Coronavirus also comes with burdens but also opportunities.
If we are to talk about opportunities first, the planet will certainly benefit from all human activities and the pollution slowing down. Especially in Dubai, with travel being such a big part of our work lives, couples will have the chance to spend more time together. Also, fathers/mothers will have the opportunity to teach their children maths and sciences, not through the online learning but through everyday experiences. Children get to have breakfast, lunch and supper with their parents.
The two most obvious being our health and the great financial uncertainty we are facing. The other burden is our mental health. These times of self-isolation and confinement put us in a situation we have never faced before. Families have never had to spend so much time together and living in limited space, not being able to go to the beach, the pool and all the other exciting activities Dubai have to offer. Families that were facing difficult times before this period are more vulnerable and with the added stress upon them it is important now, more than ever, to limit the risk of “parental burnout”. Here are a few recommendations in order for all our families to navigate through the following weeks with a little more serenity.
1. Trust yourself as a parent :
Being a parent is stressful and asks us to be very adaptable. You have survived and passed parenting tests so far; there is no reason you cannot adapt to the present situation. You may need a little more time to adapt, but trust yourself and you pull through!
2. Take time for yourself :
It’s not because your children are at home that you have to spend your days playing with them and even less having to accept play games you don’t like. In these extra-ordinary times, let us put quality over quantity. The most important thing is to spend quality moments with your children. Find the one activity that motivates the whole family and gives pleasure to you and your loved ones, whatever activity this may be.
3. Be flexible :
With exceptional situations come exceptional measures. You are not a bad parent because you modified a few rules in order to maintain the peace under your roof. Certain rules will need to be changed and new ones put in place. It is however important to communicate about the changes on order for everyone to adhere. For the younger children, use pictures and clear visuals for the older teens, talk it through with them, want would they like to change and why. Find common grounds and build up on that.
4. Do not hesitate to put your children to contribution :
Have you explained the situation and how out-of-the-ordinary it is? Have a family meeting and create different “ministries”, you can then nominate the ministers: breakfast minister, garbage minister, washing-machine minister… Let your children choose their preferred job, and create a rotation system so everyone is happy, it goes without saying, the parents have to take on a few minister roles also.
5. Structure is key! :
Our usual routines are absent, it is important to keep up with a few habits, set an alarm clock, get dressed, have breakfast, do the homeschooling (while home-working?!). When you go to your “home office” tell you kids you are going to work and that you will see them later. Create a rooster with the daily schedule, but again stay flexible! Make them feel like its business as usual, not everyday “pyjama day”.
6. Take the time to do things you never have the time to do, and put them in your new schedule :
7. Choose your battles :
It is impossible to be on all fronts at the same time. It’s not the best period to start wars with your children. Establish a list of behaviors you are ready to tolerate. Exceptional times means exceptional measures… Write a list of intolerable behaviors. Be strict with the second list and be cool for the rest. Your house may not be the tidiest but if all the family members are respected and cohabitation works out, this is considered a huge win.
8. Don’t try to be a superwoman or superman :
We would all love to continue home-working, whilst being perfect parents and perfect teachers for all grades and years, but obviously, this is not reality. This would push any sane parent straight towards “parental burnout”. Again, choose your battles.
9. Look over each other :
The current situation changes our availabilities. The parent still working outside of the house probably “works” more but the parent home-working or 100% focused on the family is the most fragile. That parent has so many “ministries” to cope with simultaneously that it makes them more vulnerable to parental burnout.
10. If none of you are touched by Coronavirus (yet), measure the chance you have :
Take the time to reflect upon your situation. Yes you probably want to give your children away and it’s perfectly normal! What would not be normal would be to actually do it. So, whenever you feel overwhelmed, go for a breath of fresh air (while we still can, temperatures are very enjoyable right now!). And if you do feel like your suffocating and you do not know how to cope with this, call someone who will listen and can help. Psychologists know this is a very vulnerable period and are there to listen if not to help.
Text inspired by Belgian psychologists Isabelle Roskam, Moïra Mikolajczak