”Parenting During Pandemic”
‘New Normal’ is a word that we hear quite often now. But sadly, there is nothing normal about these times. With the pandemic sweeping across the world, we are being held hostage to a microscopic terrorist. Lockdowns all over the world, social distancing, stay-at-home. The face of education is transforming too, with physical classes being replaced by online. Online teaching brings with it its own challenges.
In a physical classroom, the teacher can interact with students and render one-on-one attention to them. Less so, in an online setting, where the onus is more on the parent to bridge the gap. As parents, we try to ensure that education isn’t disrupted while navigating through our work-from-home schedules and deadlines. It can be frustrating for mothers, as they try to balance out the different development needs of the child while doubling as IT support to ensure class continuity and still go about with their chores.
We expose a young generation to a virtual world instead of letting them experience the real physical world. Parents report changes in their child’s behavior, more aggression, lesser physical activity, and a loss in social skills. From a health angle, many young children are experiencing headaches and vision problems.
It doesn’t end with just online classes. Children are now hooked on video games as well. In fact, during the lockdown, Ludo King was estimated to be one of the most downloaded games. What mothers worry about is that when all this is over, and it will be, will they remember to go out and play or choose to remain in this virtual world?
I would like to share with you some things that have worked for me and my friends to minimize screen time while still staying safe.
- Agree on a schedule with your child. Allot a fixed number of minutes every day. If the child violates this agreement, they will have reduced screen time the next day and so on.
- Please encourage them to take short eye breaks-perhaps every thirty minutes. Break time is not for video games! Ask them to stare at something calm and appeasing, like potted plants, or just close their eyes and relax.
- You cannot ban video games outright. Children will always find ways to rebel. Explain to them the side effects. Monitor their time. It helps if you join them so that they understand that mummy is a part of this activity too. Just be careful not to get addicted yourself! (#confessions of a candy crush addict)
- The most effective method to reduce online time is to come up with new activities that will hold their attention. These include hobbies like gardening if you have space. Perhaps household chores with a scoring system and healthy competition among siblings, with prizes for the one with the most points, may help.
- Word games or story writing is a fun way to improve their command of language. Please give them a sentence every day and ask them to write a story on it.
- If you search on the internet, you will find many science experiments for children. These are a great way to learn. The only flipside is that some activities may need parental supervision. Experiments like seed germination (you just need a moong dal seed and cotton)- will help them appreciate the miracles of nature.
- A child’s best friend is a book. Inculcating the reading habit at a young age is the best gift you can give to your child. I personally am not a fan of e-books because it goes back to designated screen time again. Ask them to read for an hour a day (fiction, non-fiction, anything that piques their interest), and they will soon get accustomed to it.
- The lockdown has given birth to many budding bakers and chefs if Instagram stories are anything to go by. Your child can assist you while you bake a cake or make a salad. Of course, safety is important, as we don’t want cuts and burns. They can assist you with fun activities like icing or decorating cakes or just arranging food on serving plates.
- While it is important o engage them mentally, it is also equally important to engage them in physical activity. Going outdoors is not feasible. There are fun family workouts on YouTube. There is yoga exercise for kids as well. Get creative- design an obstacle course for them to crawl under chairs or jump over hurdles in the house. Ask them to try headstands or yoga bridge poses. Organize an indoor treasure hunt for them
Yet another important topic is online safety. The internet is a dangerous place for a young mind. Explain to them the dangers of befriending unknown people on the internet. Tell them to be vigilant always. In the case of younger children, always monitor them when they are online. Identify yourself as a trusted adult to them, one they can approach no matter what, so if something makes them uncomfortable, or they are being bullied, they let you know right away. Better safe than sorry.
The last topic that I want to touch upon is gratitude. As adults, it is impossible to be unaffected by all that is happening around us. Some of us are battling different stages of the dreaded disease- some newly ill, some recovering. Mental health issues have been on a steep rise. Children may not express it aloud, but they feel it too. It is important to have regular conversations with them to instill hope, confidence, and courage in them.
Sit as a family together and talk to your children. Please spend a few minutes, where everyone expresses at least one thing they are thankful for, however insignificant it may seem. Studies have proved that the expression of gratitude helps elevate Dopamine levels in the bloodstream, leading to happiness.
Stay strong. Stay healthy. Stay safe.