Parents, Stop Worrying About These 5 Things During The Pandemic, Experts Say
On top of worrying about the health of friends and family during this pandemic, every single parent I know is being extra hard on themselves right now — myself included. But y'all, there are things experts want parents to stop worrying about during the pandemic, OK? We have enough things to stress and worry about, and screen-time, planning epic enrichment activities, and worrying about whether your kids are bored shouldn't be on that list.
Our 2-year-old son had very limited to no screen-time whatsoever until this pandemic happened. And now Elmo is his idol and it's all he asks about. Guys, I am feeling so guilty but sometimes, it just had to happen so my husband and I could get stuff done for work. Usually one of my parents would be here to help me during my work shift to ensure he didn't have to be plopped in front of the TV. But now since my parents are definitely high-risk of catching COVID, they haven't been over, and I know many other parents are in the same boat.
Adding to my guilt is the fact that up until now, our son attended a Montessori school. Now I'm not sure what you know about Montessori, but to put it simply, it's a very "analog" way of raising your kids. Kids' playtime is focused around activities that inspire them to be excited about learning and it's filled with a lot of open-ended play. In fact, playtime is also referred to as their "work," and there are absolutely no screens allowed until they are at least 6 years old — in a perfect world.
So not only is my kid now watching Elmo in the evenings, but we also don't have time to craft these epic and beautiful Montessori prepared environments like I'm seeing some of the moms do on Facebook. We are simply doing our best and setting up toys and activities to the best of our ability. And they are not Pinterest-worthy, guys.
But according to experts, none of us should be stressing so much about the following five things, including creating social media-worthy enrichment activities. (But hey, if that's something that makes you happy, then go for it. Just don't stress about it.)
1. High Expectations For Yourselves & Children
Clinical psychologist Carla Manly tells Romper, "In order to avoid stress and burnout, it can be very helpful for parents to downsize their expectations — for themselves, their partners, and their children — on more superficial items," she adds. "Parents may find that they ease time limits on screen-time, allow a little extra dessert, or reduce an emphasis on keeping rooms perfectly neat. When paying attention to the big picture of family harmony and ease, it’s easier to let go of the smaller, more insignificant issues."
"The best thing parents can focus on right now is positivity and being present with our children," says Stephanie Moir, a licensed mental health counselor. "Looking back on the most traumatic event in my own life, I remember Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The memories that stand out are those of the time spent eating, laughing, and connecting with my family. This is exactly what we want kids to remember about COVID-19. They do not have to recall the trauma if we do not create a negative experience. Make it fun, rewarding, and creative. it is important to spend quality time versus quantity of time."
“I think all bets are off with screen-time right now. Parents need to do what works to get them through the day feeling sane: if a parent is totally stressed out and can't be there emotionally for a child, that's likely to cause more problems than some extra screen-time,” says Katie Lear, a licensed clinical mental health counselor.
Lee Scott, child development expert and chairwoman of the educational advisory board at The Goddard School adds, “Parents are less worried about screen-time and they should be. As long as they are not spending all day everyday looking at screens, they are fine.”
Chris Reed, an educator for 14 years and CEO and director of education for Modern MindED tells Romper that in order for him and his wife (who also works full time as a speech language pathologist) to work, they resort to some screen-time for their two daughters right now. “Screen-time is where we lax a lot. We aren't proud of it, but you gotta do what you gotta do. If our younger daughter is taking a longer nap, we may just let our eldest watch TV the entire time, which could be as much as two hours.
“On tough days, we will force a little break once the baby wakes up, but then we will have a movie-night. Basically, our oldest daughter might have as much as five or six hours of TV in a day. Certainly not every day, but sometimes. And for our family, this is a big deal. We didn't really let our eldest daughter see a screen until she was 2. Now, our other daughter, who is not even 2 yet, will be watching a couple hours a day sometimes.
"I believe in moderation and balance, we don’t have anything to worry about," Reed adds. "A big component, which we have all spoken many times about in society, is self-care. During all this, yes we need to get stuff done, etc., and that is the reason for TV time sometimes —but we also need silence and a break, as parents."
The benefits parents get from these few moments a day outweigh the negatives, Reed says. "We need to be kind to ourselves and offer ourselves some grace during this very trying time. Being a parent of young and school aged children is emotionally draining and very stressful right now."
While it's important to establish some sort of routine — especially for younger children — Scott says to let your kids get bored. "It's OK to have gaps in the day ... boredom leads to unstructured play, which allows children to use their creativity to entertain themselves," she says.
Psychotherapist Kelley Rompza Kitley says not to worry so much when it comes to E-learning — whether you're worried about your teaching skills and/or your kids aren't learning enough from you. "We are all doing the best we can. So many parents and kids are getting into power struggles. Emotional support is most important right now, so lower the bar and readjust your expectations of yourself and your kids."
5. Social Media-Worthy Enrichment Activities
“Children do not need parents to recreate an entire Montessori school curriculum at home in order to feel safe and secure,” says Lear “If you're feeling pressured to somehow come up with social media-worthy enrichment activities every day, please don't worry about that during a global pandemic unless you find joy in it.”
Lear recommends giving your kids opportunities each day for educational play, creative play, and physical activity. “Physical activity, in particular, is likely to have a positive effect on a child's behavior, although I know this can be so challenging when everyone is cooped up inside,” she says. Physical activity can simply be letting them run around in the backyard or going for a walk. Like Lear said, it doesn’t have to be Pinterest-worthy for it to be helpful and fun for your kid.
Carla Manly, a clinical psychologist, author, advocate, and fear specialist
Stephanie Moir, a licensed mental health counselor
Katie Lear, a licensed clinical mental health counselor
Lee Scott, a child development expert and chairwoman of the educational advisory board at The Goddard School
Chris Reed, an educator for 14 years and CEO and director of education for Modern MindED
Kelley Rompza Kitley, a psychotherapist, author of 'My Self,' and owner of Serendipitous Psychotherapy LLC
Cerasoli, C. P., Nicklin, J. M., & Ford, M. T. (2014). Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic incentives jointly predict performance: A 40-year meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin, 140(4), 980.https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2014-03897-001.html