For a full list of COVID-19 parenting resources and tips from Shauna Tominey, visit: https://beav.es/4Np
CORVALLIS, Ore. — When schools started closing their doors to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, parents nationwide suddenly found themselves trying to home-school their children, work from home, and keep everyone fed and clothed while maintaining some semblance of sanity.
Two early childhood researchers at Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences are offering guidance for how to make the best of these challenging times.
“We’re in new territory right now — for all of us,” said parenting education specialist Shauna Tominey, an assistant professor of practice at Oregon State and state coordinator for the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative (OPEC). “We have to stop and recognize that we’re all experiencing more stress than usual, children and adults alike.”
All that new stress and the disruption of routine means that both children and adults are running short on sleep, she said, which tips us more easily into “fight, flight, or freeze” mode and makes us more likely to say and do things we don’t feel good about. To minimize those situations:
When confrontations occur, Tominey says, use them as teaching moments: Tell your child you feel badly about what you did, explain why you were feeling so angry or frustrated (without blaming them), ask how they were feeling and brainstorm together about how to avoid future conflicts.
“Going through this process helps teach your child that we all have feelings and that’s okay,” she said.
While it’s important to be honest about how you’re feeling, it’s also crucial to make sure kids know what you’re doing to manage the anxiety. Help them devise their own coping strategies, such as:
Parents should also talk with their kids about the importance of handwashing and social distancing, as well as healthy eating habits and sleeping.
Going forward, Tominey advises that parents work on setting up a routine for themselves and their children; that they focus on flexibility, differentiating between the “must-haves” and the “nice-to-haves;” and that they keep realistic expectations for their children and themselves, and can forgive each other when those expectations are not met. A daily gratitude practice can help, too.
Parents of children with developmental disabilities may be facing additional challenges right now, including need for respite, keeping schedules, and adhering to medical and behavioral needs, said Megan MacDonald, an associate professor and the Early Childhood Core Director at the Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families at Oregon State.
As for explaining to kids what is happening in the world right now, MacDonald said parents know their own children best and can make this decision based on their specific needs, though there are guidance documents available.
Physical activity is crucial right now for both physical and mental health, she said — though families must obviously adhere to local social distancing restrictions. It’s also good to give kids choice in what movement they engage in, whether it’s walking around the block outside or following a yoga video indoors. In addition, Special Olympics has a website of adaptable at-home exercises, with instructions for what materials you’ll need to perform them: https://www.specialolympics.org/school-of-strength
And parents, remember to take care of yourself, MacDonald said.
“Take a few minutes every day to check-in with yourself and acknowledge the work you’re doing to take care of you and your family,” she said. “You’ve got this!”
About the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences: The only accredited college of public health in Oregon, the college creates connections in teaching, research and community outreach while advancing knowledge, policies and practices that improve population health in communities across the state and beyond.