The further we get into the COVID-19 crisis, parents seem to be taking on more and more roles. We have been teachers, short-order cooks, playmates/friends and therapists to our children.
More recently, we are also shifting to camp director/counselor, nature trail escort and potentially lifeguard, if you have access to a pool. Oh and let’s not forget, we have to be actual parents too!
I don’t know about you but for me this has gotten to be incredibly overwhelming. While we do what we can to fill all of these roles to the best of our abilities, with a long list like this, it is hard not to feel like we are falling short.
We are each just one individual, and as such, it is impossible for us to meet every single one of another individual’s needs. Even if that other individual happens to be our own child.
So while we may want to be everything all the time, sometimes it is better to just take a step back and think about what our kids actually need from us right now.
Compassion and Understanding
This is an incredibly uncertain time for us as adults, so just imagine how confusing it must be for our children, especially the little ones.
They are going to have feelings and emotions that are confusing to them, and depending on their age, they are still working on developing emotional regulation. They need our support as parents and our understanding that they are struggling just as much, if not more, than we are right now.
Reminding yourself of this allows you to interact and respond to them on the level that they need.
Someone to Have Fun With
Most of our children have been out of school and day care for quite some time now. With many camps canceled or restructured, interaction with their friends is minimal and distanced at best.
Our kids need socialization, they need people to be silly with and the chance have fun just being kids. The activities they used to enjoy are closed, but their desire to engage in them is not.
While it might not always be our choice of how to spend our time, think about what your child would love to do, and do it with them. This could be puzzles, imaginative play and building or crafts. There are so many ideas of fun things to do floating around from other parents — but remember, this does not have to be some social media/Pinterest-worthy moment.
Just be there with your child and let them direct what they want to do.
This one is incredibly difficult for me, and sometimes feels impossible, but it is so important.
As a result of all of the uncertainty and differences in their lives during this time, our kids might be acting differently than normal. And how can we not expect this of them?
We all know that kids thrive on structure and schedules, and many of us, myself included, are not capable of giving that to them under these circumstances (and in case you don’t hear it enough, that is OK!). So how could we possible expect them to act the same way they would if they did have this?
In my home, we have been dealing with more meltdowns, sleeping difficulties and flat-out refusals to listen. While it is an honest struggle in the moment, remember that these outward behaviors are typically signs of emotions and feelings they are not sure how to handle.
I try to take a step back and remember what we are all going through, and that these two little people I am raising need my support in getting through it.
Easier said than done, I know.
Our Unconditional Love and Affection
At the same time as some behaviors may be more of a struggle, there may be some sweet ones that are more frequent. I have noticed that my 4-year-old has gotten much more affectionate with me in the last few months. He wants to snuggle all the time and will make sure to give me hugs and kisses before I “go to work” for the day, something he never used to do.
As sweet as this is, I also know this is coming from a place of uncertainty, and as his parent I am that constant he can rely on. Giving him this love and support is something that is totally within my control and something I can feel good that I can give him.
At the end of the day, our kids really just need to know we love them. While we may question if we did everything right, or gave them everything that they need (at least I know I do), as long as we love them, and show them this, they, too, will get through this challenging time.
Jmore parenting columnist Talya Knable is a psychotherapist who lives in Lutherville with her husband, Stephen, and their two children, Jack and Leigh. Her website is tkpsych.com/. She is also the assistant clinical director of Shalom Tikvah (shalomtikvah.org/), a local non-profit organization that supports Jewish families facing mental illness and other challenging life circumstances.