BEALOR: Parenting like a dandelion during COVID-19

I love dandelions. While dandelions can be irritating to those working on a “perfect” lawn, they are a powerful representation of resiliency and survival. Think of how perfectly crafted dandelions are — providing color in our lawns, nectar for bees, a strong root system for growth, and a unique seed delivery system aided by nothing more than the wind.  As parents, I think we should aspire to be like dandelions — providing our children with strong roots and a means of “flying” as they develop into adults who eventually leave our care.

COVID-19 has been challenging for all of us and especially challenging for our children.  Over the last several months, the Cass County Friend of the Court has interacted with a lot of parents who have risen to the challenges imposed by COVID-19. I thought it would be worthwhile to share what I’ve learned from speaking to parents who are parenting like dandelions during COVID-19.

Many parents have echoed the same sentiment: children need our time and engagement now more than ever.

During COVID-19 it is important for us to mindfully and actively engage with our children so that we “take over” their environments with our connectedness to them. We need to take the time to actively plan for regular engagement in our children’s lives while being flexible with our co-parents and other important persons in our children’s lives to ensure our children get the engagement they need. 

There are some easy ways to engage with our children every day whether we live with our children or not. Many parents are using technology to provide creative ways for children to connect with parents, friends, relatives, teachers and schoolmates who they are not able to currently see in person. 

Besides engaging with our children, it is important to acknowledge what our children may be feeling during this difficult time and provide them with understanding. Adversity can provide an opportunity for growth both for parents and for children. By admitting to our children that things are hard and that things are not “normal” we help our children learn skills to deal with the future adversities we are all sure to face. Parents have an opportunity to model how to deal with adversity in a healthy way.  Many are doing just that by working together to co-parent through the challenges that COVID-19 has created.

Wellness is especially important during COVID-19. As parents, we know we can’t be the most effective parents unless we care for ourselves first. We have the power of modeling for our children how to properly care for ourselves with good nutrition, regular movement and mindfulness activities to improve mood. It is important that we give our children a variety of resources that they can use in adulthood.  These resources become strong roots to help them weather future storms.

As parents, we need to be creative to address the challenges created by COVID-19. Things are not “normal” and may not be “normal” for some time. If you spend time with a child, they can teach you much about making the most of what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t have. The world can be magical for children because they use their creativity to make the best of things.

As parents, we need to help our children tap into creativity more to not only survive but thrive through this COVID-19 pandemic. When we can’t go to a movie theatre, we can do a movie theatre in our family room, with microwave popcorn and candy.

When we can’t take the vacation we planned, we can create a staycation that sometimes is more meaningful because of the extra time we give of ourselves. Camping in our backyards or family rooms can be just as much fun as camping at a camp site.

Let’s be dandelions, bringing a bright yellow color of sunshine into our children’s lives. Let’s create strong roots for our children to grow. Let’s enable our children to utilize a variety of resources and develop resiliency so that they can fly forward into their future.

If you have questions about the FOC that you think would be helpful to address in future columns, please email  foc@cassco.org.

Carol Bealor is the director at the Cass County Friend of the Court.