Pop Quiz: Are You Winning at Pandemic Parenting?

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Parenting in the time of coronavirus is like walking a blind dog down a dark alley while wearing sunglasses. There is a lot of bumping into walls, crying, and flailing around, trying to grab hold of something seemingly sturdy or concrete. It’s a whole new type of parenting. Scary, weird, aimless, and sprinkled with impulsive maniacal laughter. Or is that just me?  

The floor has been pulled out from under us. Nothing fits anymore. We are in crisis mode, doing our best but likely letting go of some higher standards we once held when we possessed the time, energy, and wherewithal to enforce them. Frankly, the things we used to fret about, like an early bedtime and a low screen limit, have turned into rules working against us in our utterly unchartered lives. Late bedtimes are in, or rather, no bedtimes. And screen time is more like the best time and, sure, have another hour or two, kiddos. Because what else is there for you to do? All of the stress, confusion, emotional exhaustion, life responsibilities, and oh yeah, the lurking coronavirus threatening every move we make, can cause a parent to feel like a spinning cap trying not to spin out of control.

Rest assured, if you have felt any of this, you are not alone. If at any point you have found yourself sinking into guilt or anxiety over the difficulty of balancing everything on your shoulders, or your new habit of letting your kids eat popsicles for breakfast, try not to worry. You have not failed them. If you’re freaking out about how all of the mandates and changes in the schools and communities will affect your kids, take a deep breath. Fear and worry can grab ahold quickly when we doubt ourselves and feel lost in a forest of fog and trees too high to see the sky. Remember, the sky is there. It has not abandoned us. Reach deeper into the darkness for hope and light, and look deeper into yourself and trust that you already have everything inside of you that you need to get through this. You are a good parent.

Ask yourself these questions about ways you may already be weaving strong bonds and cultivating resiliency in your kids to help them strive despite having to go through hard times such as this:

1. Do I hug my kids?
2. Do I tell them I love them?
3. Do I laugh with my kids?
4. Do I listen to them when they have something to say?
5. Do I ask them questions about who they are, what they like, what they think, and how they feel?
6. Do my eyes light up when they walk into the room?
7. Do I compliment their hair, st‌yle of clothes, ideas, and little things they do?
8. Do I read to my kids?
9. Do I show them trust and respect?
10. Do I spend time with them?
11. Do I know their love language and try to try to show love in that way?
12. Do I keep boundaries for safety and security even if some of the other limitations like bedtime and screen time are a little looser?
13. Do I talk about my feelings and validate theirs?
14. Do I show interest in their interests?
15. Do I apologize when I make mistakes?
16. Do I help them when they need help?
17. Do I get support for my kids’ mental and behavioral health needs?
18. Do I hold them when they need to be held?
19. Do I try every day to do my best?
20. Do I forgive myself when the day is over, and it wasn’t perfect?
21. Do I wake up and do it all over again?

If you answered yes to most or even some of these, your kids are good hands. You are already doing the most important things during this new and bazaar situation that we are still trying to figure out how to handle.

This year will be hard, and school and sports will look different. Kids will not be doing all the things they were supposed to do. There may be a time when we have to catch up, or relearn some things, resocialize and process all the big feelings from all the days inside. That’s okay. Right now, talking, connecting, rolling on the floor, grabbing your belly laughing because a rerun of America’s Funniest Home Videos is on for the one-hundredth time, and it’s still hilarious, is the most important stuff right now. That’s enough. Hugs, hope, snuggling reading together, talking about whatever your kids want to talk about even if it makes your eyes roll into the back of your head with boredom, are the essential things. Good job. Keep going. Your kids are lucky to have you.

When you start to worry that your kids are missing out, or that you’re not ready to become a teacher 3-5 days a week because you have no clue how to teach a kindergartner to read and you don’t remember a single thing from fifth-grade social studies, close your eyes and wipe the sweat off your brow. Look back at times you thrived through adversity. Think about the hard places you’ve worked yourself out of, and the times in your life you grabbed hold of your spirit and grit and incredible sense of humor and made the most of a lackluster situation. These are the skills that serve you well in a long beautiful life. Your kids are learning everything they need to know about life right now from you, and they will be all the better for it.