or virtual reality sports.  Screen Time isn’t just for the children, parents can benefit from an escape too.
While it is difficult to stay positive when our kids might be demanding or requiring too much from us, it is important to remember that attitude reflects leadership.  This means that what you portray, your kids will pick up on, stay calm, breathe. The biggest take away from this article is…You are not alone.  Ask for help. It is a collaborative effort. We are all in this together.  You’ve got this.