Financial and emotional stresses ripple through homes as COVID-19 lockdown orders continue. That tension has left some parents feeling overwhelmed as they attempt to juggle the roles of provider, home-school teacher and counselor during an unparalleled pandemic.

“This is uncharted territory for all of us,” said University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Center on the FamilyCenter on the Family Director Barbara DeBaryshe. The child development specialist offers tips on how parents can face those daily stresses during the crisis.

mom hugging daughter

Routines are comforting

  • Keep a consistent bedtime and daily routine that pinpoints time for school work, household chores, play and downtime.

Give kids a role

  • Children want to contribute to family life. Allow them to help cook, care for pets, plan fun family activities or assist younger siblings with schoolwork.

Physical activity

  • Daily outdoor time does wonders. Kids can also burn off energy through active play in the living room or on the lānai.

Maintain social contacts

  • Let children keep in contact with grandparents, friends and teachers via the phone or platforms like Zoom or Facetime.

Be loving, cuddly and a good listener

  • Physical affection is a stress reliever for both parent and child. Ask
    your child what he or she knows about the virus or why we are staying at home. This lets you answer questions or correct misinformation at an age-appropriate level.

Take care of yourself too

  • Focus on your own physical and mental well-being. Sleeping, healthy eating, me time, virtual contact with your friends and family, exercise and/or meditation—whatever works for you in terms of helping you handle your own stress.

father and toddler

Experts fear child abuse cases will skyrocket during the COVID-19 outbreak as strain within the home builds. DeBaryshe wants to help parents avoid reaching a boiling point.

“Ask for help. There is no shame in feeling at the end of your rope. Talk to your friends. Talk to your family members. Call a help line if needed,” said DeBaryshe. If frustration mounts and a parent feels like he or she is losing control, she suggests taking a parent time out by leaving the room until you are calm.

DeBaryshe advises parents to be sensitive to how stress affects their keiki. “Your child’s behavior is not misbehavior, it’s a signal. It’s communication of their fears, feelings of loss or confusion. So as much as you can, stop and think about your child’s perspective,” she explained.

As Hawaiʻi enters month two of the stay-at-home order, DeBaryshe believes there is a silver lining for our ʻohana. “We have a lot of time together now which gives us a chance to learn more about each other, to strengthen our bonds and really reflect on our priorities and values. We all have the potential to emerge from this crisis even stronger than we were when we started,” she said.