How Do You Parent in a Pandemic?

BU Experts
8 min readSep 14, 2020

Child psychology expert offers advice on how parents can maintain a routine, manage covid induced stress, and support their children’s changing needs.

By Katherine Gianni

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unspalsh.

Even in the best of times, parenting young children is a juggling act. Throw a global health pandemic into the mix, along with the fear, uncertainty, and pressure that comes with it, and you’re still juggling, while simultaneously teetering across a tightrope. In fact, recent studies show that parents (namely working parents) are experiencing mounting levels of unrelenting stress as they grapple with choices about their work-life balance, the future of their children’s education, and how to keep their families safe.

Given these complicated and ever-evolving circumstances, Director of Boston University’s Biobehavioral and Social-Emotional Development Lab and Assistant Professor Nick Wagner, teamed up with a group of peer researchers to launch the Families And Children’s Experiences (F.A.C.E.) of COVID-19 Study. The ongoing international study explores the impact of COVID-related lifestyle changes on children and families in an effort to identify which contextual features are most effective in helping parents and children cope with the crisis. We spoke with Professor Wagner about how parents can talk openly to their children about COVID-19, navigate emotional hardships, and prioritize their mental well-being.

How should parents talk to their young children about the coronavirus pandemic?

Even at young ages, children are acutely aware of illness and death, and they are sensitive to stress in the family. Children will have almost certainly heard about the COVID-19 pandemic, so the first important thing for parents to do is to listen. Parents should listen openly and allow children to talk freely, without too many guiding questions. Parents can ask open ended questions and try to find out how much their children already know about the pandemic, and to assess any conclusions they’ve drawn about the implications of the pandemic for their safety and the safety of their families. Next, parents should answer their questions as honestly as they’re able. Of course, parents must consider their children’s age and the types of difficult conversations they’ve had…

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