It is said that being a parent is the hardest job in the world.
Many parents have had to work from home during the pandemic and navigate the task of being a teacher.
In the Zoom webinar hosted by the Mental Health Foundation Australia last week, Multicultural Ambassadors Christina Chia, Latha Srinivasan and Santi Whiteside discussed their views and shared tips for parenting during the pandemic.
The conversations were centred around sharing and giving space, practicing patience but also being honest in sharing how this period of time has impacted parents and their mental health.
Ms Srinivasan’s lives with her daughter Abi, who works as a pharmacist. She explains how they have set boundaries to allow each other to decompress after a big day at work without intruding when time alone is needed.
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“When she comes home, there are some days where she is extremely happy and there are some days when she has a difficult day. so we know to give her that space she needs, we don’t talk much to her at all, we’ll just ask her how her day’s been, ‘did you have a tough day, did you want to drink something?’ So we just leave her until she comes and talks to us, so there is no going and asking immediately because everybody has to unwind. We do not know how her work had affected her for the day,” Ms Srinivasan said.
Ms Chia and her two daughters all work and study from home.
The way they set boundaries are similar to those of Ms Srinivasan’s family, in that they read the emotions of their children, but Ms Chia also sets her own rules within the home especially during work hours.
“Sometimes if I want my space, my door is closed, if I want a bit more interaction my door is ajar. So with the children, they know at around 3:30 pm we have a cuppa for afternoon tea. Sometimes I will just do a knock and say it’s afternoon tea for taking, but if I see in their face that they want privacy, I leave it,” Ms Chia explained.
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RESPECTING EACH OTHER’S WAYS OF DE-STRESSING
Finding a way to decompress and ‘switch-off’ to regenerate and regain balance does not look the same for everyone.
Some prefer a relaxing bath, others may find listening to loud music a way to chase the blues away.
What is important though, is to allow children to engage in their own kinds of ‘meditation’ and help them understand your own.
“We go for walks as exercise…I’m also a big fan of meditation. My girls are not into it, however they respect what I do. Their meditation is lighting candles and that gives them joy. I suppose the key is respecting each other’s ways of de-stressing and maintaining positive mental health,” Ms Chia said.
Although life now may seem like a never ending Groundhog Day, it could be a time to apply some great habits.
Job loss and spending long periods of time indoors can be anxiety-provoking and routines can provide an anchor of predictability, for both parents and children.
“For the family, the walks very helpful for us to bond and beneficial for our physical and mental health. It gives us as a family structure and routine. And as an educator and principal of a coaching college, I strongly encourage parents with younger children to give them structure and routine. Not only does it beat boredom, but it helps children thrive,” Ms Chia said.
“It is not the strongest or smartest that will survive this pandemic, it is those who are more adaptive and show consistency.
As a leader in your family, your actions have a strong influence on the mindset of your children.”
Routine can also be an opportunity to teach your children independence and for you to teach them valuable lessons.
Just as we have routines to make our beds or go for a daily walk, it may also be beneficial to create some time where you check in with yourself and your mental health.
Schedule in some ‘thinking time’ to think through any problems or worries weighing on you and address them instead of letting them build up.
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The women shared many great ways of bonding with their families as they all get through the lockdown together.
As multicultural parents this may be a great chance to explore cultural cuisines, customs and entertainment with your children.
“As a family, we’ve been planning menus, creating dishes to eat. We’ve enjoyed cooking together, eating together, which has been a gift for our family. We enjoyed watching Masterchef, which helped us bond really well and inspired us to try new foods and new things and do them together. We now play Monopoly every week, so with my pre-COVID lifestyle I was out all the time and now I’m enjoying the time with my family,” Ms Chia said.
Ms Srinivasan and her family have decided to share their passion on social media, in a way that also helps preserve their heritage.
“This COVID situation has helped us create an Instagram page. I’m very passionate about South Indian cooking, so the girls have set up an Instagram page for me where we can share our South Indian recipes and share what my mother and grandmother have passed on to me, I can now pass it on to the next generation,” Ms Srinivasan said.
Mental health during the pandemic has been at the forefront of many conversations.
While taking care of the mind is of the utmost importance, but it is also just as important to make sure to ask for help when you need it and be open about how you feel.
“You shouldn’t shy away from asking for help. Not every day is going to be bright and beautiful, there are days where you are going to go through a dull moment. It’s okay to tell the family ‘I’m not feeling 100 per cent, I need some help or I need some rest’. Asking for help is the greatest and best thing any mother or any father should be doing,” Ms Srinivasan said.
Ms Srinivasan says these conversations create relationships that allow both parents and children to talk to one another without judgement and understand empathy.
“Treat them as a friend, share your problems, the children should know what parents are going through as well,” she said.
Households come in all shapes and sizes, so it is understandable that perhaps a lot of advice floating around these days is easier said than done.
What is important is that your home operates in a way that makes everyone (including you!) feel safe, happy and loved.