Your Primary Role As A Parent, During This Pandemic
On my evening walk at the terrace the other day, I was intrigued by a scene in a neighbor’s living room.
Yes, Mumbai gives us this opportunity to glance into somebody’s living room in an adjoining building!
I could see the mother busy at her kitchen counter.
Her daughter (about 9 years old) seemed bored. She walked around with no real purpose.
Her little brother (about 6) came in and out of my view too.
In a while the father entered the room.
He turned on the tv and played some catchy English music.
The atmosphere changed. The little girl started practicing dance moves.
What a transformation! She seemed to enjoy this.
And to add to this, the dad turned on a flickering red light. (Great idea!)
So now, the room transformed into a disco!
The foot tapping music added a bounce to my step too.
The little girl continued to practice dance moves.
Her dad went back to the kitchen counter to help the mother. The brother joined in and ran around the living room.
The parents kept an eye on their kids. I saw the mother come over to tie her daughter’s hair into a neat ponytail, displaying a clear sign of love and care, before returning to the kitchen counter.
I noticed a running match between brother and sister. After a few minutes, they both retreated to their favorite positions on the sofa.
It was a simple, Saturday evening in the life of a regular family.
A realization hit home. The corona pandemic has forced us to be home bound and find peace and joy in simple things at home.
It looked so easy to me, as a bystander. By doing so little, the parents achieved so much with their children.
My mind drifted to the families I worked with.
Over the past few weeks, parents have sent questions about how to keep the child engaged, how to reduce anxiety. Meltdowns are on the increase.
I can see the faces of troubled, worn out mothers looking for solutions.
To each mother (and father) out there, I’d like to share these pointers with you.
1. Don’t try so hard
Don’t be tough on yourself. Go with the flow.
Somehow as special needs parents, we crave to be perfect. We want to feel we’re doing enough.
Let go of that need.
Whatever you can do- it’s fine.
More importantly, whatever you’ve missed doing- that’s fine too.
Simple is best, you don’t have to come up with complex frameworks or a new activity each day.
Look at how the parent relied on music and a colored light! It was simple and yet hugely effective.
Less is more. Simplicity works wonders.
Our mind has a tendency to complicate matters. We want to be on top of it all. We want all the complicated games, complicated new activities etc.
You don’t need too much ‘stuff.’ Simple modifications and a strong connection will do.
3. Use this time to emotionally bond with your child
Even if it’s hanging out and watching something together, looking at pictures, reading a book together. Use every activity to build an emotional connect.
Remember, it’s not about the activity, it’s about the underlying emotion.
During these uncertain times, we ourselves are in a difficult phase. There is economic uncertainty, financial stress. All these play on our minds.
What about our children, who may or may not be able to express this?
Try to get a little of each of these done in a day. You’ll feel good about it.
It’s simple and it’s doable.
Since we’re home bound, our children may miss their physical activity routines.
Mohit used to cycle every day for 20-30 minutes. We now substitute that with stretches, weight training and running- at the terrace.
Challenge your child to think and problem solve situations each day.
If you’re cooking or cleaning together, make them figure out what to do if an ingredient is missing or if need a change of water.
Focus on the thought preceding an action.
Read. Read. And Read.
Read something of interest to your child each day.
“What are you saying, Kamini? She is not even attentive.”
Trust me. Do this daily. Let it become a habit. This will bear fruit later in your child’s life.
Academic enrichment can be in the form of reading, writing, typing, joining courses etc.
Do activities as a family. Play games together. Remember- it’s about the emotions. Don’t make it a learning task, unless it’s incidental.
Monitor your child’s ipad time.
Use it judiciously.
You don’t have to prove anything to anybody.
You’re doing the best you can. You are a fabulous parent.
Take care of yourself first.
This pandemic has brought all our problems to the forefront. Whether they’re financial, emotional, business related. This situation is unprecented.
Take your power back, you are the writer of your life.
You give it meaning. Don’t look for validation in anybody else.
You are the best guide for your child.
Your primary role is to take care of yourself.
I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.
– Audre Lorde
For questions, parent or professional training, reach out at email@example.com
Kamini Lakhani is the founder and director of SAI Connections. She has been providing services in the field of autism for more than 25 years and is the authorized director of Professional Training for RDI in India and the Middle East. She is also the mother of a young adult with autism.