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Being a parent in Corona times

Tips for parents to cope with the challenges involved

Here you will find a short summary of tips based on information from the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief, the World Health Organization and Unicef as well as the Professional Association of Austrian Psychologists:

Closing schools and kindergartens is also an opportunity to intensify relationships with your children and young people. Special time makes children feel like they are important and loved.

 

Make some time for each child each day. Ask your child what they would like to do and join in. Give him your full attention.

Ideas for that special time with young children
  • Sing songs, make music yourself (e.g. with drums, flute, pots, spoons)
  • Telling stories, reading a book
  • Turn on happy music and dance together
  • Play with building blocks
  • Go for a walk outside or in the apartment
  • Cooking together
  • Play hide and seek
  • Cuddling, tickling
Ideas for spending time with school children and teenagers
  • Help with homework
  • Talk about something your child likes, such as Sports, music, television, celebrities, friends
  • Dance together to your child's favorite music
  • Do sports together (outside or inside), your child can choose what to do.

Your child will notice that many things are different. Talk to your children about the current situation in an age-appropriate manner. That gives security.


You can use the information for children (see above) and watch a video together and then talk about it.

Be open and listen

Be open and listen to your children. Ask open-ended questions and find out how much it already knows.

Be honest

Answer your child's questions honestly. Secrets and lies are not helpful. Remember how old your child is and what they can understand. It's okay if you don't know some of the answers yourself.

Provide emotional support

Your child may be scared or confused. Give them space to express their feelings and let them know that you are there for them (e.g. through words, cuddles, hugs)

Help your child comply with hygiene rules and keep a safe distance
  • Wash hands: Remind your child to wash their hands regularly and thoroughly. Find out together how long 20 seconds are (e.g. by looking at the clock together). You can also think of a song for washing your hands for (at least) 20 seconds. Praise your child for washing their hands regularly.
  • Keeping a safe distance: Explain to your child why it is important to keep a safe distance from people outside your household. Look together to see how much 2 meters is. Remind your child to keep their distance if necessary and praise them for doing so.
  • Be the role model: keep safe distances and hygiene rules yourself!

The virus has changed daily routines through school, kindergarten or work. It can help to create new corona structures. Establish a uniform, flexible daily structure, this gives security and helps your children. Create a weekly schedule for you and your child - like a class schedule:

 

  • Set up a daily family mini crisis team, for example in the morning, and discuss: How is each individual, who needs what, what ideas and wishes do the individuals have for the day.
  • Plan clear times for studying and for free time.
  • Define clearly delimited times when everyone is busy alone.
  • Do activities together (e.g. special time with each child, meals together).
  • Give every family member opportunities to retreat in order to prevent or reduce conflict.
  • Provide daily physical activity for all family members. This helps reduce stress.
  • Limit the time you spend watching TV, cell phone or computer with the child.
  • Give your child simple household chores that they can handle.
  • They are a model for your child's behavior. If you follow the daily routines, it will be easier for your child too.
  • At the end of each day, take some time to talk briefly about the day. Tell your child about a nice or fun thing they did. Praise yourself for what you did well today.

Young people in particular need an exchange with their friends. Help your child speak to their friends from a safe distance, e.g. via social media or the phone.

 

Accept if your child is currently more affectionate or needy than usual. They need security now. Children are more likely to do what we want them to do when we give them positive direction and a lot of praise for what they do right.


Praise your child when he or she has behaved appropriately or done something well. It can also be small things (e.g. your child was busy alone while you were on the phone). This motivates your child to show the behavior more often.

All children misbehave at times. This is normal when children are tired, hungry, or anxious. This can be very exhausting, especially when everyone is stuck together at home. However, punishments such as yelling or physical punishment are ineffective and harm your child.

 

Give clear instructions!

It will help your child if you tell them exactly what to do. For example, "Put your toys back in the box" instead of "Stop doing this nonsense!" Speak in a calm voice. Screaming will only make you and your child more stressed and angry. Praise it when it does what you ask.

Be Realistic!

It's hard for a child to be quiet inside all day and not be able to see friends. Have realistic requirements for your child. It may not keep itself busy all day, but maybe 15 minutes while you are on an important phone call.

Rules

Establish clear rules together for living together with Corona. A daily schedule, for example, helps here (see above). In addition, other rules can help to avoid conflicts (e.g. we speak in a calm voice; if I need a break, I will let you know early enough). Remember, you are the role model for your child in following the rules!

React early!

Stop your child's unfavorable behavior before it starts! If your child starts to get restless or whimpering, distract them with something interesting or fun: "Come on, we'll go out together" or "Come on, we'll cook something delicious together."

Consequences

Consequences help teach children to take responsibility for their own actions. They enable you to respond appropriately to your child's behavior. Give your child a clear instruction (see above), and then give them the opportunity to follow the instructions before the consequence follows. Make sure you can face the consequences. For example, taking the phone away from a teenager for a week is hard to hold out. Taking it away for an hour is more realistic and effective. Stay calm when you face the consequences. Then give your child the opportunity to do something good. When they return to their appropriate behavior, praise them.

Taking a break!

Taking a break can be helpful if you are annoyed with your child. It gives you the opportunity to be calmer. Take a 10 second break. Inhale and exhale slowly five times. Then try to react more calmly.

Take care of yourself so that you can support your child well. You can find information and tips for yourself here: Information for adults

 

The current situation is a great challenge for all people. No one is perfect and everyone is doing their best. Pay attention to the positive - for yourself and others!

 


You can find more detailed information here:

The professional association of Austrian psychologists has put together tips on how families can survive isolation at home together. You can download the information sheet here: https://www.sozialministerium.at/Informationen-zum-Coronavirus/Die-Corona-Krise-gut-ueberhaben.html.

Tips for parents from the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief: https://www.bundesgesundheitsministerium.de/fileadmin/Dateien/3_Downloads/C/Coronavirus/Handreichung_COVID-19_Tipps_fuer_Eltern.pdf.

The association "Friends for Life" provides information on the topics of suicide and mental health. On page there is also an overview of telemedicine offers.
https://www.frnd.de/corona/

Leaflets with tips for parenting during the corona crisis can be downloaded in different languages from the English website https://www.covid19parenting.com


The parenting program Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) has put together helpful materials for parents in the corona crisis (Link: https://www.triplep-eltern.de/de-de/mit-triple-p-starten/covid-19-tipps-fuer-eltern-und-andere-bezugspersonen-kinder-durch-unsichere-zeiten-begleiten/). This includes a free parenting guide with concrete recommendations for everyday life with your child (download link: Triple P guide (PDF, 6 pages). There is also a podcast series on the subject of parenting during the pandemic with Prof. Matt Sanders (founder from Triple P) in English: https://pfsc.psychology.uq.edu.au/parentinginapandemic.

The German Society for Psychology has put together tips for parents for various challenges that can arise in connection with the restrictions in everyday family life. These include difficulty falling asleep, changes in children's moods or behavior (e.g. children are anxious, aggressive, or bored). More information can be found here: https://psychologische-coronahilfe.de/hilfen-fuer-familien/


Sources

Bundesamtes für Bevölkerungsschutz und Katastrophenhilfe (2020). "COVID-19: Tipps für Eltern”. Verfügbar unter: https://www.bundesgesundheitsministerium.de/fileadmin/Dateien/3_Downloads/C/Coronavirus/Handreichung_COVID-19_Tipps_fuer_Eltern.pdf [27.03.2020].

Berufsverband Österreichischer PsychologInnen BÖP (2020). Informationsblatt "COVID-19: Wie Sie häusliche Isolation und Quarantäne gut überstehen“. Verfügbar unter: https://www.boep.or.at/download/5e71d59d3c15c85df5000028/20200317_COVID-19_Informationsblatt.PDF [26.03.2020].

Parenting for Lifelong Health: COVID-19 online resources (2020). "24/7 parenting resources”. Verfügbar unter: https://www.covid19parenting.com [27.03.2020].

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