To Keep or Not to Keep: Child-Centered Parenting in a Health Pandemic
Oh no, the Pandemic is still going on. Everyone over the age of 12 s the option to get vaccinated. Many states have loosened or completely removed their mask mandates. Travel, entertainment, sports, and all the other extracurricular activities we enjoyed are available to us once again. Children and youth are returning to school.
Yes, I said it, young people all across the country, during the months of August and September are returning to school. While we want to encourage our young people to assume some type of norm, the reality is that things are not normal yet. So let’s take some time to think about how parenting support may differ this school year.
Let’s enter this conversation through the lens of “Child-Centered Parenting.” In short, “child-centered parenting” encourages parents and guardians to allow the child’s needs to drive parenting decisions. The challenge with this approach has always been the capacity to weigh what is a child’s need and what is a child’s choice. When household leaders truly focus on the needs of a child, this approach to parenting becomes extremely empowering.
The challenge is that personal guilt, reflections from our own childhood, this desire for our children to avoid bad, scary, or harm, and our desire to always shower our young people with love often clouds our ability to separate the needs from the wants. And what ends up happening is that the balance of authority is slanted too heavily toward the child leaving the child without the support and security needed to foster healthy development.
In this time and season, I want to encourage parents to reconsider what each child in their home truly needs. Young people throughout the country will be battling decisions about what is safe and what isn’t. They will be living through a first semester of uncertainty as we await to see how the rise in Delta-variant COVID cases influences the recommended safety precautions for schools. They will be adjusting to being in close proximity with their peers and navigating the reality that some of their peers reside in homes with vaccination practices different from theirs. With this, comes a different emotional and mental struggle than our children have adapted to in years past. Some of our children will be able to self-navigate, while others will need their parents, grandparents, babysitters, and loved ones, to help them find the means of survival.
Here are some components I love to see in a household routine, that help during times of transition:
Quiet time - Regardless of the age of the child, giving the child and the parents a designated amount of time to exist in a quiet space, helps to recalibrate the emotional capacity.
Quality meals - what we put inside our bodies influences the type of energy we give off. Ensuring that meals are balanced and filled with nutrient-rich components will aid in giving our young people the capacity to live each day at their best potential.
Free time - Let the pressure off. Give your household members time each day to just be free. No competition, no grade, no expected performance, just some time to add an element of pleasure to the day.
Positive social interaction - Make sure your child is having time outside of the classroom to connect with peers. Whether it is one other family or a group of friends agreeing to keep each other safe during the pandemic, all of our young people need meaningful social time where they can laugh, process, and connect with others their age. I’m not necessarily recommending structured extracurricular activities here, but those loose social interactions that take place in the park, at a cookout, or during birthday parties.
Regardless of what components you add to or emphasize this year, make sure your young people know that you have the skills to guide them through this season and that they are not alone in trying to figure out how to navigate everything happening around them. While we may not know how COVID may impact this year, we do know that our children can succeed. Let’s hone in on their needs to really ensure they have the tools to progress this year.