None of us have the foggiest idea of how long it will take for the world to return back to its pre covid state, or if we ever will !

The UNICEF estimates that 1·38 billion children across the globe are out of school or child care systems due to the pandemic. They have lost access to group activities, team sports, or playgrounds. If this is not daunting enough, we as parents, have very minimal experience in spending large amounts of time with our school going children, without the respite of our outings, house help, school or hobby classes.

Anxiety relating to concerns about their jobs, money and health are causing parents to be highly stressed. Handling high spirited children therefore, becomes an exercise of patience (which they end up losing more often than not).

World over, we are seeing a rise in the levels of child abuse due to this.

To overcome this seemingly small, but important crisis phase, it is good to remember that times of hardship can lead to forging of new paths forward. We can unlearn and relearn our parenting strategies to suit our new routine and find a semblance of normalcy in the midst of chaos.

These are a few tips for parenting during Covid times:

  1. Set a schedule.

A sense of routine, however lax, is according to me, a necessity in our lives. Routine helps us get more things done, reduces anxiety, and allows our mind to concentrate on things which are important, as opposed to spending an inordinate amount of time figuring out what to do next. If every member of the family has their own routine, it becomes easy to divide TV, play, study and family time. The schedule need not be something to be followed in military precision, but just something to help everyone get their own space and still enjoy being together. Fun things can be included in the family time like playing board games, perusing old albums, listening to music and the like.

  1. Learn something new together. Get creative.

DIYs do not need exorbitant spending. Exotic recipes are not an absolute must. There are other simpler ways that you can get creative, with the things that are available at hand. Remember, that resources are scarce and need to be used judiciously.Create new recipes out of leftovers, devise new rules for the same board games, learn new card games on you tube, grow parsley in broken mugs, fabric paint your pillow covers and many more things along the same lines. It is also a good time to learn something new online. There are many web portals like Coursera, edX and Future learn which offer interesting courses for free. Go ahead and challenge yourself. Learn a new language and practice it with your child. The pleasure and satisfaction of learning something new and sharing it with your child is sure to make you happier and put a spring in your step.  This is probably the only time you will be your child’s classmate!

  1. Read.

The onslaught of mobile phones, OTT platforms, television and gadgets in our homes have definitely put a dent in our reading habits. Though these are visually appealing and provide instant gratification, the pleasure of reading has no equal. Reading has been proven to be a stress buster, have a positive effect on depression and anxiety(depending on what you read) and improve memory. Reading gives us an escape, builds our imagination, opens our minds to new ways of thinking and exposes us to fresh ideas.

Closed libraries and bookstalls need not upset us. Fortunately, we live in the digital age, and e reading is a great option available to most of us. Most households have the possession of at least one smart phone. All it needs is internet connectivity for a while to download e books, which can be read even if there is no electricity at home( provided your smart phone is charged). Books of every genre are available at your finger tips. If that is not enough, for those of you who loathe reading, there are excellent audio book options on apps likes Story tel, Audible and Alisiri (for kannada) which do the trick.

Indulge and make your children develop the reading habit now, when you have the time. They will become more academically accomplished, independent and thank you for this later on!

  1. Watch sensible television

Yual Noah Harari in his book Sapiens opined that humans probably evolved because of their ability to gossip. In myriad different ways, we still derive pleasure in that occupation. All our friendships, professional meetings, family functions and school are in part made interesting by gossip. Due to loss of social contact, we have had to rely solely on the television to provide us with the gossip on what is happening around us. Most of us during the lock down,have developed the habit of obsessively watching the news. Mostly, it is out of the curiosity, partly for the fear and almost always for lack of something else to do.

Unfortunately, our children watch the news with us. They may not understand all the implications of what is being said. This can cause panic, fear and irritability.

So, switch to something else. Watch programs which entertain and educate. Thanks to the OTTs, there is no dearth of options. Make sure you choose the right ones. Even if you have to watch the news, do so with a channel which will not scare the living daylights out of your children!

  1. Get in touch with long lost relatives.

Being busy is a badge of honor that we carry. Twenty four hours do not seem to be enough for us to carry on the business of living. We miss out on family functions, writing letters, birthday wishes and talking to our elders on the pretext of being busy. Our children are busier, what with school, hobby classes, tutions, tv and homework. Family connections are weakening as we move on. The lock down has given us a golden opportunity to right this. We can reconnect with family and friends whom we haven’t had the time for, and involve our children in this. Face time, whatsapp video calls, zoom meetings or plain old phone calls can rekindle past friendships and teach your children a thing or two about bonding. It also gives them a peek into your childhood, which they would love.

  1. Talk about the dreaded Corona virus.

As I have mentioned earlier, children would have heard, seen and read things about the pandemic and created their own impressions about it. Make sure you sit them down and have a heart to heart conversation about what is actually happening. Listen to them and answer their doubts as honestly as you can. Reassure them, but do not lie. If you do not know, promise to find out and tell- and then, do it. Most of the time, children are subconsciously anxious hearing about the number of deaths and the spread of the virus. The anxiety manifests in many different ways like irritation, picking fights, crying at the drop of a hat and becoming obsessive about washing repeatedly and keeping social distance. Once your children understand the situation correctly, they can assess their behavior better and make amends.

  1. Teach them gratitude

There are so many people out there with difficulties much larger than what we are facing. Having no maggi to eat during the lock down should not be the crisis of the day. Use the media to show them that there are people without access to food, transport or a decent place to stay. Though it is not possible to physically go out and help them, teach your kids to recognize their privileges and be thankful for them.

Think of the current crisis as a time to relearn your parenting rules. This is a time for us to know our children better, love them a little more and keep them healthy and happy.

Here’s to COVID parenting!

About the Author

Preethi Shanbhag


My name is Preethi Shanbhag. I am a psychiatrist and a mother. In my free time I love to read, write, travel and cook.

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