I don’t know about you, but I have had to make big adjustments to our house rules, especially screen limits since the pandemic began.
Before COVID, my boys had limited access to social media or gaming platforms. Now, my tween and teen are connecting to peers through Instagram and playing games online with friends. I know that I am not alone. Many of my parent coaching clients with younger children have had to resort to the screen to get work done or just get a break from being with the kids 24/7. I am exhausted and worn down after seven months of pandemic parenting and I am sure you are too.
Knowing my priorities for my kids is usually how my parenting decisions are anchored. After so many months of loosening all kinds of limits with my kids I find myself questioning my everyday decisions, unmoored and far away from where I feel confident as a parent. Without this foundation, inconsistency and instability are causing stress for everyone in my house. So I asked myself, “How can I get back in touch with my parenting values when it all feels so much like a moving target?”
I decided to take out a page from my parent coach training. One exercise we often ask of parents is to describe how they envision their child as an adult. What are the most important qualities they hope to instill in them when they are all grown up? For me that’s pretty easy. I hope my boys carry forward lessons from childhood that leave them resilient, gritty and tenacious. I want them to embrace a growth mindset, engage in intentional self care and give back to their community. I wish for them the ability to give and receive unconditional love.
After doing this brief exercise I felt more in touch with my own guiding principles. I was able to focus my parenting decisions based on them. Each time I make a parenting decision, I know that I can fall back on these fundamental goals. I designed these four questions to make sure that my own decisions are aligned with my values when I am pushed to make decisions that are outside of my comfort zone.
Am I supporting their social emotional growth?
Am I demonstrating unconditional love?
Am I supporting a growth mindset, resilience and grit?
Am I modeling good self care?
So when I had to ease my rules around social media and online gaming, I know that I am actually still supporting their essential social emotional growth. And when I stay calm when they are releasing big emotions while we are all cooped up together, I am showing unconditional love. And when I need to give my child a little extra screen time so that I can get a break, I am actually modeling good self care. Even though some of our day-to-day looks and feels different, I once again feel my confidence re-emerging.
The pandemic has been hard on parents. It has stretched us and forced us to make compromises with our kids that we never thought we would. If there is a lesson here, it is that sometimes it takes a shock to the system to rediscover what is most important to us. If you are feeling untethered from your parenting values take this time to reset. Ask yourself what are your guiding parenting principles? What questions help you stay grounded in them? Use this opportunity to find your footing and to rebuild your confidence. Keep in mind the long game, the one in which the parenting decisions you are making today, however big or small, are supporting your vision for your child as they grow into adults no matter what is going on in the world around you.