A Guide to Mindful Parenting During Isolation

April 14, 2020

by Kimberly Jordan Allen

Quarantine and isolation are challenging for the whole family. Our lifestyles have changed dramatically in a short time. We’re home, we’re on top of each other, and we’re developing new habits to sustain us in this new normal. If you’re a parent, your personal practice may be taking a backseat to troubleshooting Zoom classrooms with your kids or building a new WFH office. How do we do all this with positivity, and embrace the chaos?

Top Quarantine Priority: Don’t Forget to Breathe

Studies show that slow, deep breaths can stimulate the vagus nerve, the neural pathway of the parasympathetic nervous system, activating the rest-and-digest response that reduces feelings of stress and anxiety and supports relaxation. 

Once we’re breathing more fully, it’s easier to approach the days more skillfully. At my house, we’re mostly taking each day as it comes, with a focus on these main objectives (in no particular order):

  • Do whatever work needs to get done
  • Play with the dog
  • Exercise
  • Get outside
  • Talk to a friend or someone who is not in this house.

Read Part 1 of this series: 

Parenting During Quarantine

Mindful parenting is a practice, and some days are better than others. Yes, sometimes we get sidetracked by phone calls, meetings, and pressing tasks. Simple daily routines help everyone maintain stability, especially if you can find ways to build in creativity and conscious self-compassion. Here are some tips for parenting during the coronavirus quarantine.

  1. Think of others. Right now, we are being asked to take the well-being of others, as well as ourselves, into deep consideration. In an effort to flatten the curve, we’re staying home. It’s a powerful lesson in interconnectedness, and one you can talk to your kids about—in an age-appropriate way—to help them understand why this time of physical distancing is so important. 
  2. Let go of perfection. Now is not the time to add stress to anyone’s life, including your own. Wear the sweatpants, relax the limits on screen time just a bit. Don’t guilt yourself into manic cleaning—but if you’re enjoying it, great, go for it. It’s a perfect time to apply some Marie Kondo and clear the decks of piles that look like a backdrop for Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.
  3. Ask the kids what they need right now. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I run the household like the Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket (with positivity, of course). It can feel militant to shuffle folks from one activity to the next—left, right, left. When I’m in "machine mode," as we call it in my house, I’m not really listening, I’m project managing. And though I’m doing a darn good job at it, it isn’t as conscious and compassionate as I’d like. Lately, I’ve been focused on asking my kids how they’re doing, what they need, and what they’d like to do. At times, we need to direct, steer, mold. In other moments, we need to listen. 
  4. Go outside as a family. Whether you’re a single stay-at-home parent or part of a family of six, get outside as much as humanly possible. Right now, it’s a bit tricky because we need to avoid others, but for many of us, there are places to do that. If you have a big yard, perhaps do some spring cleaning together or prep garden beds. Find a corner of your local park and toss a ball back and forth. 
  5. Cook together. Research shows that families who cook and eat together experience greater physical and mental health benefits. The obvious side effect is communication. The intentionality of sitting around the table together sets the tone for connection—which is absolutely paramount in promoting healthy relationships with self and others. 
  6. Get crafty. At my house, we love to build, paint, draw, color, crochet. This time at home provides ample opportunity to bust out the crafts. And a little glitter never hurt anyone. One fun way to get creative is to make your own lip balm. There are tons of DIY recipes online that use household items to make a tasty blend. My latest combines shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax, citrus essential oil, and vanilla. Another activity my son enjoys is whittling: Hand-carved spoons are his most recent endeavor with his dad.

Whatever activities you choose, remember to take it slow. It’s okay to slow down. When we act with awareness, the rest flows. It’s a complicated time to be a parent, but there are also great joys available to us. We have an opportunity to set the pace and the intentions that can support us not only now, but in the months and years of parenting to come.

Kimberly Jordan Allen is an award-winning writer, editor, and content strategist.