Parenting in the Time of CoronavirusMarch 18, 2020
This week’s tip comes from Lerner Child Development. Has your home become a home-office, home-school, and home-daycare? Early childhood expert, Claire Lerner, LCSW-C, provides ideas on how to balance work responsibilities and parenting. Read below for more tips!
• Establish a clear daily schedule. Kids love routines. Knowing what to expect is calming, and it focuses children’s attention in positive ways on what is expected. It can also create sanity for you. Further, kids are used to the highly structured world of school. An integral part of every day at most early education program is going over the plan for the day, so re-create this at home. Tell your kids that you will have a schedule just like they have at school and engage their participation in developing it. Build in choices: for example, during art time they can opt for coloring or Play Doh. Take photos of the different activities they will be doing so the schedule can have visuals, which are especially helpful for younger kids. Make it a ritual to go over the schedule each morning as it might change from day-to-day depending on your work commitments.
• Let your kids know exactly when you will be together and when you won’t be able to play. For example: from 8:30 to 9 you might have breakfast together. From 9 to 9:30 you will read books. Then from 9:30-10:00 mommy/daddy will be on a work call so they will have an activity they can do independently. Then you’ll be together for mid-morning snack. And so on.
• Be clear about how you will set limits when you need to work. For example, they can choose to stay in the room with you if they can play quietly. Otherwise they will need to go into a play space—that is safe and has a boundary so they can’t keep running in and out—during that time. Note that some parents don’t even try to have their kids in the same room while they are working, especially when they need to be on a call, because it is too tempting/stimulating for kids to be in their presence and not be able to interact. Use your judgment. You know your children best.
• Finally, be realistic and empathetic. I am reminded of the study by Jenny Radesky that looked at parent-child interactions at fast-food restaurants. She and her colleagues found that when parents were distracted on their phones, kids tended to get increasingly demanding and disruptive to get their parent’s attention. This resulted in parents getting annoyed at and punitive with their kids. In one instance, a parent reflexively kicked a child under the table.It’s important to keep reminding yourself that your children aren’t purposefully trying to drive you crazy. It is in their DNA to seek your attention. In those moments when you are unable to give it to them, show empathy while setting limits: “I know, you really want to tell mommy all about the story of the penguins, but right now I have to do some work. Remember to store all your ideas in your memory brain. I can’t wait to hear all about what’s on your mind when Time Timer goes off and my call/mommy work time is over.”
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Claire Lerner, LCSW, is a nationally recognized early childhood expert with over 30 years of experience in infant mental health, parent guidance and family support. Visit her website for more information!