Parenting in a Pandemic
As we re-enter this school year, does anyone else feel the unrelenting black cloud of you know what?! Yep, we are going to talk about it. Covid.
I didn’t want to bring it up here, because I'm sure you are TIRED of seeing it everywhere, but after having a personal experience with it in our home, I need to put this out there.
First and foremost, I want to acknowledge the bravery of educators, medical professionals, first responders and everyone who is faced with increased exposure everyday. We need you, our children need you, and if you haven’t heard it lately, we are beyond grateful to you. I continue to pray for your safety, as well as the safety of all of us.
We are a family of five. As I write this, three out of the five of us are Covid positive. One of us is high risk and is still negative, so we are doing our best to distance and wear masks - as we’ve been advised to do.
It has become VERY apparent to me that our children have been bearing this burden much deeper than we may understand. They may not FULLY comprehend what or why we have to distance.
Imagine, I mean truly put yourself in your 4 or 5 year old child's shoes and imagine: mommy and daddy show you love and affection every single day; then all of a sudden, after a doctor appointment, we can’t do that for several days “to be safe.” But safety to a child feels like running to mom and dad's arms when they are scared or sick, or just need love. So if that’s what safety feels like…. If that’s what communicates love, what does this communicate? Can they truly comprehend this?
Our personal experience: this is crushing for our children, especially those that are 5 and under.
Listen to your children for cues like, "I’m lonely” or, “I’m sad that we aren’t in school.” And not just once, but if they are mentioning it repeatedly, this is a major red flag.
Maybe they are lashing out and being highly disrespectful, or showing signs of immense frustration. This is a red flag, too. They might not be able to accurately verbalize their sadness about the situation.
I am not a doctor, psychologist, or anything fancy. I am simply a mother who has witnessed her own children tough it out last year like champs, but round two, and having Covid hit directly home, has challenged us even more. And I just want to give you a heads up if you haven’t experienced this yet. Lead with love, anchored in patience, my friend.
So what can we do in this specific situation? How do we keep our kids home all day long, and stick to our values of not being consumed by screens and stay safe? My advice, from our personal experience:
- do not under any circumstances make a covid positive child FEEL dirty or like they have a disease. That includes not allowing siblings to make them feel that way either by enforcing distance or mask wearing, should you be advised to do that in your home. (And for the record - when there are toddlers - that’s nearly impossible! My personal opinion is this could be more damaging mentally than any virus could be.)
- Help them understand what’s happening and why we are keeping some distance for now. Draw a picture - especially if you have a child who is a-symptomatic and doesn’t understand that they could spread ‘invisible germs’. Draw stick figures and the little cloud bubbles above each person who has Covid. Write their symptoms, and if the child has no symptoms, leave it blank. Explain to the child that they have invisible symptoms, which means that we could still share germs even though we can’t see them as a fever or hear them as a cough.
- Get on a schedule to spend as much time outside, unmasked, as possible. Try to eat meals together outside. Connect and remind one another that you can get through anything as a family! #familystrong
- Have Fun! Yep, even in the stress of it all, dig deep and have fun! Don’t ‘entertain’ your children but teach them to seek JOY in everyday. Teach them that we are never truly ‘alone’ that God is ALWAYS with us!
- Make up some lyrics to one of your child's favorite songs, such as the tune of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" from Disney's Frozen. Go knock on their door and sing: “Do you want to have a playdate? Do you want to go outside? I suggest you get your shoes on….to go have some fun...come on it’s time to play!!!!”
- Go on a scavenger hunt for rocks in the yard and then paint them! Or place the rocks in a shoebox with paper taped to the bottom, let the child squirt in some paint, close the box and let them shake it (you may need to help them keep it closed). Remove the piece of paper at the bottom for some unique art to hang up in their bedroom.
- Order flowers via a friend or Instacart and let them ‘open a flower shop.’ Allow them to make a mess and get creative! Pull all your vases and let them trim and make floral arrangements to have in their room.
- Facetime with a grandparent who asks them to draw a picture for them and send it in the mail.
- Print a calendar to countdown when they can go back to school if you have a child deeply. This visual is very helpful because it provides structure and goal focus.
- Order bubbles- this is hours of fun outside!
- Create a little space outside under some shade for an art center. Have chalk or tempura paint on hand for easy clean-up with water. You could have a bin with water beads or Play-Doh nearby as well.
In the 20 days we were home, I couldn’t deny my children the love they needed during this time. I just couldn’t do it. This is so hard for them and some families are faced with even more difficulties and greater illness. And I’m sorry, but if I’m going to get sick and God calls me home, then I will go with my kids knowing that I wasn’t afraid; I had faith in my God who knows my days, I loved my children ferociously, and I showed up strong for my family, serving them with my whole heart.
My thoughts and prayers go to every family that is loving and parenting children with all sorts of different needs. From children with speech impairments who need to see people's faces, to children with suppressed immune systems that are highly susceptible to this illogical virus.
I pray that God gives each of us wisdom and discernment to lead our families and comfort our children, as they may be struggling with all this more than we know. I pray for the teachers who aren’t giving up, who are still showing up for these children who deserve a bright future and have a God-given purpose. I pray for the fear to calm, for us to feel the same peace that the Disciples did when Jesus stepped off the boat and walked on the water. Knowing God, You are the one who is truly in control; please calm any fear. Please continue to protect everyone and restore this place we call home. Amen.
I want to remind you of a phrase we use often here at Family Strong Project...and when faced with a difficult decision...simply ask yourself, "What is the best, most loving thing I can do for me and my family right now?”
Click here for a personal message from me, Mandy Zehnder, and 3 Ways to CONNECT with your children during a Quarantine.