This is no time for perfectionist parenting, digital or otherwise, right?! With so many of us working from home with kids, endless news about Covid-19, volatile global markets and social distancing, we’re all in social-emotional survival mode. This pandemic seems to be a reset. It’s changing the patterns of everyday life, definitely making some things harder – but maybe some things better. Unprecedented challenges call for unprecedented gentleness. So here are some ideas for helping families get through their days in this difficult time.…
- Kindness – with ourselves every bit as much as the other creatures in the house, human and non-human, big and small. Non-perfectionism is part of that. Try always to give yourself some slack when you fall short of how you think you’re supposed to be handling something. The inner critic will never be satisfied, right? Just by its nature. So it can be what it is but it’s not you. Self-compassion is essential to being kind to and patient with everyone else. And this is a really difficult time, so kindness is needed more than ever.
- Check in with your feelings every now and then. Whatever they are, they’re ok. That’s self-compassion in action. It enables you to check in with your kids or partner. It models self-compassion for your children. It’s contagious. It’s needed….
- Children need comforting. Just today, I was observing in a virtual focus group with elementary grade students. They showed so much intelligence, wisdom and resilience. They also shared what troubles them. One 11-year-old said, “I don’t want the world to come to an end. I want to live a long life. All these things happening to famous people [he mentioned Kobe Bryant] are really sad, an asteroid might hit Earth, coronavirus might kill all the populations. School might close down a very, very long time.” A lot is weighing on them too.
- Structure is good. Weekdays are for work. You can model that too. Life is super free-form right now, so creating structure in your household can be comforting in its own way: everybody getting up, having breakfast, getting to work, etc. at a time everybody sets together (with some alone time for each in there too, maybe). As tech analyst Ben Thompson, working at home with kids in Taiwan, put it, it certainly doesn’t hurt for 1) kids to see their parents working hard, 2) to develop their own sense of agency and responsibility so they can be resourceful with their time too, and 3) “relate to each other and their parents in a way that will do more to prepare them for adult life than any amount of parent-directed activities ever would.” And work certainly includes a certain amount of screen time.
- Everybody’s work is important. Adults have their work, children their schoolwork. Set times when everyone’s working. If you have to work when they’re finished with theirs, encourage them to make a plan, then follow it. Maybe an addendum to the family plan that each child makes for themselves. In any case, the plan probably includes outdoor play or exercise, screen play/entertainment, DIY hobbies and other offline activities and of course good sleep and meals. Ideally, there’s a plan and there’s also room for spontaneity. Unstructured time is a human need too.
- Content + context. The content of the news, household anxiety levels, the day’s activities can all be overwhelming. So it can help just to label all that as “content” and know that there’s also context, your awareness of the content. Just that – knowing there’s more than the content – can give you the teeny bit of distance from it that gives perspective and can calm nerves, even if you can’t take a walk. Our children need this. If we can comfort them, they most certainly will also comfort us.
- Spell each other. Not only does it help to share the planning and the work, consider staggering people’s downtime. It probably goes without saying that, if there’s more than one parent or guardian, it’s good to structure in alone time or free time for each person carrying responsibility. If there’s room in the schedule, consider making time to help others less fortunate under the current conditions. Your kids will probably have ideas for that.
- Revisit. Routines are good. Structure can be comforting. AND, with new information continuously rolling in and conditions continuing to change, flexibility is good too. So it can also be good to revisit and update our plans every now and then. Get input from the kids on what they feel needs changing. Keep checking in with each other.
As my friends at Chicos.net in Buenos Aires put it in their email newsletter, “It seems to us that quarantine can be used to strengthen family ties and get to know each other better. It’s an excellent time to ask your child what apps they use, research it together and stop limiting screen time[!]. Remember: It’s more important to see what they [actually] do with technology.” I couldn’t say it better. All best wishes from our family to yours. Stay well, dear readers.
Here are the best sources I’ve found for continuously updated Covid-19 information (I use all three because their numbers and perspectives differ slightly):
- BNO News for both global and country-by-country data (ranked from highest number of cases), including number of cases, deaths, recovered, unresolved *and* linked-to sources of all that data (as of this writing 182,044 cases, 7,120 deaths, 78,204 recovered and 96,720 unresolved worldwide). Americans, note that the source column for the US is blank because they’re getting their information state by state.
- The World Health Organization’s live update site shows a slightly lower global number of “confirmed cases) at 168,019, as of this writing.
- 17-year-old Avi Schiffmann’s site builds on the above two sites and that of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, according to Avi’s About page at ncov2019.live (what the virus was called back in December, when he started his programming project), which – as of last week – had had more than 35 million viewers. DemocracyNow.org interviewed him last Friday. The interviewer said they go to his site before they go on the air to make sure they have the latest numbers. To his credit, Avi started tracking the virus last December, then found a YouTube tutorial that taught him how to write a script that scraped Web sites like those of the WHO and BNO News so he could make sure his website was continuously updated. Also to his credit, those are the reliable sources he chose to scrape, and he designed a page that makes the data very accessible, at a glance. Thank goodness for his sake that his school (on Mercer Isl., Wash., U.S.) is now closed, so he can devote full time to his site and news media interviews.
- Perspective from a global public health expert: a clear, very accessible TEDx talk by author Alanna Shaikh, MPH, who has lived in seven countries. I found it very helpful this past weekend, when social distancing and self-quarantining were only just beginning here where I live.
- “How to Practice Social Distancing,” or why playdates and playgrounds are not a good idea (though fresh air definitely is) – an interview in the New Yorker with Asaf Bitton, a primary-care physician, public-health researcher, and director of the Ariadne Labs, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health
- “This generation is both better informed and more closely watched than any previous generation in China,” according to a New Yorker commentary this week: Will the Coronavirus Change the Way China’s Millennials See Their Country?“