How to practice positive parenting during the crisis

Psychologist Ketevan Tavartkiladze gives advice on how to help your children, and yourself deal with the many emotions you may be experiencing now.

UNICEF
Boy at the window
UNICEF/GEO-2019/Berulava
01 April 2020

The new coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed our daily lives and caused emotional tension. The precautions we take to prevent the spread of the virus, limiting outside interaction as much as possible and engaging in physical and social isolation, have further aggravated tensions.

 

Risk of increased violence

Our relationships are restricted, and we are experiencing emotional stress. Additionally, there are uncertainties regarding our jobs and expected economic hardships. All these factors increase the risk of violent conflicts. Very often, children are the victims of these conflicts because their vulnerability makes them easy targets for abuse.

Under these circumstances, children at risk of domestic violence should receive special attention and support from the non-abusive parent, other family members, and all relevant agencies.

All parents and children should have access to detailed information about available local services and specialists, as well as directions on where and how they can receive:

  • Social service support
  • Psychological assistance
  • Legal assistance
  • Medical assistance
  • Consultations etc.

Also, it is necessary to talk to the child and make him or her feel that:

  • You understand the child’s situation and wish to provide support;
  • The child is not alone and it is possible to find solutions together;
  • You are always ready to protect the child’s safety and health;
  • You value the child’s trust.

Support your child and handle the situation together.

 

Importance of staying calm

From TV, the internet, and friends, we receive a lot of different information about the pandemic situation. However, in this mass information flow, the share of reliable and qualified content is relatively small.

Get information only from reliable sources. Do not believe everything unconditionally. Be sure to check everything using reliable sources, such as the websites for the National Center for Disease Control, the National Center for Public Health, and the World Health Organization.

At the same time, set a limit on how much information you’re absorbing. For example, listen to the news a maximum of two times a day to avoid being overwhelmed with constant information.

Usually, children’s reactions correspond to the behavior and emotions of their parents. Therefore, it is important that we control our emotional condition. Do not express hopelessness and anxiety in the presence of children. By maintaining composure, we show children that we are in control of the situation. This will calm them down.

We have to take care of our emotional health. If you experience stress and excessive anxiety, you can talk about it with other family members or online with people you trust. Dedicate at least a little time to the things that keep you calm and help to restore your strength. These may include breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, listening to music etc., These activities can help to reduce the feelings of isolation and help you to manage your emotions.

 

Helping your child to cope with stress

The signs of stress, depression, and emotional tension in children are:

  • Aggressiveness;
  • Sleep problems (the child experiences difficulty sleeping, restless sleep, wakes up, cries);
  • Nightmares;
  • Getting fussy, crying for no reason;
  • Urinary incontinence at night;
  • Weakness, weariness;
  • Nutrition and/or sleep problems;
  • Fear of separation with the parent;
  • Talking or thinking about the event;
  • Other signs that were not previously typical for the child.

 

 

Advice to parents:

 

  • Remain calm

The child can sense when you are worried, nervous, sad, or excited. The more worried you are, the more worried your child will be. So, try to control yourself.

  • Listen and talk to your child

For children, it is very important that you listen and talk to them about their feelings. Give the child an opportunity to say what he or she wants. Explain coronavirus related facts in a calm, easily understandable way, taking into account the child’s age and psychology. Talk to the child about necessary hygiene rules, and staying at home, all in a light, pleasant, and stress-free way. Do not try to mentor and moralize when the child is trying to tell you about his or her feeling and thoughts.

The child may ask you some questions to which you do not have the answers. Be frank, and say that you do not know, but promise to find out. Do not give incorrect information. Encourage the child to be open: “We can talk about it whenever you want”.

  • Plan your day

Spending a relatively long time in a small, confined space is emotionally stressful for everyone, and especially for children. These negative impacts can be significantly reduced by structuring the child’s daily schedule.

Together with the child, make a schedule of educational, entertaining, and physical activities. Indicate the time when the activity must start and finish. Try to make this timetable very similar to the child’s previous usual schedule. This will help you to maintain a normal rhythm of life and reduce your child's stress. It is very important to maintain the child's normal sleep regime. Encourage the child to follow the schedule.

  • Talk to children and make them feel understood

Children’s reactions to stress are very different. Some of them show obvious signs of tension while others may become quieter and isolate themselves; some may read or write more than they did previously. Thus, sometimes the signs of stress and tension may not be so obvious, and it can be easy to miss them. Sometimes, you may even like the child's altered behavior: “She has become wiser. She's at home all the time and reading”; “He used to be very noisy and now he's so quiet, you can't even notice his presence”, etc. Explain to the children that their feelings are normal in this situation. Encourage children to express their feelings of excitement, fear, anger, and melancholy in their own way⁠—for example by talking, drawing, writing blogs, dancing, etc. The child must be sure that you support him or her, and that you understand, and are there to take care of him or her.

Remind the children that they can discuss difficult issues with you at any time, and that you are always at their disposal whenever they feel nervous or sad.  

  • Have fun together

During the day, no matter how busy you are with your household chores or office work, make sure to set aside some time for fun activities - play board games, paint, watch a movie, read, stage a show, exercise, sing, dance, and laugh.

 

If you get the impression that your child is feeling too nervous, make an online consultation with a psychologist.