Tips for parenting during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Ideas to help parents and caregivers do the most important job in the world.

UNICEF
Anne babalara ve bakım verenlere dünyanın en önemli işini yaparken yardımcı olacak fikirler
UNICEF/UNI313409/McIlwaine
31 March 2020

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has upended family life around the world. School closures, working remote, physical distancing — it's a lot to navigate for anyone, but especially for parents. We teamed up with the Parenting for Lifelong Health initiative to bring parents and caregivers a set of handy tips to help manage this new (temporary) normal.  

 

1. One-on-one time

Can’t go to work? Schools closed? Worried about money? It is normal to feel stressed and overwhelmed. 

School shutdown is also a chance to make better relationships with our children and teenagers. One-on-One time is free and fun. It makes children feel loved and secure, and shows them that they are important.

Set aside time to spend with each child

It can be for just 20 minutes, or longer – it’s up to us. It can be at the same time each day  so children or teenagers can look forward to it.

Ask your child what they would like to do

Choosing builds their self confidence. If they want to do something that isn’t OK with physical distancing, then this is a chance to talk with them about this.

Ideas with your baby/toddler

  • Copy their facial expression and sounds.
  • Sing songs, make music with pots and spoons.
  • Stack cups or blocks.
  • Tell a story, read a book or share pictures.

Ideas with your young child

  • Read a book or look at pictures.
  • Go for a walk – outdoors or around the home.
  • Dance to music or sing songs!
  • Do a chore together – make cleaning and cooking a game!
  • Help with school work.

Ideas with your teenager

  • Talk about something they like: sports, music, celebrities, friends.
  • Go for a walk – outdoors or around the home.
  • Exercise together to their favorite music.

Switch off the TV and phone. Listen to them, look at them. Give them your full attention. Have fun

 

2. Keeping it positive

It‘s hard to feel positive when our kids or teenagers are driving us crazy. We often end up saying “Stop doing that!”. But children are much more likely to do what we ask if we give them positive instructions and lots of praise for what they do right.

Say the behaviour you want to see 

Use positive words when telling your child what to do; like "Please put your clothes away" (instead of "Don’t make a mess").

It’s all in the delivery

Shouting at your child will just make you and them more stressed and angrier. Get your child’s attention by using their name. Speak in a calm voice.

Praise your child when they are behaving well

Try praising your child or teenager for something they have done well. They may not show it, but you’ll see them doing that good thing again. It will also reassure them that you notice and care.

Get real

Can your child actually do what you are asking them? It is very hard for a child to keep quiet inside for a whole day but maybe they can keep quiet for 15 minutes while you are on a call.

Help your teen stay connected

Teens especially need to be able to communicate with their friends. Help your teen connect through social media and other safe distancing ways. This is something you can do together, too!

 

3. Get structured 

COVID-19 has taken away our daily work, home and school routines. This is hard for children, teenagers and for you. Making new routines can help.

Create a flexible but consistent daily routine

  • Make a schedule for you and your children that has time for structured activities as well as free time. This can help children feel more secure and better behaved.
  • Children or teenagers can help plan the routine for the day – like making a school timetable. Children will follow this better if they help to make it.
  • Include exercise in each day - this helps with stress and kids with lots of energy at home.

Teach your child about keeping safe distances

  • If it is OK in your country, get children outside.
  • You can also write letters and draw pictures to share with people. Put them up outside your home for others to see!
  • You can reassure your child by talking about how you are keeping safe.
  • Listen to their suggestions and take them seriously.

Make handwashing and hygiene fun

  • Make a 20-second song for washing hands. Add actions! 
  • Give children points and praise for regular handwashing.
  • Make a game to see how few times we can touch our faces with a reward for the least number of touches (you can count for each other).

You are a model for your child’s behaviour

If you practice keeping safe distances and hygiene yourself, and treat others with compassion, especially those who are sick or vulnerable – your children and teenagers will learn from you.

At the end of each day, take a minute to think about the day. Tell your child about one positive or fun thing they did. Praise yourself for what you did well today. You are a star!

 

4. Bad behaviour

All children misbehave. It is normal when children are tired, hungry, afraid, or learning independence. And they can drive us crazy when stuck at home.

Redirect

  • Catch bad behavior early and redirect your kids’ attention from a bad to a good behavior.
  • Stop it before it starts! When they start to get restless, you can distract with something interesting or fun: “Come, let’s go outside for a walk!”

Take a pause

Feel like screaming? Give yourself a 10-second pause. Breathe in and out slowly five times. Then try to respond in a calmer way. Millions of parents say this helps - a lot!

Use consequences

Consequences help teach our children responsibility for what they do. They also allow discipline that is controlled. This is more effective than hitting or shouting.

  • Give your child a choice to follow your instruction before giving them the consequence.
  • Try to stay calm when giving the consequence.
  • Make sure you can follow through with the consequence. For example, taking away a teenager’s phone for a week is hard to enforce.Taking it away for one hour is more realistic. 
  • Once the consequence is over, give your child a chance to do something good, and praise them for it.

One-on-One time, praise for being good, and consistent routines will reduce bad behaviour.

Give your children and teens simple jobs with responsibilities. Just make sure it is something they are able to do. And praise them when they do it!

 

5. Keep calm and manage stress

This is a stressful time. Take care of yourself, so you can support your children.

You are not alone

Millions of people have the same fears as us. Find someone who you can talk to about how you are feeling. Listen to them. Avoid social media that makes you feel panicked.

Take a break

We all need a break sometimes. When your children are asleep, do something fun or relaxing for yourself. Make a list of healthy activities that YOU like to do. You deserve it!

Listen to your kids

Be open and listen to your children. Your children will look to you for support and reassurance. Listen to your children when they share how they are feeling. Accept how they feel and give them comfort.

Take a pause

Here's a one-minute relaxation activity that you can do whenever you are feeling stressed or worried.

Step 1: Set up

  • Find a comfortable sitting position, your feet flat on the floor, your hands resting in your lap.
  • Close your eyes if you feel comfortable.

Step 2: Think, feel, body

  • Ask yourself, “What am I thinking now?”
  • Notice your thoughts. Notice if they are negative or positive.
  • Notice how you feel emotionally. Notice if your feelings are happy or not.
  • Notice how your body feels. Notice anything that hurts or is tense.

Step 3: Focus on your breath

  • Listen to your breath as it goes in and out.
  • You can put a hand on your stomach and feel it rise and fall with each breath.
  • You may want to say to yourself “It’s okay. Whatever it is, I am okay.”
  • Then just listen to your breath for a while.

Step 4: Coming back

  • Notice how your whole body feels.
  • Listen to the sounds in the room.

Step 5: Reflecting

  • Think ‘do I feel different at all?’.
  • When you are ready, open your eyes. Be open and listen to your children. Your children will look to you for support and reassurance. Listen to your children when they share how they are feeling. Accept how they feel and give them comfort.

Taking a pause can also be helpful when you find your child is irritating you or has done something wrong. It gives you a chance to be calmer. Even a few deep breaths or connecting with the feeling of the floor beneath can make a difference. You can also take a pause with your children!

 

6. Talking about COVID-19

Be willing to talk. They will already have heard something. Silence and secrets do not protect our children. Honesty and openness do. Think about how much they will understand. You know them best.

Be open and listen

Allow your child to talk freely. Ask them open questions and find out how much they already know.

Be honest

Always answer their questions truthfully. Think about how old your child is and how much they can understand.

Be supportive

Your child may be scared or confused. Give them space to share how they are feeling and let them know you are there for them.

It is OK not to know the answers

It is fine to say “We don’t know, but we are working on it; or we don’t know, but we think.” Use this as an opportunity to learn something new with your child!

Heroes not bullies

Explain that COVID-19 has nothing to do with the way someone looks, where they are from, or what language they speak. Tell your child that we can be compassionate to people who are sick and those who are caring for them. Look for stories of people who are working to stop the outbreak and are caring for sick people.

There are a lot of stories going around

Some may not be true. Use trustworthy sites like UNICEF and the World Health Organization

End on a good note

Check to see if your child is okay. Remind them that you care and that they can they can talk to you anytime. Then do something fun together!

 

7. Family harmony at home

When we model peaceful and loving relationships, our children feel more secure and loved. Positive language, active listening and empathy help maintain a peaceful and happy family environment during these stressful times. 


We are models for our kids

  • How we talk and behave in front of others is a big influence on how they behave too!
  • Try to talk kindly to everyone in the family, adults and children.
  • Bad communication between adults in the household can have a negative impact on our children.
  • The more we practice modelling peaceful, loving relationships for our children the more secure and loved they will feel.


Use positive language. It works!

  • Tell others what you want them to do instead of what you don’t want them to do: Instead of “Stop shouting,” try “Please speak more quietly”.
  • Praise makes others feel appreciated and good about themselves. Simple words like, “Thank you for clearing the dinner,” or “Thank you for watching the baby” can make a big difference.


Nice things to do together as a family

  • Let each family member take turns to choose a whole-family activity each day.
  • Find ways to spend quality time with your partner and other adults in your home, too!


Be an empathetic active listener

  • Listen to others when they are talking with you.
  • Be open and show them that you hear what they are saying.
  • It can help to even summarize what you have heard before responding: “What I hear you saying is…”.


Share the load

  • Looking after children and other family members is difficult, but it’s much easier when responsibilities are shared.
  • Try to share household chores, childcare, and other tasks equally among family members.
  • Create a schedule for time “on” and time “off” with other adults in your household.
  • It is okay to ask for help when you are feeling tired or stressed, so that you can take a break.
     

Feeling stressed or angry?

  • Give yourself a 10-second pause. Breathe in and out slowly five times. Then try to respond in a calmer way. Millions of parents say this helps - A LOT!
  • Call a truce when you can see arguments building up, and go into another room or outside if you can.

 

8. Keep calm and manage stress from COVID-19

This is a stressful time. Take care of yourself, so you can support your children.


You are not alone

Millions of people have the same fears as us. Find someone who you can talk to about how you are feeling. Listen to them. Avoid social media that makes you feel panicked.


Take a break

We all need a break sometimes. When your children are asleep, do something fun or relaxing for yourself. Make a list of healthy activities that YOU like to do. You deserve it!


Listen to your kids

Be open and listen to your children. Your children will look to you for support and reassurance. Listen to your children when they share how they are feeling. Accept how they feel and give them comfort.


Take a pause

Here's a one-minute relaxation activity that you can do whenever you are feeling stressed or worried.

Step 1: Set up

  • Find a comfortable sitting position, your feet flat on the floor, your hands resting in your lap.
  • Close your eyes if you feel comfortable.

Step 2: Think, feel, body

  • Ask yourself, “What am I thinking now?”
  • Notice your thoughts. Notice if they are negative or positive.
  • Notice how you feel emotionally. Notice if your feelings are happy or not.
  • Notice how your body feels. Notice anything that hurts or is tense.

Step 3: Focus on your breath

  • Listen to your breath as it goes in and out.
  • You can put a hand on your stomach and feel it rise and fall with each breath.
  • You may want to say to yourself “It’s okay. Whatever it is, I am okay.”
  • Then just listen to your breath for a while.

Step 4: Coming back

  • Notice how your whole body feels.
  • Listen to the sounds in the room.

Step 5: Reflecting

  • Think ‘do I feel different at all?’.
  • When you are ready, open your eyes. Be open and listen to your children. Your children will look to you for support and reassurance. Listen to your children when they share how they are feeling. Accept how they feel and give them comfort.

Taking a pause can also be helpful when you find your child is irritating you or has done something wrong. It gives you a chance to be calmer. Even a few deep breaths or connecting with the feeling of the floor beneath can make a difference. You can also take a pause with your children!

 

9. Bad behaviour

All children misbehave. It is normal when children are tired, hungry, afraid, or learning independence. And they can drive us crazy when stuck at home.


Redirect

  • Catch bad behavior early and redirect your kids’ attention from a bad to a good behavior.
  • Stop it before it starts! When they start to get restless, you can distract with something interesting or fun: “Come, let’s play a game together!”


Take a pause

Feel like screaming? Give yourself a 10-second pause. Breathe in and out slowly five times. Then try to respond in a calmer way. Millions of parents say this helps - A LOT!


Use consequences

Consequences help teach our children responsibility for what they do. They also allow discipline that is controlled. This is more effective than hitting or shouting.

  • Give your child a choice to follow your instruction before giving them the consequence.
  • Try to stay calm when giving the consequence.
  • Make sure you can follow through with the consequence. For example, taking away a teenager’s phone for a week is hard to enforce.Taking it away for one hour is more realistic. 
  • Once the consequence is over, give your child a chance to do something good, and praise them for it.

One-on-One time, praise for being good, and consistent routines will reduce bad behaviour.

Give your children and teens simple jobs with responsibilities. Just make sure it is something they are able to do. And praise them when they do it!

 

10. When we get angry

We love our children and teenagers, but the stresses of COVID-19, money and lockdown can make us angry. Here is how we can maintain control and manage our anger so we do not hurt others.

Brain science shows if you control your anger or do something positive you increase your child’s brain development. That’s real success!


Stop the river at the source

  • The same things usually make us get stressed and angry every time.
  • What makes you angry? When does it happen? How do you normally react?
  • Prevent it from starting. If it happens when you are tired, get some sleep or rest. If it’s hunger, try to be sure you can eat. If it’s feeling alone, ask someone for support.
  • Look after yourself. Check the "take a pause" and "managing stress" tips for ideas.
     

Take a break

  • When you start feeling angry, take a 20-second cool down. Breathe in and out slowly 5 times before you speak or move.
  • Go somewhere else for 10 minutes to regain control of your emotions. If you have safe outdoor space, go outside.
  • If it’s a baby that won’t stop crying, it’s OK to leave them safely on their back and walk away for a bit. Call someone to calm you down. Check on them every 5-10 minutes.


Take care of yourself

  • We all need to connect. Talk to friends, family, and other support networks every day.
  • Cut back on drinking or don’t drink, especially when the kids are awake.
  • Do you have weapons or things that can be used to hit others? Lock them up, hide them or take them out of the home.
  • If it’s not safe for them at home it is OK for children to go out to get help or stay somewhere else for a while.
     

The COVID-19 crisis isn't forever - we just have to get through it now...one day at a time.

 

11. Family budgeting in times of financial stress

Millions are stressed about money because of COVID-19. It can make us feel exhausted, angry, and distracted. Children or teenagers asking for things can cause arguments. But we can do things that help cope with financial stress.


Involve children and teens in making a family budget

  • A budget is how we decide what we will spend our money on, even in stressful times.
  • Making a budget together helps children understand that we all need to make hard decisions in difficult times.
  • It also helps families to have enough at the end of the month and borrow less.


What do we spend now?

  • Get a piece of paper (or old newspaper or a cardboard box) and a pen.
  • Draw pictures of all the things that you and your family spend money on each month.
  • Write next to each picture how much each thing costs.
  • Add up how much money you have each month to spend.


Talk about needs and wants

  • Needs: Which things are important or must have for your family to survive? (like food, soap to wash hands, needs for family members with an illness or disability)
  • Wants: Which things are nice to have but not essential?
  • Discuss with your children what things you could try to spend less on.


Build your own budget

  • Find a bag of stones or anything with lots of pieces. This is your money for the month.
  • As a family, decide what you will spend on what, and put the stones on your picture.
  • If you can save even a tiny amount for the future, or for another emergency – it is great!


Find out if there is help you can get

  • Your government may be giving money, or food parcels to families during COVID-19.
  • Ask about whether places in your community are giving support.

 

12. Parenting in crowded homes and communities during COVID-19

Keeping your family healthy and safe from COVID-19 can feel even harder when you live in crowded conditions. But there are things you can do to make this easier for your family.


Stay where you are

  • Limit those leaving and returning to your immediate living space to as few and as infrequent as possible.
  • Only leave your household or area for essential reasons like getting food or medical attention.
     

Help your children with physical distancing

  • Explain to your children that they have an important job of keeping themselves and their community healthy by temporarily physically. distancing from others
  • Show them extra positive attention when they make an effort to practice safe physical distancing from others.
     

Make handwashing and hygiene fun!

  • It might be hard to find soap and water, but practicing good hygiene is more important now than ever.
  • Try to wash all family members’ hands as often as possible.
  • Let children teach each other how to wash their hands.
  • Encourage children to avoid touching their face.
     

Share the load

  • Looking after children and other family members is difficult in cramped spaces, but it’s much easier when responsibilities are shared.
  • Try to share household chores, childcare, and other tasks equally among family members.
  • Create a schedule for time “on” and time “off” with other adults in your household.
  • It is okay to ask for help when you are feeling tired or stressed, so that you can take a break.
     

Exercise daily

  • Encourage children to think of activities they can do to exercise while avoiding contact with people who do not live already in your immediate space.
  • Jumping activities, dancing or running in circles can be fun!


Take a pause

  • You might not have space to yourself to deal with all the stress and emotions you are feeling.
  • Notice when you are feeling stressed or upset and take a pause…even three deep breaths can make a difference! Millions of families find that this helps.
  • Keeping positive, having a routine and trying to find some one-to-one time with each child when you can will help you manage your child behaviours and your feelings.