Mental health affects the way people think, feel and act. Needless to say this includes parents as well. It is an age old adage that parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about but the hardest thing to do. It is highly rewarding yet extremely daunting. The pandemic has rapidly and drastically altered the definition of normal. With upended daily routines it is common for parents to be worried about coping with change and stress.
Parents have an important role to play in the impressionable mental health of their child during the pandemic. Children look at their parents for answers and explanations. With an overload of information available it is sometimes very difficult to deal with the mix of emotions that uncertainty provokes.
Fundamentally a child is affected by how a mental health condition affects the parents behaviour and the extent to which it affects positive parenting and familial relationships. Children are extremely sensitive to a parents mood and can easily pick up on non verbal cues. What is most important is to encourage open dialogue about feelings and destigmatize asking for help when required. It is important to give as much reassurance and support as possible to your child.
This however, does not mean neglect of self care of the parent. A parent must always carve out time when necessary for recuperation for themselves. The goal is neither perfection nor achieving optimum productivity, but, rather emotional and physical wellness.
A few ways in which good mental health can be maintained during these testing times are
Developing a routine : Children find routines reassuring. Develop and customize a routine that works for the whole family. Sometimes the answer can be having no routine at all!
Pick your battles : Choose specific praise of desirable actions rather than minutely focussing on the undesirable ones. Frequent negative feedback can affect your child's self esteem.
Communication is vital : Open communication with your child is essential to foster a sense of security. Through an open dialogue engage in compassion and mindfulness.
At the end of the day it's the small steps that help. Acknowledge your child's experience and lead them towards healing. There are no easy answers and it takes a concerted effort from parents to inculcate values that will help the child cope and thrive in these extraordinary circumstances.