Australian researchers have updated a popular online parenting course to help stressed-out parents cope during the pandemic. A new free COVID-19 online resource has been added to the Triple P (Positive Parenting Program), developed by The University of Queensland and Triple P International - with tips for kids of all ages.
"Parents are under enormous pressure with families all under the one roof, juggling work, school and maintaining a household, as well as dealing with the emotions brought about by the constant updates and messages," said Professor Matthew Sanders, clinical psychologist and founder of the Triple P Positive Parenting Program.
He says the resource, which has been co-authored by Associate Professor Vanessa Cobham, will arm parents with practical steps and strategies to help reduce stress "and cope with changes such as uncertainty, financial stress, trying to home-school, working at home and upsetting news reports."
According to Professor Sanders, it's important that families work together to create solutions during such challenging times.
"The online resource will give parents strategies to cope with these emotions to avoid damaging relationships with their kids," he says, adding that it also provides tips and strategies to help children manage their own feelings to stay "emotionally resilient".
Professor Sanders says it's also important parents don't put too much pressure on themselves by searching for the perfect solution. "And remember this stage will pass."
His top five tips are:
- Reassure your children that family is number one - "I'm your parent, it's my job to keep you safe and we are doing everything we can."
- Take care of yourself.
- Establish a daily routine.
- Stay connected outside of the home.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself and your children.
Co-author Associate Professor Cobham told Essential Kids that amid COVID-19, there are many children who are bored and frustrated with all of the restrictions and changes to their regular routine. "We're going to see kids understandably - and adults too! - becoming more impatient," she says. "And we'll probably see more conflict between parents and kids and between siblings."
Other children, however, are more prone to being worriers. Associate Professor Cobham explains that she and her colleagues asked parents to record their kids' burning questions and worries around COVID-19 to gain insight into what's on their minds. "It was really interesting to hear the range of things kids were concerned about," she says. "While many said they were disappointed about not going on school camp or seeing their friends, at the other end of the spectrum, were kids saying they were worried about their mum and dad and their financial situations. Another said, 'does this mean humans are at risk of being endangered?'
Associate Professor Cobham says that we also need to be looking after ourselves as parents. "So many parents put their own wellbeing way down the list of things to be concerned about," she says. "This is an instance where, in order to do the best possible job by your kids, you need to be able to prioritise your own wellbeing. You're a more effective parent when you're doing better yourself."
It's also a powerful opportunity to model help-seeking behaviours to our kids. "We're big on getting our kids to ask for help when they need it in a school context," she says. "But as parents it's something we don't model all that explicitly." And yet, as we all juggle the pressure of work, parenting and financial stress, it's the perfect chance to do so.
"Even in a very minor way," Associate Professor Cobham says. "So being able to say, "I've had a really tough day, I need to go and ring a friend or FaceTime a friend and talk it through."