Parenting during a Pandemic
Kids are Sensitive
I believe that most children are quite sensitive. They can pick up on things even if those things are not spoken out loud. Most children are sensitive on an energetic level to what's going on in the world around them. It's important to keep this in mind because when we tap into the collective consciousness in our society (and world) right now, there is a lot going on. The tension, stress, uncertainty, anger and fear are palpable. There is no doubt in my mind that our kids feel it too, to varying degrees. As adults we have the ability to understand what's going on (in theory, at least. I don't know about you but at this point I feel I have more questions than answers) and because of this understanding it's easier for us to manage whatever emotions we might be experiencing in any given moment. Depending on the age of the child, this level of cognitive ability may not yet be developed. They may not understand why they can't see some of their friends in-person anymore, or why everyone is always wearing masks. Anytime there is uncertainty there is opportunity for fear to become the dominant experience.
Because of this I think that it's important to be mindful (again, depending on the age of the child) of how much, and what type of information we expose children to. You may decide that allowing your child to listen to the news with you isn't the best approach during this time. Or that sharing your own fears and concerns in an unfiltered way within ear shot of the kids isn't necessarily helpful. As with any topic that is sensitive or difficult I believe the best approach is to be honest (in an age-appropriate way) and clear. It's also okay to say that you don't know because at this point, many people feel that they don't know what's going on anymore.
I also think it's a good idea to be mindful of how we discuss topics like illness, health, viruses and the immune system with our kids. I've seen more cases of children's anxiety in my practice since this pandemic started than I have in all of my years of practice combined. My heart breaks to see how fearful children have become of natural (and important) processes like getting sick. Sadly, it's just one more way that our children are becoming further removed from Nature, and as a result, from themselves. The other important piece in all of this is that children's brains are essentially sponges between conception to approximately 10 years old. The messaging they receive in these early years sets the foundation for the unconscious belief systems they will hold for the rest of their lives. Knowing this, I believe that it is important to consider teaching them some of the following:
that their body and their immune system is brilliant, strong, resilient, and capable of healing (anything).
that viruses and bacteria are all around us, and in general, they help us to be healthier (think of your gut microbiome as just one example). Viruses and bacteria are not to be feared; rather they are to be understood and incorporated into our daily lives in a healthy, co-operative way.
Nature is truly abundant with powerful plants and other medicines that can help our bodies become stronger if they need a little extra support
Keep the lines of communication open
This is always true, but especially now. Make sure that your child knows that it's okay for them to talk to you about anything. They need to know that they can come to you if they're scared, if they're worried, or if they have any questions. It's remarkable how much healing can take place when someone has a space where they feel totally safe to share what's on their mind and their heart.
Support the Nervous System
Supporting your child's nervous system during this time is something that I recommend to everyone. Some of the best ways to do this include the following:
Maintain some form of routine. This may seem insignificant but routine allows the body and mind to predict what's going to come next. This can be profoundly helpful especially when the rest of the world around us feels, or is, uncertain.
Make sure your child is nutrient replete. I often recommend a high quality children's multivitamin for this purpose.
Get enough sleep.
Spend as much time in Nature as you can. This allows your child to exercise and also get all of the benefits that Nature offers the nervous system.
Keep blood sugar balanced. This is achieved by keeping processed sugar low (or zero if possible!) and consuming protein with each meal.
(If the child is open to it) Physical touch, cuddling, hugging, and gentle massage from a child's mother, father, or other primary caregiver can be very helpful to help calm a child's nervous system. It communicates a sense of love and releases oxytocin which promotes calmness, connection and relaxation. Rubbing ghee on a child's soles before bedtime is a very grounding activity that can sometimes help promote deeper and more restful sleep.
Take any opportunity to laugh and play. Both of these things are wonderfully healing and nourishing for a child. They also help to relax an overwhelmed nervous system.
Choose connection as often as you can. Instead of letting them play on an ipad or watching something on TV, see if they'd like to read a story together, or maybe they want to help you prepare dinner. At a time when we are forced to be isolated it's critical that we remain connected. As human beings our health and wellbeing (on every level) is highly dependent on meaningful connection.
Self Care is Key
Our children look to us for guidance and support and when we're stuck in a state of fear, worry or anger, our child will pick up on that. Lean on whatever support is available to you when you feel like you need a little TLC. Nourish your own nervous system, laugh, watch or read hopeful or encouraging material, take action in whatever ways feels empowering to you, etc.