There is no right or wrong way to be a parent, but taking measured and careful steps can transition anyone from being just a parent to a good parent
After their first child is born, many parents find themselves stuck in a state of bewilderment, joy and shock. Not only these, they also feel the added weight of the newly imposed responsibilities.
It is expected that new parents would question their roles as mothers and fathers at such a time. Aside from them, people with growing or adolescent children also face a variety of parental issues every day.
Rifat Jahan Sylvi lives in Canada with her husband and two children - aged eight and four.
Due to the impending global crisis, schools and offices are closed. This has caused children to remain home at all times, away from their usual, busy schedules.
"All they do now is watch television and spend their time on the internet," Sylvi said, adding, "I cannot tell them to set down the phone because I myself have been on the laptop or phone all day since the lockdown was imposed."
In Bangladesh, many parents are facing similar situations with their children being home 24/7.
Dr Ashique Selim is an adult and addictions psychiatrist who has been working privately in Dhaka for the last three years. He is the lead consultant psychiatrist at the Psychological Health and Wellness Clinic (PHWC). His area of expertise includes consulting adults with issues related to difficulties in parenting.
"Back in the days of joint families, there were grandmothers and grandfathers, their siblings and other elderly family members who taught us many things about having families that we do not learn anymore. Now we have nuclear families living in small apartments and it is upto us to figure out what to do when we have a child," Dr Selim said during his weekly Facebook live session on April 24 where he addressed queries on parenting.
"I did not get help like most parents nowadays are getting from the internet. My experience with parenting was a long phase of trial and error," the psychiatrist continued. "I tried parenting methods all across the board. Some were successful, some were not. But without trial and error, how would I, as a parent, know what is right and what is wrong?" he said.
As a matter of fact, there is no right or wrong way to be a parent, the doctor added. "Parenting varies from one child to the other. But a generally wrong parenting move can turn a child's life upside down," warned Dr Selim.
Bringing a child into the world, for many parents, is the most life changing incident. They do not prefer living their old lives after that. "And that is absolutely fine, because our children will be stressed out if we are stressed out due to our lifestyles," said Dr Selim, although he and his wife refused to bring changes to their lives after having their first child. "That also works great. After having children, do not force yourself into a different lifestyle that might put you under pressure. This can make parents anxious, and anxiety can lead to parenting problems," he explained.
How do children learn?
Restricting and filtering behavioural actions in parents not only has impacts on small children, it also affects them during their developing and adolescent stages. Often the children's behaviours are reflections of their parents' manners and etiquettes.
According to Dr Selim, children mirror their parents. What parents do, how they behave, and talk around the house can heavily influence them. "If I tell my child to get off the phone while I am on it the whole day, she would not listen to me. But if I help my child in gardening, making art, or doing household chores, it would be more effective because I am doing them as well."
The good enough parents
Many parents tend to drastically change their lives to create an amicable environment for their children. "As I have already said, our children are like mirrors - the way they behave and speak is a reflection of how we behave and speak. If a family swears and cusses a lot, the children will do the same," the psychiatrist said with a firm tone, nudging parents to be careful with their words and actions.
Aside from ensuring a safe home environment for children, it is equally important to teach them how to deal with conflicts. Most parents try to distance their children from household conflicts.
Stressing on the importance of exposing children to occasional family feuds, Dr Selim said, "If all of a sudden a couple were to split, the child would be confused as he never saw his parents argue with each other. The sudden separation would have an impact on the child's mental wellbeing." A child does not need perfect parents; s/he needs parents who are good enough.
However, the opposite of this is true as well. The parenting spectrum starts to incline more towards the "bad" when violence and abuse come into play. Good parents will be able to portray their vulnerabilities and shortcomings in front of their children so they can learn about the bad, and the real, parts of life while experiencing the best.
Alleviating children's pandemic fears
If parents become overtly scared and worried, children might mirror these behaviours. If one of the parents lies to them about the pandemic, they might pick up this trait and things might get difficult. "Telling our children what we know and explaining the coronavirus situation to them should be enough to keep them updated on it," Dr Selim continued with the session.
"We are leaving behind a mess of a world for our children, and it is important for them to learn how such crises were averted in the past," suggested the psychiatrist at the end of the session.
Before the pandemic, children's lives were balanced between attending schools, studying, playing, and partaking in recreational activities.
But now, the internet has become their only solace. However, imposing small rules such as, no devices on the dining table and certain device-free hours in the day can reduce children's screen time and benefit their physical as well as mental wellbeing.