As I sit down to write this blog, I really wish I had "the answer." Over the last 6 months I have spoken with hundreds of parents who are exhausted, unproductive, frustrated, and hopeless about how they will ever succeed at being a good parent and a good employee while trying to do both simultaneously from home. At the same time they are treasuring the moments they would have missed before... first steps and long chats, watching the miracles that are our children as they figure things out each day. For parents, we throw our hands into the air with frustration, only to find our children running into our open arms. Both things are true at the same time.
In these blog posts, we try to give you some suggestions or tips to make your life easier or at least more meaningful. To that end let's talk about the concept "good enough parenting." This idea comes out of attachment theory and child development (two of my favorite topics). Attachment theory a set of concepts that explain the emotional bond between an infant and primary caregiver and the way in which this bond affects the child’s development into adulthood. Research shows that parents of securely attached children are only attuned to their baby/child about 30% of the time. That is, the parents can miss cues 70% of the time, but if it is in the context of a whole, loving relationship, it is still a secure relationship. This doesn't just apply to parents of infants. For your child to grow up to be healthy and resilient, you just have to be a good enough parent, not a perfect parent.
So how can you make sure you are a good enough parent? Here are some suggestions:
1- Spend time every day (could be as little as 10 minutes) with your child where your child decides what you will do.
For young children you can phrase it as "I am going to set the timer for 30 minutes and we will do whatever you want to do." For older kids or teens, "let's do something that you think is fun together, what would you like to do?" During this time, avoid teaching, correcting, or interfering (except for safety) and let you child/teen direct what you are doing. You can comment on it- think of watching a sport and the announcer commenting on the action.
2- Make sure your child/teen has a routine.
Anxiety is greatly reduced with predictability and now is a time we all need our anxiety reduced.
3- Listen more than you talk.
Approach conversations with your child/teen with curiosity. Try to learn all you can. Ask non-judgemental questions occasionally. If you have a very young child, the same applies.
4- Schedule restorative time for you.
Our parenting is only as good as our own mental health. If you are stressed, tired, short-tempered and cranky, it will impact your child far more than you disappearing for an hour to go on a run. Think about what gives you energy and find a way to get these things in every day. Ten minutes for your child and 10 minutes for you is a good place to start, even when it feels like you couldn't possibly take on one more thing!
Finally, ask friends, family, neighbors and co-workers for help. These are unprecedented times and you don't have to do it alone.