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Parenting Struggles during the Pandemic

 We are now into the 8th month since the first lockdown was announced during the Covid crisis. Naturally enough time has gone by that we have all somewhat learnt to adapt to the "new normal", well, more or less. This still isn't normal, and we are all still struggling at some level or the other. 

The children are facing their own set of issues, but here, we are talking about your major struggles/points of concern with regards to your children during this period.

We asked you all what your major concerns were. We came up with what we thought you could have struggled with the most. This list mostly came from our discussions with our parent body, what our own teachers were facing, and what we were witnessing among our own family and friends. This is what some of you had to say (Note - we are not revealing any personal information/names. We respect your privacy):


By and large, increased screen time appeared to be a major point of concern for everyone. This is irrespective of age. For babies and toddlers, many parents tried to minimize screen time even pre-pandemic. Now with kids by and large staying at home, screens have become more of a necessity than anything else.

For older kids, this is more so, as now their education is solely dependent upon the virtual medium. Unlike preschools, where online learning is restricted to may be one hour at the most, the older a child, the longer the duration they need to spend in front of the screen.

Every parent has their own way of dealing with the situation. We also asked parents whether the increased screen time was more active or passive in nature. We have taken this up once earlier, but let me get into it a little more in detail.

PASSIVE SCREEN TIME

This is the type of screen time where there is a uni-directional flow of communication. This will typically include all your cartoons or other videos where you have no control of the kind of communication to your child. I am talking cartoons, since that is the content most small children will go for. This could include real time screen content which could at times be age inappropriate.

While some passive screen time could be beneficial (like a Discovery channel video), it is typically advised to minimize the exposure and ensure that whatever passive screen time your child is indulging in, is whetted out properly before your child is exposed to it

ACTIVE SCREEN TIME

While not ideal under ordinary circumstances, this type of screen time refers to content which involves your child's interaction. This could include interactive games (after whetting out the content), or software which focuses on learning and development. More importantly, this includes the kind of screen time where your child is able to interact live with the person sitting at the other end. This is the kind of screen time which covers the current learning programs (starting as young as 18 months to 2 years), video chats with friends and family and so on.

While we want to avoid over exposure to this kind of screen time as well, experts say that 1-1.5 hours of active screen time per day, especially in the current circumstances, may be needed to ensure the right kind of stimulus is reaching the children, and so that they are able to maintain some kind of a "normal" routine.

Understandably, it is very very difficult to maintain the balance these days - minimizing passive screen time, optimizing active screen time with other set of activities which are crucial to overall development of children. Hats off to each one of you for managing to find your own way. And like one of you said, uninstalling any apps which lead to passive screen time is probably the easiest way to ensure the exposure is not there, though naturally, this will lead to increased effort at your end.

Reduced peer group interaction was another major concern for most parents. The reason for this is two fold-

1. Socialization is a need for human beings, and it develops very early on. Even a 2 year old will interact very differently with their parents, their educators and their friends. This is something we always observed at Morning Glorie, both in preschool as well as in day care. Whether it was something like eating healthy food without complaint because their teacher said so, or their friends were eating it, or enjoying differently with friends as compared to parents or siblings etc. This is also important for growth as an individual, because there is exposure of different kinds of personalities, and each of these is crucial in moulding the personality of every individual. Peer group interaction remains a crucial element of a child's life, even with the pandemic in place.

We observe children interacting with each other during online classes, their parents telling us they don't like the fact that there is no school on weekends, because they can't meet their teachers and friends, and it only reinforces the importance of social interaction. While toddlers are not able to verbalize it, it is for us as adults to understand this need, and see how we can get it done for our children.

2. The time a child spends away from family and with friends also gives the parents the time to introspect and provides much needed relief during the day. Talking about just kids is probably simplifying matters, we feel the same need when it comes to our own parents, in-laws, even spouses. We cannot spend 24 hours with the same set of people day in and day out, without it having some kind of an adverse impact, even if for a very small duration.

Which leads us to this quote by a parent, which I feel is the most comprehensive understanding of the whole situation:

All things which are now denied to children (and possibly adults too), invariably feed each other, and may lead to sudden outbursts and mood swings, in children and adults as well. While adults can verbalize and rationalize this, children cannot. This is probably why behavioral issues didn't pop up as the most important concern or parenting struggle - most parents understand that tantrums are to be expected.

We also understand that end of the day, this is likely to take a toll on you as well, no matter how well your understand the situation. You are not, and please also do not try, to be superhuman. 

Just only try to remember that we are all sailing in the same boat.

Some minor things which help me see through most days (I admit I have some bad days too. These will be days when we end up arguing at home, or at times I may just feel bored, or low, or overworked, or it may just feel like the world is ending) -

1. Work out a basic schedule for your day (in your case, this includes a schedule for your child as well). Remember to keep the schedule BASIC. This could include a more or less consistent wake up time, bath time, meal time, school time, play time, reading time and even some amount of regulated screen time

2. Try to incorporate some amount of physical activity (this could be online workouts, a visit to the park, or just dancing to tunes). Make this a part of parent-child activity - this will serve the dual purpose of physical activity which is crucial for mental well-being, as well as give your child a bonding activity to look forward to

3. Remember to take a break from this routine once in a while. Define your off days, and make sure they are off days. This is important for your mental well-being. If you are frustrated or tired all the time, it will have a more negative impact on your child. 

4. Remember to give your child an off day from their schedule too. Let them sleep in late, do activities which they want to do, cook with them, let them make a noise, and just have a gala day out of it.

5. It may help to club your off day with theirs, if that works for you :)

6. If you need your personal space, do not hesitate to ask for it from your partner. In fact, try to divide your responsibilities during a working day, so neither of you is overworked. But remember - both of you need to spend happy and quality time with your child. They need to bond with the both of you. Both of you should find the time to do a mix of fun activities as well as when it comes to enforcing discipline. Don't do the good cop bad cop routine if possible.

7. And remember that off days are normal - they were even pre-pandemic. Pamper yourself, verbalize, and give the same kind of space for your children to vent out too.


 

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