Many parents are struggling with how best to balance being a mom or dad to their kids while also working. They’ve been saddled with the responsibility to care for their children full-time as coronavirus lockdowns have kept everyone home. Managing everything at once can be pretty stressful, especially if parents are disciplining their kids. Stress and anxiety can escalate during these trying times.
This pandemic is already taking its toll on parents, according to a recent study conducted by the University of Michigan. The online survey of 562 adults showed that over 52% said that self-isolating and financial worries were getting in the way of their parenting. About 61% of the respondents reported shouting, yelling, and screaming at their children at least once since secluding to their homes. This new normal is indeed a lot to take in for everyone, especially families.
The findings of the survey also found that 19% of the respondents said they were screaming more and 15% said they had increased their use of discipline during the pandemic. According to USA Today, about 1 in 6 parents reported having spanked or slapped their children during the crisis—with 11% saying they had done this multiple times.
Many experts are worried about the impacts of these parenting issues on children. Shawna Lee, associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan, said that children will have fewer adults to report any physical and mental abuse as they stay home from school in the weeks and months to come. "My concern is that kids are actually suffering and there are no adults there to help them out and intervene," she said. If you are one of those parents who need help disciplining their children, there are many parenting tips that can help you.
Use Positive Discipline
It’s difficult for many of us to process our uncertainty, fear, and anxiety during this pandemic. For kids, it is much more confusing to the point that they may be hard to manage. Experts say that there are several ways to help children manage their emotions and behavior. Redirecting their bad behavior is a good way. For instance, parents can encourage them to do fun activities such as drawing or playing.
To reinforce good behaviors, parents can use rewards and privileges by completing school assignments and chores, getting along siblings, and more. According to the World Economic Forum, an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas, using positive language and praising them when they have done well is also helpful.
Avoid Physical Punishment
It’s been proven from many studies that spanking, hitting, and other forms of physical or corporal punishment aren’t effective. Corporal punishment may take away a child's sense of safety and security at home, which are especially needed now. At the same time, this can increase their aggression and fail to teach them to behave or practice self-control. One of the ways to handle them is to instill consequences.
“Give your child a choice to follow your instruction before giving them the consequence. Once the consequence is over, give your child a chance to do something good, and praise them for it,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
Experts suggest creating a daily routine that will help kids stay busy and have something to do. Parents can aim for a mix of school-related activities and household chores. Encourage them to wake up and eat on time. Parents can even allow them to take outdoor breaks that adhere to physical distancing and public health guidelines. “Healthy habits help children and teens feel safe, especially during times of stress. The more normalcy people can bring into their lives, the better,” Erica Lee, Ph.D., a psychologist at Boston Children’s Department of Psychiatry, said.
Creating a daily routine for children gives them a sense of some purpose while they stay home during this pandemic. All children, including teens, benefit from routines that are predictable yet flexible enough to meet individual needs. For those who have a difficult time maintaining control, there’s effective advice to turn the situation around in your favor.
According to The Conversation, a network of not-for-profit media outlets that publish news stories written by academics and researchers, it would be helpful to use a “when-then” statement to maintain control. This could be done by telling them something like, “When you clean up the game, then you can choose an ice cream for dessert.”
Manage Media Consumption
With everything that’s circulating in social media, it’s easy for kids to get lost. They may encounter news or information that may frighten or confuse them. As parents, it’s their responsibility to help kids digest all of these pieces of information. Lee suggests talking to children about COVID-19 in supportive, developmentally appropriate ways and trying to keep it simple and clear.
It would also be helpful to assure them that this pandemic will end and you can work together to identify ways to feel better. At the same time, parents can limit their media access and frequent updating of news feeds.
Be Generous with Affection
Experts recommend that parents spend their time comforting their children as it is a powerful way to manage stressful events. Even if kids don’t show their feelings, many of them want to be comforted that everything’s going to be okay, and that this pandemic will soon end. You can connect in old or new ways — make meals together, play games, or watch movies.
Keneisha Sinclair-McBride, Ph.D., a psychologist at Boston Children’s Department of Psychiatry, said that it’s also important to give yourself and your children alone time. Parents can plan solo time when everyone can go to their own room or a quiet space for at least half an hour for an appropriate activity.
“If you can’t be with your child for a short time, remind them, ‘Even though we’re not together physically, we’re here for each other’. There’s also a bright side of our current situation for shared custody families: establishing new ways to connect during this time can positively shape your relationships for years to come,” Sinclair-McBride said.