The Covid 19 pandemic has changed the way our daily routine of life unfolds. Most people have been working from home while children have attended schools online. The doors on social interaction in offices, schools, community events have been shut and been shut for more than a year. How have families coped? How have children managed?
SURGING SCREEN TIME
The pandemic has seen a surge in screen time – whether it’s been watching Netflix, playing video games, browsing YouTube videos, or just scrolling through texts. In the long months of the pandemic, although we have been together physically, many families seem to have lost being in touch or in sync with each other. Working hours have been stretched, children have limited outlets for their energy, and between household chores and general mental fatigue special family time seems to have been sacrificed. We need to reclaim this.
FAMILY COMING TOGETHER WITH PURPOSE
Carve out some time, whether it is an hour or more, whether it is daily or weekly, or whether it happens to be in the afternoon, or the evening does not matter. See that it works for all members of the family and once decided, keep it consistent and commit to it. So, if you have decided it is to be an hour every evening three times a week the question arises what does one do with it? Let your children decide. Let them plan whether it is going to be a board game of monopoly, or an evening of storytelling over old family pictures, a picnic in the living room, or an evening of singing. The idea is not so much about what you choose as a family but that it is intentional. Let your children plan, organize it, and orchestrate it. Encourage them to be creative and think out of the box and everyone shows up being totally present – that means no phone calls, no answering What’s app messages. Make special memories while encouraging creativity, planning, and organization skills in your children.
WHAT LIMITED SOCIAL INTERACTION HAS TAKEN AWAY
When we talk about limited social interaction during the pandemic what it means is limited opportunities for exchange, competition, conflict, cooperation, and accommodation. Situations that our children navigate daily in classrooms, on the school bus, or even the playground. Situations where our children learn to make choices, where they need to engage in decision making or in navigating relationships. Alfie Kohn a writer on human behavior and parenting says, “children learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions.” So, in this altered setting of the pandemic offer opportunities for our children to make those choices. Simple things like what to eat for a meal, the clothes they want to wear, the colors for their room, or if you have older teenagers involve them in family discussions and decisions like your weekly household budget or health and diet choices. Some choices might not be so simple. Children might push the boundaries on how late they can go to bed or how long they can watch TV or whether they want to eat their meals in their rooms rather than with the family or play PS4 games or chat online for hours on end.
CONVERSTAIONS AND THE CHOICES THEY LEAD TO
This is whereas a parent you have the wonderful moment to start a conversation. Parenting is a lot more about negotiation than control. When you find you are heading into conflict ask your child to present their reasoning and make a case. Listen to them and see how you can reach a compromise, but always listen carefully and respectfully if you want to be awarded the same when it is your turn. Be open-minded to their suggestion but you are still the adult so if their suggestions are harmful or against your family values then explain that to them. Make your case with logic and reason. Helping your children negotiate choices and resolving differences teaches them to better understand their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It sets them on the path for making make healthy and appropriate choices in the future.
So hopefully as we head towards the last phase of the pandemic as more and more people get vaccinated, this time will have brought our families closer. Parenting nowadays more than ever needs us to be intentional – intentional in conversations we have and the actions we take.