As my family and many other families across Europe move into our 3rd week of lockdown with no end in sight, it seems much of the world is following suit. As an Author and Parenting expert living in Italy, I thought it would be useful to share some strategies from the acronym PARENT in The Danish Way of Parenting that are helping my family tremendously, and hopefully can help yours too should this happen where you live.
1. PLAY Stock-up on board games, LEGOS, arts and crafts, gardening ideas for indoor or outdoor, fun ideas for movement, cooking, baking, creating etc. You will have a lot of time on your hands and this is an ideal time for playing.
2. AUTHENTICITY Be as honest as possible about what is going on, but stay calm. It’s important to talk to your children openly in an age appropriate way but not to over-dramatize. Ask them how they feel so their concerns or fears can be vocalized. We are the lighthouse sending out clear signals for our children to navigate their worlds. So be open and honest, but also try to be a beacon of hope and safety, not fear and panic if you can avoid it.
3. REFRAME Try to reframe the situation for yourself and your kids. Instead of focusing on the negatives, see the benefits of re-focusing our priorities and enjoying this time together as a family. I went from feeling like a prisoner in our home to being part of Little House on the Prairie. We are all pulling together and it’s actually really good for us! There is nothing we can do about what is happening and we have no control over it, so we have decided to enjoy it as much as we can. The way we choose to see the situation will have a profound effect on how we experience it and this affects our own and our children’s wellbeing.
4. EMPATHY Practice empathy-this goes for our children but also how we see our fellow human beings. We aren’t taking all these measures for ourselves per se, but for all the people who are elderly or suffer from diseases that can weaken the immune system. Staying inside and practicing social distance may be challenging for us, but let’s talk about thinking of others and taking care of each other together. This is exactly how we foster empathy and this is a great lesson for all of us now. Remember, when we replace the “I” with “we” even illness becomes wellness.
5. NO ULTIMATUMS Keeping the big lines of parenting clear during this time is very helpful. This is one of the ways we can avoid going into power struggles with our children. Keeping a routine, for example, helps children feel more in control of their environment and know what is happening (like wake up and bed times) and what to expect. We have a routine for school, play, chores, hygge and screen time. There is flexibility, but the big picture and the boundaries are very clear. This way, they are able to have some choices and feel in control of their environments, but the big lines of parenting are understood for everyone. This is really helpful in avoiding those no ultimatum moments.
6. HYGGE These are the times to see the family as a team and enjoy the opportunity for cozying around together. This “togetherness” is paramount and one of the key ways we can reframe this difficult time. You can actually become stronger as a family through this time and hygge is a big part of creating this. The key is being present, appreciating the little things and seeing the family as a team. You can even make the “routine” stuff nice when everyone is in it together. It’s not mindfulness it’s “we fulness” and this is very recharging for the heart and soul. That’s something we could all use in these times.