24 Mar COVID19: Kids at home? What can parents do?
Globally, we are in an unprecedented situation. Till now, we have enjoyed the fruits of a largely secular economic growth. This is a new one for all of us. As adults, we are learning how to make sense of it: how to manage video meetings; how to structure time; how to stay quarantine at home; and how to live with a stock market meltdown. It is hard. And, it is doubly hard for adolescents who have just started to make sense of the world.
Here is my four-step formula to navigate through the current crisis.
Step 1: It is hard
There is a need to acknowledge that we are in uncharted territory. We can’t step out; difficult to meet friends; no gym; no sport; no eating out. Once we appreciate the difficulty level, we can try to find a new normal. This is where parents can take charge and ask teenagers at home to voice their feelings. Kids are going through myriad emotions and articulating them help. We can talk about sense of confusion, anger, helplessness, sadness. They get to learn that it is fine to be vulnerable in a difficult time.
Step 2: Make a time table
In my professional work, we invite parents to look at the huge body of knowledge that is available to us about adolescent brain. The simple fact is that their Pre-Frontal Cortex is not fully developed. Young adults don’t understand the long-term consequence of their actions.
This is where parents can help. Parents can sit with kids and make a daily/ weekly calendar for them. The best advice available on making a time table is to fill the fun slots before fixing essential study time. It is counterintuitive. The parents want to focus on studies and kids want to have fun. Get the fun out of the way before seeking study commitment. Making a time table is just half the battle. It requires discipline and patience to implement it every day. Don’t be in a rush. There is going to be a gradual improvement. Give it time.
Step 3: Books, Music, Exercise: Ignite your creativity!
Let’s turn the current situation to an opportunity. There is not a smart person in this world who doesn’t read. Can we get ‘reading’ back to our homes? Nobody likes to read when Netflix is just a button away. And, that’s where reading needs to start with parents. But, how to read a 300-page book? Very simple! How to tackle any difficult task? The answer lies in breaking it in small parts. Read 10-15 pages every day and voila!
The other two – Music and Exercise – are simple to understand. Music is the best antidote available to us to lift our mood. Time to sing songs, play instruments, listen to some music. Or pick up that paint brush, craft glue or pen and let your imagination take over.
And, confinement doesn’t mean suspending physical activities. You need an active body as a prerequisite for an active mind. Do spot jump, pushups, plank hold, yoga anytime of the day. It is simple!
Step 4: But what to do about mobile phones?
I acknowledge, this is a difficult one. We all are struggling with the habit of excessive use of mobile phones. All WhatsApp groups are on overdrive on COVID19 and there is an information overload. We can’t process all the information that is thrown at us.
Let’s step back and look at the bigger picture. We are trying to manage our anxieties by burying ourselves in avalanche of information. Let’s find a healthy use of technology. We can all make an effort to look at mobile phone and messages after every two hours. Let’s discipline ourselves before asking our kids to leave their mobiles and focus on studies. Trust me, they will imitate our behavior. Whatever that may be!
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