“My spouse and I realize that throughout this pandemic we have not kept great habits with ourselves or with our children. We have been allowing them way more sweets, video games, TV, and movie rentals. We’ve also noticed we have caved more often than normal by making online purchases for each of them. Are we spoiling them unintentionally? Why and what do we do?”
First, it’s important to realize what you are experiencing is normal. You have been sheltering in place for much of 2020. So much of our lives have been canceled and we’ve been shut off. “I’m bored” has always been a mantra parents hear from their children, but in today’s circumstances, it has been amplified. Prior to the pandemic, you may not have responded out of guilt but today, it’s easy to understand that parents may react differently.
You may worry that your kids have too much screen time or not enough structure. Your kids may be demanding more of your attention while you’re trying to balance working from home. You may feel guilty for being irritable and yelling at your kids, struggling with distance learning apps for their school work. You may feel guilty because your kids are missing out on activities, such as school sports, prom, graduation, or other important events. And, your kids may be reacting by throwing more tantrums, arguing and fighting more, or challenging your authority. So how to deal with feelings of guilt?
Relax! Breathe! Coronavirus is not your fault nor can you fix it. Social distancing is challenging for everyone, but it’s vital that you don’t let guilt take over your life. Instead, remember the cycle of change: Things in life are good, then things get difficult, and then things eventually bounce back.
When your child expresses their boredom or displeasure, take a moment before you respond with your credit card or another indulgence. I know it doesn’t help when social media makes it look like every day should resemble a Pinterest board. But the truth is that it’s okay for kids to be bored. In fact, boredom helps kids develop valuable skills. Boredom helps build tolerance, creativity, self-esteem, original thinking, develop planning strategies, problem-solving skills, flexibility, and organizational skills – key abilities that well-adapted adults need. However, it’s not the boredom itself that helps children acquire these skills — it’s what they do with the boredom.
Here are several ideas I found online:
- create a list of activities, challenges, or longer-term projects your children might enjoy
- create a daily schedule or routine
- Encourage your children to create their own daily schedule
- Play games and participate in activities with your child
- Have discussions with your child about whatever interests you and them
Praise your kids when they find something to do independently and ask them to share about their experiences. Believe it or not, your children want your attention. The longer they can engage you in a discussion even when they seem argumentative, the longer they have your attention. Focus on giving your child positive attention.
You don’t need to be perfect and your children do not need to live in a perfect world.
In fact, a slight amount of disappointment or frustration helps your child learn that life does not always conform to his or her wishes.
We don’t damage our children by being imperfect: Instead, we teach them that we may not be able to “fix” everything or to make it all better. This helps to set realistic goals and wellbeing during uncertain times. No one is perfect. Striving for perfection is impossible and unhealthy modeling for your children.
This perspective can help soothe your mind, body, and soul. We will all fail our children. It happens and it’s OK. Your kids will be OK. Cut yourself some slack.
Decide that you don’t need to be perfect. In the end, you will likely be a happier, more guilt-free parent. Take care of yourself. Find ways to decompress and take breaks. Call family or friends. Know when to reach out for help! Your Shield Bearer counselors are only a phone call away!