Parenting in a Pandemic

Lately I’ve felt so frustrated by the amount of uncertainty that has settled over our world like a persistent black cloud. No one has the answer. Experts say different things. Leaders undo each other’s recommendations. It’s a mess. A mess that leaves me feeling scared, anxious, and worried.

Recently our superintendent sent out an email communicating the early stages of planning for the fall semester. His communication was clear and effective. The three scenarios the district is currently exploring are: (a) return to class, (b) continue online learning, (c) and most likely, a hybrid approach. He didn’t give us the answer because he can’t, but he did let us know what the district was thinking about and in which direction they were likely move. After reading his email, I was able to slightly exhale. I had gotten a little bit of what I needed. At least enough to propel me further for a few more weeks.

What about our kids though? What do they need? As much as our lives have been absolutely turned upside down, what must it feel like to them? You can see your grandparent but you can’t hug them. Remember not to high five your neighbor. No play dates. No parks. No school. In their worlds, everything has changed, and their little minds are struggling to make sense of it all.

So how do we parent during a pandemic? We do it with 3 things: consistency, confidence, and compassion.

Whatever measures we decide to put in place to protect our children they should be consistent. It’s not fair to look the other way if they throw a ball around with the next door neighbor one day, and then tell them not to share toys the next. Our rules should be easy for them to understand and remember, and they should apply to all situations. Young children struggle to make sense of abstractions and inconsistencies. Now is certainly the time preserve what gives them a small sense of peace.

We also need to be confident in how we move them through this. How frustrating is it for us when we hear our leaders saying all kinds of different things? So many of us wish we could just all agree on something. Our kids feel the same. We need to give them the sense that we’ve got this, that we are in control, that we will guide them through this, and that it will all be ok. Even if we feel far from that, we can at least give them a vibe of confidence so that their sense of security doesn’t completely shatter. We are still their parents, pandemic and all.

Finally, we need to be compassionate. It cannot be emphasized enough how much their worlds have changed and how little they understand. We are all short on patience, energy, and sometimes even hope. That’s not their fault though. Let’s not take it out on them. We can remember that the whining, the fussing, the frustration, the push back on school work, the tantrums, etc. may actually be our child telling us “I don’t understand. Why are we doing this? I miss my friends. School at home is not the same.When will this be over?” It just sounds a lot less eloquent and much louder when it comes out of their little spirits.

Consistency, confidence, and compassion. Our children need healthy doses of all 3 of these. As for us as parents, we need grace and lots of it. Parenting during a pandemic is unprecedented, and its effects on our children are profound. Love them. Believe in them. Have patience with them. And then do all those things for yourself.

Find the joy,


Jessica McCauley, M.Ed. is a parenting coach/consultant. She draws on her background as a Montessori educator and Child Life Specialist to help families navigate the challenges of the early childhood years. Contact Jessica at for more information or to schedule a consultation.