By Lahar Bhatnagar Singh,
A Scientific Parenting Expert, Coach and Author. Founder of NIRVANAMA.
The “new-normal”, as we like to call the post-March 2020 time has brought with it so many collateral issues which were unfathomable for any individual, family or policy-makers. Out of the many, parenting associated stress is most crucial because it is affecting the health of entire families. Parents are stressed, hence the whole family gets stressed.
What is parenting associated stress?
A CRY INDIA survey of May 2020 showed the following results:
- 50% parents say that their child has become more anxious and agitated:
- 37% parents confirmed that the happiness and mental health of kids was low.
- 88% said that they were worried about the kid’s high exposure to screen
- When asked if the parents would be comfortable to send their child back to school if they reopen in July or Aug, 92% of parents said no.
These aren’t just numbers on a report. These are proofs of degrading mental and emotional health of millions of families across India. WHO has a dedicated “Mental Health during #COVID 19” page and helpline. Clearly, it’s a dark cloud bomb round the corner, waiting to burst at anytime.
The unfortunate part about modern urban parenting that it was already a stress point for young parents. Educated yet not “nurture-trained” most millennial parents confess to not knowing how difficult it is to raise a baby. Most of the marketing and media is about happy moms with cute newborns, fancy pregnancy photoshoots, and polished filtered Instagram pictures.
The role of the new age dad is even more fuzzy. Having grown up in an era conditioned to gender stereotyping, the new age hubby wants to be more than a baby-sitting dad but doesn’t know how to help. “Hand-on dad” is usually referred to as the dad who changes diapers, bathes the baby, and sterilizes the dishes. Nothing about his role in nurturing constitutes his “hand-on” nature! The confused synthetic gap between “nurturing a baby” and “providing for a baby” has led to many parents being stressed about parenting. “I try to provide everything s/he asks me for, yet my child is never happy.” is a common parenting rant I hear.
The #lockdown has pushed issues closer to reality than one is comfortable with. Hence parenting issues are not specific to lockdown. They have been always there. They have just surfaced their ugly head directly into our faces without any warning! There is no carpet we can brush them under. They need immediate resolution.
What can be done to make sure the mental health of the family remains healthy during the COVID-19 lockdown especially in terms of parenting?
Here are some pointers I felt help many young parents:
- Discipline: Many parents confused discipline with punishment. Discipline is simply putting the child back on track when s/he diverges from the goal. What it means is that the child should be the one setting his own goal and parents should just be instruments that help him achieve it. They are the third party outside observers who remind him about his goals when they see loss of focus or attention or path leading towards that goal. The practical disciplining tool that is essential during the lockdown is a “time table.” Make sure your child has a time table through which he knows what is to be done the entire day. You save yourself the question that is repeated 100 times each day, “What do I do now?” However, if your child is more than 5 years of age, s/he should be the one setting the time table. You can just guide him/her that in a day you need to have slots for studying, hobby class, eating, sleeping, and even screen time. But then the final organization of the time table needs to come from your child.
- 20 minute “Calm” time: Parents need to have a time table for themselves too. Apart from professional and home- maintenance work, make sure you take out atleast 20 minutes each day to simply do nothing. Sit back and look at the ceiling, count the number of turns your fan is taking or just stare out at the blue sky. Simply do nothing. Lock yourself in the room if necessary. But have this uninterrupted 20 minute “calm” time!
- Don’t compare: Your neighbor may have not called the house-help while you find yourself struggling. Weigh your pros and cons, make necessary precautionary arrangements (like asking your house help to change her clothes when she comes to your house) and make a decision about your current practical capacity to continue totally locked or slowly start unlocking yourself.
- Talk to your child about the lockdown: Every few days sit down with your child and talk about what they feel about the whole lockdown. Ask them if they have any issues or concerns playing in their mind and try to address those as genuinely as you can. Kids see how stressed the household is and absorb this into their minds. Let your kid know that their emotions are being heard too because they matter.
- Communicate with your office: If you are working from home, sometimes work timing becomes fuzzy. Just because you are at home doesn’t mean you are available for work-related chat 24X7. Let your team and bosses know that your comfortable work timings are XYZ and if there is something extremely urgent, then you can be messaged at your mobile number.
- Have realistic standards: The truth is that there is no vaccine round the corner and we are in a peak of cases right now. So, yes the situation is glum. But no matter how glum, pandemics have been temporary. Yes this too shall pass. Not today. But in another few months. And what are 6 months in a human’s life? A mere 0.55%, considering a 90-year human lifespan!
- Make a list of things that need to be planned: Write down your financial plan for the next 6 months. Do you have enough to last you after the pay cuts or unfortunate lay off! If not, make a list of choices you have. Some FD you may have for a rainy day, your PPF, or a realistic borrow plan from your friend that you can return without fail. Also, make a list of how you are going to be a better person after the lockdown. At least 2 things should make this list. It could be improving your learning or acing a hobby or getting into an exercise habit or making a nutritious diet chart. Get your kids to also have “progress goals” for the next 6 months. What are the life skills they would like to learn, what are the non-academic knowledge banks they want to acquire, what is the one hobby they want to pursue?
And yet there will be times when the child is crying, the pressure cooker is blowing steam, there is a pile of groceries that need to be sanitized and you have an urgent meeting in 5 minutes. Don’t take it too hard on yourself. Give the child the I-pad, answer the doorbell, let the groceries lie for another day, put on a clean shirt (pants are optional, thankfully!) and attend your meeting! Nothing that you do right now will make you a bad parent! Because actually nothing parents ever did made them good or bad- it just made them human!
More about the Author
Lahar is among the top bloggers at Times of India blogs and leading parenting platforms like Momspresso.
Lahar is the founder of NIRVANAMA – a parenting resource that talks about using science in your everyday parenting. She is a certified parenting coach from International Association of Certified Coaches, USA. She has studied Developmental Neuroscience (development of the brain in a fetus) and has some great international papers and research to her credit in this area. She combines her knowledge of brain, evolution and science with her practical experience of raising young kids in this millennium. Her workshops, activities and tips benefit the young parent in raising kids to their full potential while keeping calm, stress-free and happy themselves. Her publications include “100 ways to be a stress-free mom and raise happy kids” (HayHouse 2018) and upcoming book “Millennial Parenting Hacks”. She does mini-workshops on millennial parenting issues like screen management, fussy eating, academic intelligence, leadership qualities, etc. Her flagship 2-day workshop programme “Science for the Modern Parent” shall be launched in Aug 2020 that shall be an all-inclusive parenting workshop to empower young urban parents with the power of scientific tools aimed at achieving one’s short term and long term goals we have set for our kids and ourselves.
Lahar lives in New Delhi. India. She herself is the mother of two beautiful toddler girls, Parneet and Avneet. She is married to her friend and marine engineer, Maninder. Together, they aim at bringing up strong, intellectual, independent, and empathetic daughters.
Awards and Media:
Lahar received the “Women’s Entrepreneur Award” in 2017 from Mayor Mrs. Kamal Sehrawat and “Leadership Excellence Award” in 2018 from Dr Sandeep Marwah, Owner Marwah Studios for her contribution in the field of parenting and writing. Her article “Tame the Tantrum” featured in December 2018 issue of India Today Woman. She has been invited by women magazines like GrehShobha, GrehLakshmi, and hotels like Hyatt to talk about her book and parenting ideas
Lahar has been featured in many FB lives and online videos on parenting by leading names like Momspresso, Firstcry Parenting, and Sipping Thoughts as an invited parenting expert to discuss various relevant issues new age parents face.
In Aug 2018 HayHouse, India published Lahar’s first book called “100 ways to be a stress-free mom and raise happy kids.” Legendary boxer MaryKom has penned the foreword for this book. The book has been picked up for regional language translations too. She runs a website NIRVANAMA (www.nirvanama.in) where there are loads of well-researched parenting articles. She has done various radio shows on National channels like Radio 94.3 and 91.1
Lahar has been signed by India’s top literary agency RedInk. They shall be managing her upcoming titles. In the pipeline is “Millennial Hacks: Tips and tricks all young Indian parents need to know”
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