Positive parenting during COVID-19

By Caroline Makumbe

On the 5th of March 2020, South Africans woke up to its first case of COVID-19[1], the global pandemic that many prior to this, had considered foreign. No one could have predicted the rapid local transmission that ensued, just a few weeks later, leaving the nation with over 1000 cases.

South African citizens now find themselves with an unexpected change to their lives, as life as they knew it pre-COVID-19 no longer exists. With this change comes an increasingly great concern over the mental wellbeing of parents and caregivers as they battle to deal with the undefined long-term effects of this disruptive virus, which has left them helpless, paranoid and fearful of possible job cuts.

"It is normal to feel stressed and overwhelmed during a crisis. However, it is in these times of uncertainty that children suffer the most as they become the direct recipients of adult’s frustrations, fears and anxieties that may render them susceptible to different forms of abuse. This is why it is crucial now more than ever to ensure parents have good and practical coping mechanisms to be mentally healthy and thereby exercise positive parenting".

Making time during the lockdown to reconnect with children and address their fears and anxiety is of particular importance, primarily, as busy work schedules limit spending quality time with children. Made even more salient with the fact that 60% of children under the age of 18 have absent fathers[2].

Modelling good behavior for children is also crucial during this time, as children learn by watching, listening and imitating adults. This calls for parents to ensure they demonstrate a positive response to COVID-19, to help curb the drastic impact of the virus on children for generations to come.

"It is important to note that, despite of any living conditions, whether one lives in an affluent suburb or an overcrowded informal settlement, we all have a responsibility towards our children’s well-being. As the primary caregivers, parents have a duty to ensure their children see, feel and experience their love, which is the foundation to their holistic development.

As children begin to receive more attention and love, the ripple effect in the long run could very well be a reduction in the number of children involved in destructive behaviors such as stabbings in schools, drugs, bullying and intimate relationships with older men".

Through the Expanding Equality Initiative, the Graça Machel Trust will amplify the voices of children to ensure they are safe and protected.