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Parenting in the time of a Pandemic : Covid 2020

Parenting in the time of Pandemic
Dr Kuheli Bhattacharya
We recently celebrated Mother’s day in Lockdown, and as things stand, we might be celebrating father’s day in Lockdown aswell. By now every parent has been asked – So, how is it going , parenting in Lockdown? And on the surface this might look like the most benign question, but I assure you it has layers and sub text and nuanced understanding, like no other question about lockdown.
So, I will give you the short and the long version of my answer to – parenting in these times. My short answer would be; “I think it’s going good, all things considered.”
Now, the key words here are ‘I think’ and ‘all things considered’ . Because let’s face it, when it comes to parenting , ‘I think’ is not the same as ‘I know’ ; I think my child is feeling secure and loved , and is being homeschooled appropriately, but what do I know , right?
Will my child turn into a maths genius having played the educational apps I downloaded , or will my child turn into an MnM’s addicted monster child with guaranteed ADHD from binge watching TV all day?

The thing is, my parenting style has not been consistent during Covid times. For the first few weeks , when lockdown was announced, it was a time of ‘comfort over conscience’ and that meant more chips, and icecreams, colas which never made their way into our refrigerator, was now an afternoon special treat. After all, we too were best dealing with the upturn of our routines, by indulging in our ‘ innocent sins’ , whatever made the days more bearable. We were all coping as best as we could! But, as time went by, even the novelty of these treats wore off, and we found our healthier routines, around 3 weeks post lockdown. We were now painting regularly, playing monopoly, and baking brownies. And then another few weeks passed by, and Goa was given the green signal to ‘ease back into a post covid new normal’. And honestly , I am feeling it the hardest part of parenting.  All of a sudden , I realised we needed to revise our alphabets, and mathematics.

We had a nightmare week of revising phonics “ what does CUP start with , kk kk ?”
 “Mama, is it T ?” Exasperated and overwhelmed, was the theme of the third phase of parenting in Pandemic.  Which too, as I wtite this article, we are slowly correcting. Our 3s and 5s have started to face the right way, after a week of direction amnesia.

And then we come to the ‘all things considered’ bit, and when you consider the number of things happening. One of our friends had their first child, in lockdown, away from home, in a strange city, and now have no way to return to their home in Mumbai, while they stay in their rented place in Chennai. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what do you do when the village is social distancing? And another kid got the chicken pox ! and a third family has a parent with a broken arm .. so, yes , all things considered our glasses seem more full than empty.

Then ofcourse the added loss of maids and nannies, something Indian moms considered their second pair of arms, suddenly we found ourselves truly delving into ‘aatma nirbharta, when it came to the ubiquitous BJP, aka Bartan Jhadu, Pocha.'

One huge gain for me, personally, has been the fact that I now am wholly responsible for his food. With no maids , it meant I cooked all meals, and that meant food espionage of the highest order. I could sneak in egg yolks hidden within his dal rice, up the quantity of ghee.  And with the absence of a nanny, he had to depend on my iron clad hand to feed him , which meant tantrums, sure, but what’s parenting a four year old in lockdown, without a couple of meltdowns a day.
So, what can you do to help avoiding a tantrum of your own? First, take a step back, choose to ignore a few setbacks , maybe try and notice what is going well and offer praise. Short bursts of play time, where you get down to their level, and let your inner child take over, and when things get bad, cut yourself some slack, press pause, reset and press play again.

Unicef has a wonderful PDF on guidelins for safeguarding childhood in times of COVID 19. It talks about how to teach children about budgeting during pandemic, with children putting rocks in a jar to help decide what the family should be spending on right now, and it also helps parents answer questions about the virus , like when will we get to go out and play, and learning to say ‘I don’t know’ .

They also spoke in detail about cyberbullying and harmful online content, and I felt that was timely considering the bois locker room incident. Where, if you have been living under a rock, a bunch of boys talked a lot of smut, about a bunch of girls , who were risquely dressed. As parents of boys and girls, I can’t help but feel responsible for how both genders react to the hypersexual world of internet, and how we can explain safeguarding privacy and respecting another persons privacy, facing cyberbullying and falling prey to content around violence, misogyny and self harm. And the pandemic seems the perfect time to not only put in place some tech fixes to safeguard their privacy, but also have that awkward conversation around not just safe sex , but also communication, consent and pleasure.

These important conversations, are being discussed on parent groups, and that’s been another big part of parenting in Pandemic; and that is finding your tribe. So many helpful discussions around wicked to wonderful ways of keeping children and parents entertained.

So, the real question I think is not what kind of children our kids will grow up to be, but what wkind of parents we will become during the lockdown? And again, the short answer is – I think good enough parents, all things considered.

Here are a few useful resources for Parents


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