As the world changes on a per minute basis so does the way we communicate, interact, work, exercise and of course parent. I have been a stay home mom, I have been a divorced working mom, I have been a working from home mom and of course I have been a woman trying to be the best mom I can be while working too.
In these moments of quarantine I believe we are all facing the one thing we as parents either fear or embrace the most. For once we are the one and only one with direct influence upon our children’s life.
With schools and extracurricular activities at a halt you have to admit we are as parents for once having to fend for ourselves. State mandates have told us that we must stay at home. For some of us that means staying home with our children. Yes, our children, remember those cute babies, toddlers, big kids and teens we drop off at school, leave with the nanny or if we are lucky with grandma and grandpa?
Overnight we are now the ones that not only wake up and get them ready to send them off to their daily routines as we go to our own, but we are now the only ones they have to play to learn, be entertained with and of course teach and discipline too! Oh and how fun some of us are having or not!
I am the youngest of seven. I never truly understood how much love and work my parents put into my life until I became a mother. I of course grew up in very different times and my parents parented in what I would say is more than decades far from where we are now.
Having said that, like anything else the core values of good morals and principals with parenting do not change. Today I want to share a few things that we are or could be doing to make sure the impact this change in our everyday life and routine has upon our children.
Think before you speak: I am a very vocal person. Having been the youngest of seven I learned from an early age that if you wanted something you had to speak up. With that said, I also learned that having a firm conviction is of the essence. Times are stressful to say the least. Therefore to say that I don’t have an opinion about things as they unfold around my community and country at the moment would be a lie. So what am I trying to do to “control” that assertive voice I have since birth? I take a moment and think first.
In general thinking before we speak is something good we all should do. It will save us major headaches in all areas of our lives. It will allow us to nurture instead of break relationships and of course it will help us think before we act. Stress inhibits our ability to think so I am sure some of us have expressed our frustration, fears and discontent with the current situation or how it’s being handled. As parents we must remember that our children are always watching us, but right now more than ever they truly are watching us! Let us be careful of the words we use, the tone we speak with and above all remember that whatever feelings we have we will transfer to our children. Let us make sure we are realistic but strong, loving and hopeful as well. Mind the way you react to the news, your neighbor and change. We want to make sure that children learn how to react to a major life change with composure and control not anger or negative reactions.
Work Ethic: If you are a parent and your job is one of the categorized as “essential” trust me when I tell you this, you are your child’s hero right now! Everyone in the world is realizing there are some individuals we simply cannot live without. If you are one of them my deepest thank you for all that you do. My husband often tells me that when people tell him “Thank you for your service (he is in the Army) he often feels unworthy because he knows there are many others that probably deserve it more than he and peers do but never get told so. Today I have to agree, not only do men and women in uniform deserve our thanks but everyone who is working making sure the world continues as seamlessly as possible during these hard times. Your child is watching you and they are learning invaluable and selflessness lessons from you going to work. Add on the fact that you not only do it for your family but for all of us in your community once again, make no mistake, your child is looking up to you with something that will form the future worker he or she will be because she is watching you embrace the ethics that come with your professional roles.
Working From Home: This one goes out to those of us who have been given the luxury of still making a living without leaving our home. I have worked from home before, in fact did so for several years so I can’t say that this is new or foreign to me. However, I do know there are many who had not done this before. Again as the aforementioned point out remember our children are watching us! So if you are working from home remember that the right thing is to actually work from home! We often try to instill children principles of work ethic and honesty and this is the perfect opportunity to do so. Some of us are going with the basis of the “honor program”. Our employers are trusting us to do our part at a distance. This does not mean we get to slack or work on home projects. This means we simply have to be home and do what we are supposed to do at a distance. We all know that employers understand the home environment will prove to be distracting to some of us, but they also trust us to make sure it does not convert into lack of productivity. Our children are watching if we work or not. In fact, they will use this to make the right decision or to justify slacking off in the future and once again we will have to recognize they learned it from us.
Be Compassionate and Practice Love: If you are taking this time to do some Spring cleaning consider this as you do. When my kids were growing up I had a rule: “You must be fair and not only get rid of things you do not like, but also sacrifice things that you know other kids would like.” When we ask others to give up something we don’t like we really are not asking them to give up anything. When we ask others to share what they have we teach a very important principle, the principle of compassion and love. If you are home now going through closets and toys make no mistake you have a precious opportunity to teach children to share. To give the gift of a smile! Imagine being a child with less means and coming across a box of “unwanted” toys? Then again, imagine the smile of a child coming across a toy they really wanted! And as a bonus imagine your child knowing they made someone smile.
To Adapt or Not Adapt: Change is hard. Virus or not, change is hard! Life is unpredictable and as parents we must remember that as much as we do everything we can to keep our child’s world in order, life will happen! With that said the best thing we can do is to prepare them with the proper skills.
First of all we must communicate with our kids. Brushing off that something changed as “not a big deal” could be diminishing your child’s perception of the situation. No, we do not need to alarm or burden them with fear but we also cannot deny to them if they express that something big is happening.
As you talk with them, make sure you allow them to process how this is affecting them. Yes, we all know that people losing their jobs is a huge thing and maybe worrying about not having recess anymore shouldn’t matter, but the fact is that to our children it does! We must validate their feelings and understand their losses as well. The whole “when I was your age” line is not only antiquated but extremely ineffective when raising children.
Build a plan together! There is nothing more effective in parenting than collaborating with your child. As parents we bring the experience and love, but as children they bring the things we do not see. By having a plan together on how you will approach this time at home will give them a sense of ease and accomplishment as well. Do it however it works for your family best, maybe have daily conversations, maybe once a week. Whatever it is, this will teach your child that talking and having a plan when change occurs is always a solution to what may seem like a problem they cannot control.
Love like it was the last day! While this may sound like a tragic statement it is in fact the opposite! Showing our children love on a daily basis it’s of the essence to equip them to become responsible and productive adults. Love is always important but right now we have a chance to spend precious time with our children. Let us use it by giving them the most basic yet most important thing we as parents have: Love! Think about those parents who have to go to work or those who are in the hospital now. Or those that for whatever reason cannot be by their child’s side. That hug, that kiss, that pad on the back or the scratch on their little head you are not doing because you are stressed, mad or upset, make no mistake a parent near us is dying to be able to give! And worse a child is going to sleep without. So whatever it is that you do while we are home, make sure that you do not forget to love! Joke with your child! Tease your child! Surprise your child! Let them surprise you too! Yes, maybe them cooking is making a mess, but the clean up can be fun to do together too! Love is what we need and if you are a parent right now, you have the most pure and simple type as you look into your child’s eyes.
Miriam is a mother of three. She considers herself a bi-decade mom having a sophomore in college and a second grader in grade school she has experienced how the parenting experience evolves as you “grow” as a parent and as the times we live in change. Having been raised by two hands on and loving parents she understands the impact parenting has upon an individual, communities and the world as a whole. She does not know all the ins and outs of parenting, but she does know one thing: Whatever you do, if you do it with love, you are on the right track!