While it is good to appreciate how others manage, set your own goals as a family, says Fatema Agarkar.
Last year, the country-wide lockdown showed us what disruptions are all about.
Homes turned into WFH office spaces.
Bedrooms became makeshift classrooms.
Devices began to be shared for office work, school work and recreation.
And, suddenly, tried-and-tested methods of parenting no longer worked.
Pre-pandemic parenting had the liberty of shifting some of the responsibility to the school, the classes that children were enrolled in and the play dates that were organised. As a result, both parents and children had the 'personal space' they needed.
That, in the pandemic world, disappeared, increasing the sense of frustration among both adults and children.
More than a year later, things are not easier. Parents, the best thing you can do is consider this a 'forced' adventure.
Keep your family's well-being your priority.
Be compassionate towards what your children are experiencing.
Pay attention to your feelings as well.
As adults, our conditioning over a period of time allows us to 'manage' our emotions. Unfortunately, children are a 'work-in-progress' and do not have the same ability. Therefore, they need a role model. They also need direction, tons of patience and lots of unconditional love.
While this may sound easy, it's not.
We don't know when this 'forced adventure' will end. To survive, you need to create short-term and long-term goals that will keep your ship afloat.
Here are some tips that will help. Some are inspired from the tried-and-tested methods of parenting. Some are new.
1. Set up a routine
Every educator has been emphasising the need to create some sort of routine for your children.
Children thrive when given freedom. But remember, they need to structure that in a way that allows them some purpose as well.
Over the years, as a mother and an educator, I find that children feel 'comforted' when given freedom, but also need direction, a path and some goals to achieve.
It allows them to think and plan and gives them a sense of ownership and responsibility. This could be something as simple as the fun exercises you do with them every Sunday after watching their favourite serial.
It is important that the environment is relaxed and not rushed, and Sunday -- devoid of work tasks (please keep them away) and school routines -- works best.
Think of this as a 'contract' between your child and you.
Defining the 'week's goal' will help both parties to have clarity and reduce the disappointments that usually arise when a parent 'expects' something and the child has totally missed the point because she/he was not paying attention.
This routine would include negotiations on screen time, play time, study time, reading time, eating time, exercise time, bath time, tidying up time, TV time, etc.
I use the word negotiation because this cannot be a one-way street with you dictating when they should eat, sleep, etc.
It involves a dialogue. You need to explain your points and be open-minded about their suggestions to get their buy-in.
As adults, you can navigate this conversation towards what you would eventually like it to be, but involving children in a discussion makes them listen and also locks them in.
2. Have consequences for actions
Have clear consequences when the routine is compromised. I do not mean that half-an-hour of extra playtime means they are denied their favourite meal.
What I mean is that, for resistance to give up screen time for extended periods for example, there must be '3 strikes' after which the child automatically accepts that there will be consequences for 'pushing' the deadline cut-off.
The importance of being consistent is also a clear sign for children and must be adhered to. Often parents give in and this sets the battleground when parents decide they no longer want to bend the rules.
This approach leads to fewer confrontations and tears because, once the child has consented to something, she/he is aware that there will be consequences.
Do, however, expect some resistance and pleading and, some times, mood swings.
But children get over this very quickly when they realise their parents mean business!
3. Set your own expectations as a family
I cannot emphasise this enough.
While I am a huge advocate for sensible use of social media, parents at times use posts as comparisons.
It's the online version of what happens on social chats, when parents share notes with each other about their children.
What works for your family is unique to your household's circumstances. Do not make the mistake of thinking it can be modelled along the lines of what someone else is doing.
This is a huge trigger point for conflicts in homes. While it is good to appreciate how others manage, set your own goals as a family.
Laughter and plain old monkeying around is very important to keep the mood light and lively. This also works wonders for acceptance levels when parents have to set deadlines.
A happy, joyful, atmosphere is important especially with the kind of overwhelmingly sad news that is reported every day.
Your job as a parent is to keep your children safe and happy and keep their morale up.
They do not need to know all the facts of the world. This leads to anxiety, which is another trigger point for tantrums as children get worried and are unable to always express their feelings through words.
5. Know your child
Knowing the pulse of your children -- what works and what does not -- must be your biggest driving force.
Leave the academic goals aside for a moment. Know what makes your child happy, what is confusing your child, what is tiring your child, what is difficult for your child...
Watch out for signs of behavioural change, an academic dip or even emotional indifference. It is very important to spot the signs and address them quickly.
When you are not able to manage emotions as a family, it is always better to get professional help. Reach out to the professional you need -- be it your child’s teacher or a therapist for intervention.
6. Have you 'distanced'?
Ensure that the time you spend with your child involves quality interactions.
Also ensure that your child manages some time independently. Explain that you have household chores or work tasks or need to connect with family or friends (this is important for them to know so that they also put a price on these relationships).
This 'distancing' is healthy. The lockdown demands every minute of your energy. It is unrealistic to believe you can sustain like a superhuman. Distancing allows for personal time, providing you with the oxygen you need.
When your personal 'quotient' is in a happy place, it allows you to give your child attention and energy, which is a good memory for them to have.
You would not want them to remember a parent who is drained due to work tasks or emotional about an unwell friend who is leaning on them for support. What might happen then is that the child might exhibit similar behaviour in response to a situation or something that you say and you will feel your child is acting out.
We hope these tips will help you through the months ahead. Remember, no parent has a complete fix on this. No child is perfectly going to follow all rules.
All one can do as a family is make the relationship about communication, mistakes, corrections and funny and happy memories.
Educationist Fatema Agarkar is the founder of the Agarkar Centre of Excellence.
*Kindly note the image has only been posted for representational purposes.