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How do I know if I’m doing a good enough job parenting my young kids in the midst of a pandemic?

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Am I messing up the relationship with my children by ignoring them (and being frustrated) when I’m trying to work from home with them?

“Good enough parenting” is a term that’s been around in child development literature for some time. It came from early theories that parents (mostly mothers) just needed to be good enough – not perfect – in their parenting to meet children’s developmental needs.

Another way to think about it is to understand that most parents only need to get it ‘right’ most of the time when it comes to their children. Making some mistakes as a parent was believed to be important so that children would develop their own coping abilities and skills.

The additional stress that most families are experiencing now gives many kids the chance to develop additional resiliency – because we know that some stress is required for children to be able to grow and take on challenges in the future.

Positive parenting practices are as important as ever right now in order to help maintain strong relationships between children and parents. Many of the positive parenting strategies are easy to apply – and no parent has to get it right every time. There will be times that children will be ignored (which gives them a chance to try and entertain themselves) and you will be frustrated (which gives them a chance to see that adults can have strong emotions and then calm themselves down).

Some useful tips for positive parenting include:

  • Amplify loving behaviours, affection and reminders that your kids are loved and secure
  • Using the extra observation time to catch your kids doing something right and praise, praise, praise
  • Practice modelling pro-social behaviour (i.e., taking turns in games)
  • Keep up with rules, structure and predictability of home life (i.e., bedtimes, expectations at the dinner table and observing quiet times)
  • Use consequences and rewards to shape behaviours (e.g., if you can get your homework sheet done, then we can celebrate with TV time)
  • Engage in play when possible – think bite-size, small moments where your attention is on your child and a shared activity
  • Listen, empathize and keep an “open door” to hearing about your child’s feelings and frustrations

And look for chances for special time. You might need to get creative when a family is ‘isolating’ together to ensure each child has a chance for some one-on-one time with a parent or other caregiver

Again, not all stress is bad stress. In order to become resilient, kids need to develop real-world skills – ideally, in a safe environment. Don’t worry if you can’t be on the clock 24 hours a day.

 

Positive parenting practices are as important as ever right now in order to help maintain strong relationships between children and parents.

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