As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, parents everywhere are scrambling to find their family’s new normal. Although you can’t control the outside world, there are things you can do to make home feel like a safe space for your family to adapt and grow, and, even emerge more connected because of this experience. It starts with giving yourself some grace for being human, and then extending some compassion towards your children because they’re immature and their behaviour may be out of sorts. Here are a few gentle reminders that you probably need to hear right now:
1. My child’s behaviour isn’t always a reflection of my parenting skills.
Just because you can’t always direct your child doesn’t mean that you’re a parenting failure. It means you’re still learning how to interact with them in their current developmental state, and they’re still working toward developing self-control. Keep your focus on what’s going on for them, take a deep breath, and remind yourself: “My child is doing the best they can and so will I.”
2. My child can’t help interrupting me.
Are your Zoom meetings being punctuated by cries for attention from little ones? Sure, it can be frustrating, but know that your children are simply not yet developmentally capable of stopping themselves from interrupting you. Admonishing them for their rudeness might temporarily suspend their efforts, but it’s not going to address their preeminent need for connection. Coming down harshly on a young child for interrupting doesn’t address what’s driving them to interrupt. If anything, it works against what they’re trying to get right now: more connection.
3. Children don’t only want to play, they need to play.
You may be stressing about the homeschooling you’re supposed to be doing, but what some parents don’t always realize is young children learn best through play. Play is not a waste of time. Every minute a child spends immersed in creative, expressive play they’re building the brain they will one day use at school and at work. When a child gets to play, they naturally learn because they are having fun. It doesn’t occur to a young child that learning is a desirable outcome of their enjoyment—and that’s a very good thing. They simply play for the sake of playing.
4. It’s okay to not like my child some of the time.
Tired, frustrated, or desperate parents sometimes have mixed feelings about their children—and that’s totally normal. When you find yourself feeling that you don’t particularly like your child, take a moment to check in with what’s going on for you, and recognize that you’re temporarily stuck in your head. You’re being flooded with frustration and it’s dampening the caring feelings you have for your child. By acknowledging your frustration before it overwhelms you, you’ll be empowered to see that it’s not really your child you dislike, it’s how you’re feeling about yourself that you’re reacting adversely to.
5. Tantrums are gifts in disguise. Really.
Tantrums are loud and upsetting because they’re emotionally uncomfortable for the child, who is bumping up against the futility of what they can’t have, can’t do, or can’t change. The realization of not being able to change what is, is very hard for them, but our being there to help them navigate their upset is what empowers them to be transformed by that which they cannot change. With every tantrum comes the opportunity for parents to softly draw out their children’s sadness and tears in the aftermath of their upset. Each time we do, we promote a little more resilience in the young child who, over time, comes to see that they can and do survive not having things their way. That’s a gift.
6. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent.
No matter how hard we try or how desperately we want to be perfect, it just won’t happen because we’re human. Most of us already know this, but some of us still struggle to let go of the idea of parenting perfection because we can sense the potential within us to become more of who we’re capable of being. Releasing the notion of being perfect isn’t about giving up your aspirations. It’s about fine-tuning them so you can develop clear intentions and get on with the job of showing up for your children in all your imperfection, rather than wasting your energy thinking about how you’re not the perfect parent.
Bridgett Miller is a Vancouver-based educator, remedial therapist, presenter and parent consultant. She is an Authorized Facilitator of the Neufeld Institute and the author of What Young Children Need You to Know: How to see them so you know what to do for them (May 4, 2020).
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