Parenting is… being a good role model always–especially now during the #coronavirus crisis.  

Posted on March 15, 2020

Parenting is… being a good role model always–especially now during the #coronavirus crisis.  

Walk the walk before you talk the talk.
Our kids will do as we do, not as we say.
Children learn best by example.
Monkey see monkey do.

Why are we having a judgment lapse when we know these age-old phrases to be true? This is a time of national alert, a time when anxiety and fear are at their highest. This is the time to shine, to be good role models and rule models for our kids. Have we forgotten that before COVID-19 was in the spotlight, national concerns on mental health were on every parent’s mind?

During each talk and workshop over the last six months, the first question I was asked by parents was over their concerns about the rise in stress and anxiety that is leading to depression, loneliness, and mental health imbalances in kids younger than ever before. In our most recent Wellness Collaborative Meeting at Sulphur Springs School District, I was deeply saddened when Dr. Kawaguchi, the superintendent, shared information on the rise of self-harm in elementary-age children—a rise stemming from stress, anxiety, depression, and other related mental health issues.

What do you think the leading cause of mental health is? It’s not knowing how to manage our inner world, our emotional state. Why? Because we don’t really know our inner world. We have never been taught about our emotions and thoughts and how we can manage them. We react to them impulsively instead of responding to them mindfully. Then we pass on this broken inner emotional response—albeit unintentionally—to our children. When you add today’s academic and social pressures to our children’s inability to understand and manage their complicated inner world, it is no wonder that they are mentally drowning.

Of course, the first step should be to educate our children on what our inner world is. Then we need to give them tools of mindfulness, emotional intelligence (EI), and social emotional learning ( CASEL) and provide a support system to help them implement these tools and stay on track through their learning curve.

That all takes time. So what can parents do today? Model the handling of stress, right? And what better time than now? Can we take this as a red-carpet invitation to demonstrate emotional management? Can we take up this challenge to teach by example? Certainly, we can, and here’s where we can start the shift.

Good toilet paper citizenship: If there are two packets of toilet paper left on the shelf at the grocery store, take just one. Leave one for the next person in need. If you’ve taken the last packet, assume that some good citizen is paying this forward. When at the checkout stand, if someone is complaining that they don’t have TP, open up your packet and share a roll or two. If your kids are not with you, let them know what you’ve done. If you are a social media sharer, this is what we should be posting—not videos of fights over toilet paper!

Patience and humility in lines: Everyone is waiting in lines—at grocery stores, gas stations, or drive-throughs. Take a breath and model patience and humility. Use these moments as conversation starters with your kids on how to keep it together.

Media filtering: This word “coronavirus” is all over news headlines right now. One 10-year-old saw an alert on his mother’s phone that proclaimed “Coronavirus lockdown turns Rome into a ghost town” and asked her if we were all going to die. The media is designed to inform and, in many cases, hype the news, too often with a tone and delivery that suggests fear. Granted, if they didn’t publicize serious issues, people would not respond to national emergencies as they should. But it is up to us to not add fuel to the fire. Children of any age will be disturbed by the fraught atmosphere. They are absorbing your reaction to this ongoing, ever-changing crisis. Please filter media as best as you can and counter the news with plenty of family fun and laughter while addressing your kids’ questions in a way that balances their fearful emotions.

Balance your own emotions and thoughts: Follow all guidelines and health directives with your family so you are actively engaged in a health protocol to keep your family and yourself safe. But please don’t go overboard. Walk the middle ground. If you have symptoms of the flu, exercise caution, but don’t freak out until they match the symptoms that the CDC is warning about. Buy what you need, but don’t hoard. Balance, balance, balance your emotions, thoughts, and behavior. Your kids are watching and learning.

Without a doubt, this is a first for us! Let’s work to emotionally manage fear and model for our children a healthy state of mind, an abundant state of mind, an interconnected and inclusive state of mind. When we come from this state of mindfulness rather than mindlessness, we shift from fear to love, stress to calmness, anxiety to restfulness, mental ill health to mental well-being. Is that not what we want for our children? When we model this for our children, they will not know any different. They will embody and emulate it in their own personal challenging situations. Parents, this is the time to walk the walk.