Parenting during COVID-19

Keeping a child occupied during the lockdown is one of the more challenging tasks for a parent. Antara Pandit shares how she is decoding this ‘new normal’ that parents the world over are facing

Adults thrive in the midst of routine and consistency. When we wake up in the morning, the last thing we want is to face uncertainty from any angle. We like to know what to expect.

So do children.
An excerpt from the book ‘Conscious Parenting’ by Nuit says, ‘Be very attentive towards the child’s evolving World of Senses that needs stability, routine & structure, World of Emotions that needs love, freedom & creativity, and World of Thoughts that needs discrimination as an ability to choose right thinking, emotions, behaviour.’ The message from this seemed extremely applicable to the current situation that surrounds us all. During this time of social distancing and lockdown, paying attention to our children’s world of senses, emotions and thoughts is essential.

In times of uncertainty, a balanced routine and structure is crucial for children. For example, letting them know that mealtimes and bedtimes are fixed can work in their favour. Articles that have flooded social media and Google are advising us to disregard having any routine at all for children in the hope of reducing stress for parents during this time. While this is true in part and expecting to keep children occupied 24×7 is a bit of a stretch, neglecting structure completely will do more harm than good. It is time to slow down but not pause their routines completely.

Change, which is a constant in all our lives, has been thrust upon us, forcing us to restructure the way we live. We have had to create and embrace the ‘new normal’. As parents, we have been treading unchartered territory with our children, but just imagine the force with which they have been hit! Their daily lives have suddenly been uprooted and there is a lack of normal routine. School seems like another lifetime and any interaction with friends is digital and not physical. According to me, our children are superheroes!

I started off the lockdown period with a schedule I had drafted in my notes, taped on to the walls of Dev and Shiv’s room. I was determined to fill up every minute of their day ahead of time. Within 2 days, I (not them) had ripped the schedule to shreds. I had filled their schedules with schoolwork and focused activities that I had left little room for free play and even less time for them to nurture their imagination and creativity. So, we moved things around.

After breakfast and baths, mornings are spent with Shiv’s schoolwork, followed by reading and building with Lego/colouring/painting/drawing. To reduce the amount of aimless running around and encourage one activity at a time, I make sure to give them two fun but educational activities to choose from and then sit down with it for a pre-determined amount of time. This also gives me time to work while they are in front of me playing. Even though I am not mentally present during this time, I have often seen comfort in the boys’ eyes by my physical presence. By the time they finish with the morning routine, lunchtime rolls around. Shiv who is now 3, naps in the afternoon like Kumbhakarna, because he will sleep through even a war going on outside. I use this time to finish Dev’s schoolwork and play whatever games he likes, like Uno, memory games and Scrabble; I let him pick. Sometimes when he doesn’t want to play anything, he practices ‘the art of doing nothing’. Once Shiv wakes up, it’s terrace time! Even during lockdown, it is crucial for children to get fresh air every day for a few hours. The boys take their cars/bikes upstairs and release all their pent-up energy from the day, which usually gets exhausted during their normal routine at school and various classes. Post baths at 6 pm, they spend half hour with free play, which often includes pretend play. The ‘mummy-daddy’ game includes kitchen play and cooking, working on their ‘laptops’ with phones in hand, setting up restaurants and taking care of their baby (Elmo!). In this half hour till dinner-time, the house ends up looking like a tornado hit it. I have always considered myself to be mildly OCD, so the training required on my part to grit my teeth and not react to the mess has been tremendous! Two to three days in the week, post dinner is movie time. One of these days, we plan to go camping in our living room with a make-shift tent, mattresses, torch lights and hot chocolate! It pays to get creative together, like with art. Art is powerful, helps you escape and pass the time quickly. It also creates a wonderful bond between you and your children.

This period of self-isolation has definitely been a period of adjustment. Our children have had to suddenly accept their parents as their teachers, which is even harder than us trying to take the place of teachers, who are angels in disguise, and create a similar learning environment. The hardest to have as students are always our own children! We have to be kind to each other and take it one step at a time. This is not going to be permanent and there is no quick fix. The positive aspect of this – we get to know our children more!

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