All of us who lived through the Covid shut downs will not forget that period in our lives. At first we were kind of grateful for the forced time at home with our families. It was close and cozy and not so bad after all. And then, the world stopped. Weeks morphed into months and months and more months. We all began to see and feel what our children were missing. The losses they experienced were experiencing were real.
As the world reopened, slowly our children’s lives have resumed. The gaps are being closed. Students are catching up. Development is back on track, fueled by all the normal social and emotional experiences children need. Thank goodness.
But parents have not snapped back, post Covid. So many parents were witness to what their children were missing. Their children were deprived of the good stuff of the growing years: birthday parties, graduations, prom nights, special school events, playdates and sleepovers, enrichment classes of all kinds, hangouts in the village, vacations, etc… These were the events and experiences which parents remember fondly from their own growing years. The things to which their child had been looking forward did not happen. The children felt bad. But it seemed the parents felt worse.
What was a parent to do at the time? Make it up to the child. Give in to things normally not allowed. Fill in the gaps with privileges and stuff that would make the child “feel better.” And for goodness sakes, don’t say NO.
But that was then. We are now two years out of that terrible time, yet parents seem to be in the habit of overloading their kids with stuff, with things, with privileges, with permissions not previously sanctioned. And they are having trouble responding to their children in the way kids need—with boundaries and limits.
More than ever I am hearing from parents whose children are having behavioral problems. Kids cannot tolerate frustration or disappointment. They do not follow through with their responsibilities. They push the limits because doing so used to work. And parents give in and give up. “The poor guy didn’t get to see his friends for so long, I’ll just let him go to the mall or go out on a school night.” “The internet is the only way my child was able to socialize because of Covid, so I allow it way more than I should.”
It seems to me that these complaints are in part post Covid behaviors. And their needs to be a course correction. Many kids have grown accustomed to getting what they want by guilting Mom or Dad into submission or by just wearing the parent down.
On top of that, we are in the midst of a teen mental health crisis which is worrisome and terrifying to us all. By not crossing your child, by not asking too much, by not imposing too much, and by giving-in, worried parents misguidedly think they are protecting their child from problems that may lead to mental illness. I am not making this up. I have heard it out of the mouths of clients.
Covid shut downs are, thankfully, in the rearview mirror. The Covid excuse is undermining our kids. It’s time to take a look at yourself and decide if your parenting is in your child’s best interest now. Remember, children thrive on reasonable limits and boundaries and need a parent who is a firm backstop. All children must learn to tolerate frustration, to tolerate disappointment, and to delay gratification. They need to learn that life is filled with a variety of feelings, all of which are normal. And likely, your child will not be happy with your tightening the reins. Remember that no one is happy all the time. We need to allow our children to be unhappy. That is how they will learn to be happy.
Finally, now that Covid shut down is behind us, we need to let our children live their own lives. We need to stop protecting them from experiencing the normal ups and downs of daily life..
Maybe it’s time for a reboot.