Updated: Jan 5, 2021
Being a black mother during the pandemic has many challenges, including having to stay strong for everyone and sometimes having to take care of relatives with underlying conditions that have tested positive. Lack of childcare is also a burden for some moms since one in four women considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers since the pandemic, according to the annual Women in the Workplace study from LeanIn.org and consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Our hands are full as we learn to live in this prolonged season of Covid while trying to stay safe as well as keep our loved ones safe.
We are raising a generation of kids who have experienced social isolation for nine months. The disruptions of COVID -19 lockdowns, school closures, distance learning, and wearing a mask while enjoying simple pleasures outside can take a toll. Many kids haven’t seen their friends in months causing them to miss out on birthday parties, sports, and simple connections that were once the norm. Some kids could not celebrate their birthdays as they had imagined. Our children have been navigating disappointments and a new way of life now for quite some time.
In June 2020, in the context of COVID-19, a group of researchers in the UK reviewed 80 studies to find how social isolation and loneliness could impact previously healthy children's mental health. They found social isolation increased the risk of depression and possibly anxiety, and these effects could last several years.
We may not know the implications of COVID for years, but the Black NOLA Mom Contributors came up with a list of things that will help kids right now:
Plan uninterrupted time with them: Spend quality time with the kids without distractions when you can focus on them and ask questions. Black NOLA Mom, Kirstie Myvett has a ton of board games she plays with her teen and college-aged daughter plus good old fashioned games like UNO that the entire family can play together. This time together ensures my kids aren’t isolated in their rooms on their phones or playing video games all the time. It’s mandatory family time NOT optional.
Get outdoors - Children need indoor and outdoor play. Many kids have been spending many days inside. Fresh air will make them happier and get them moving around. A simple walk around the block having fun conversations every day is enough to get exercise and family time in. Also, New Orleans Botanical Garden offers free admission to Louisiana residents with identification on Wednesday’s! Take an hour out of your day and snap photos with the kids of the beautiful flowers in bloom.
Challenge the kids to be creative without technology - Technology has definitely been a blessing, but it can also present a major setback. The kids will be thankful and look back on this experience as a lesson that inspired their creativity. Challenge the kids to use more effective techniques that can help them learn while having fun. The Dollar store has canvases and paints that families can use to create crafts everyone can enjoy.
Schedule "social time" each day - This allows the kids to look forward to seeing their friends shortly. Facetime their friends or plan a zoom call. The kids really get excited about seeing their friends.
Cook a meal together. My daughter loves to bake and one of her Christmas gifts was a chocolate melter for all of the strawberries and marshmallows she likes to dip. We’ve made yaka mein countless times as well as pasta dishes. Let your children pick out a simple recipe and assist them in the kitchen.
Watch a movie together. My children get a day to pick out any movie they want to watch and we are all required to watch. Although sci-fi, robotic monster movies aren’t my thing I do it for them and consider it bonding and sharing time. Plus when it’s my turn to pick out a movie they call corny they have no choice but to watch it with me.
For teenagers, especially those pursuing college after graduation, it may seem daunting to think about how the pandemic and lack of extracurricular engagement will impact their college applications. Teens can use this time to pivot their in-person extracurricular activities to virtual settings. A few activities to consider include taking on remote internships, creating a virtual extension of one of their existing extracurricular activities, and even scheduling virtual informational interviews with professionals in the field your teen is considering.
Talk about feelings. Children must understand that we are all in this together. By talking about emotions, positive and negative, the whole family can be aware of how each member is being affected by these trying times which helps to initiate empathy. Even as parents, it can be difficult to feel good when it feels like there is so much to worry about. It is okay to tell your children if you are worried, sad, or even angry. It helps to reinforce that they can also talk to you about their feelings. When they ask difficult questions, it is okay not to have an answer, just being there to listen in a non-judgemental way can be helpful.
COVID 19 Parental Resources Kit: Ensuring Children and Young People’s Social, Emotional and Mental Well-Being
This article was written jointly by the Black New Orleans Mom Contributor Krewe:
Lynn Wesley-Coleman, Kirstie Myvett, Justina Boyd, Shannon Smith, Leonis Rousseve, and Michelle C. Harmon.