By Ms. Fatema Agarkar, Educationist & Founder of ACE
Parenting comes with its own set of trials and tribulations, and the pandemic appears to have brought out the ‘worst-case’ scenarios for some in terms of their relationships with their children, and for many, they have emerged stronger. Often when the variables around them change – could be emotional, physical and in many cases financial, the behaviours exhibited change dramatically and drastically, and these are ‘straining’ times for families. The change does not have to be monumental; it could even be a minor alteration from the path or what was anticipated but the consequent reactions that families undergo on an account of it, adult and children remain long lasting. Parenting with every age group must work with the developmental changes a child undergoes but most often than not, it remains a strategy or an approach that worked historically at times but the anticipation that adults have is that will continue to be useful for any future course as well. Classic error! Owing to Corona, the bedrooms have become boardrooms, entertainment zones and essentially work has come into homes with periods of complete isolation that was not something that people could understand and cope with. For starters, accept these are the trying times and will continue to be in the next 15-18 months, till we become a world free of anxiety caused by this distraction single-handedly. For starters, accepting sometimes will be difficult, it is about how you handle the pressure and find some easy solutions.
As expressed previously, parenting is a dynamic phenomenon that takes effort, consistency and revision from time to time. Some quick strategies that help you get started:
Be it if you are angry at your house help or staff, work peer or even your spouse, conversations with raised voices and unpleasant tones and words, are not for public viewing or for family consumption. These are your private moments, so take a moment to settle those nerves and let there be private words exchanged. Chances are you will go back and apologize but the family around remains in the dark, and those words linger on without a rationale and become seeds for anxiety. No child enjoys an unhappy environment and one with tension makes them very unsettled to a point of withdrawal or their aggression when faced with similar pressures.
Private conversations devoid of body language attention are not ideal either, so be mindful. Perhaps taking a walk or a shower, or even watching a funny sitcom or listening to music would be a great way to blow off steam. You can excuse yourself and have a private conversation, this will work wonders for the family as the anxiety is not expressed overtly.
There’s saying that nothing said in anger or reacted to in anger has ever led to anything meaningful for anyone, so remember this before you express yourselves in front of the family.
Structure the conversations with clarity:
There may be occasions for ‘no escape’ at times, and these are the moments to brave up and explain yourself to family members and take a moment out to reassure them that you are in control. Transferring the fear on to them, or making them anxious means that you also have to worry about calming them down and the best solution is to remain consistent with the communication, honest about “fearing” something and also letting the loved ones know that often when faced with such challenges, there are also solutions and becoming anxious is no cause for concern.
Crisp communication and sticking to facts:
Remember, poor body language, using inappropriate comments, shouting, screaming and tensing up causes nothing but a loss of control for the family members around you. It’s best to have that private conversation with them, share your pain or suffering in a way that is normal and not ‘shy’ away simply because you think it will hurt them. Depending on their age group, you can always alter the extent of the content that you share – little ones do not need gory details and the older ones can be saved from this as well by structuring conversations as a friend. Remain calm, stick to stating facts and not the emotions around it and get over it. Act as you would lean on a friend, you are reaching out will be less threatening than watching you panic and lose control.
Always, follow this up with conversations that are light and change the mood by doing something as a family that you enjoy together, let them know that the world comprises of moments with different emotions and not everything is long-lasting. It’s what you do as an adult that matters to the children, and they want you to be reassured knowing that you are ok, so demonstrate that by being okay!
This world that we are experiencing is not a world devoid of ups and downs and often when it gets overwhelming, it is best to consult an expert or a professional to help seek guidance. They are trained hands and can guide, and sometimes it can simply take the pressure off!
Have a confidant handy to discuss:
If the route to an expert is not something you are comfortable with, ensure you have at least one or two confidantes – could be a peer or a family friend or even another adult in the family that will walk you through your stress so that you do not pass this on to the children. Their role is to enable you to vent, speaking about it helps immensely and a large part of what you say may help you find some answers.
Maintain a journal; read articles:
Sometimes, the best thing to do is to write down your thoughts. Research, time and time have emphatically documented that writing helps take away the ‘sting’. Technology today is an able stress-buster when you can read about how others have handled a particular crisis or a situation and learn from their journey. Be wary of the source though, and ensure these are authentic sites that you are reading from or chatting on.
Ensure that you maintain a healthy lifestyle
Fitness and sport are great stress busters as picking a hobby to get your mind off something for some time. ‘Park – it overnight or for a few days’ and getting the body to exercise, cooking or gardening can be super therapeutic and help you think through your problem with all the right hormones that rush in, and instantly put you in a better frame of mind to deal with a problem and that relieves your family from the burden of seeing you anxious.
These are some strategies that have worked for dealing with all kinds of challenges pre- and post-pandemic, and parenting isn’t a path of extreme surety because the children form a big part of that two-way communication so ensure that your relationship is healthy and open and you are able to compassionately listen and share with your children without ‘forcing’ it. This means you will have to have family routines and time together enjoying each other’s company and not simply ‘looking from each other’. It means building relationships and that takes time.