Parenting in the time of Covid-19: Experts say millennial parents can achieve work-life balance
Covid-19 may have brought challenges for parents, with technology often at the centre of it – but not all hope is lost
Millennial parents and their children, generation Alpha, are facing unprecedented challenges which have been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, says Lyn Wilson, strategic planner at Wunderman Thompson.
Wilson says about 2.5-million Alpha babies are born every week, primarily to millennials. Generation Alpha refers to children born between 2011 and 2025 and is the most technologically infused demographic.
The danger with this, she cautions, is that their millennial career-driven parents often find themselves under pressure in the pursuit of the work-life balance and end up turning to technology to raise and nurture their children.
“In a hustle-bustle millennial parent's world, and with the added complexities of work-life balance in the time of Covid-19, it's all too easy to give in to using a mobile phone video as a pacifier or a screen as a babysitter.
“This little cohort is the first generation to be born entirely in the 21st century. They are the ones that have a technologically infused childhood that will go into their teenagehood and adulthood. We have to be very careful about how we bring them up,” she says.
With most parents working from home and their children attending school remotely, clinical psychologist Liane Laurie says parents should regulate their children's use of technology and monitor the content they consume online.
“An overuse of devices is similar to addiction if children are more into their devices as opposed to social settings and using different parts of their brains that involve problem-solving, going outside, climbing and getting some fresh air.
“Overreliance on technological devices can also be isolating for children and affect their mental health.
“These things play a major role in terms of online anxiety and depression. Also, because we are not present, we don't know what sites they are frequenting and what they may be exposed to unless we put on some kind of software onto the devices.
“Too much exposure to the blue light can affect your ability to sleep. Less sleep means lower mood and high levels of anxiety,” she says.
Laurie advises parents to encourage their children to have human interactions whenever possible. This helps their social skills and reduces anxiety.
There is no substitute for human interaction. With children learning online during Covid-19, they were cut off from other people as a result. They spent most of their time online.Liane Laurie, clinical psychologist
“There is no substitute for human interaction. With children learning online during Covid-19, they were cut off from other people as a result. They spent most of their time online,” she says.
By the time they are eight years old, Alpha babies will know significantly more than their parents do, says Pam Tudin, clinical psychologist and co-founder of Klikd, an organisation that provides parents and children with cyber safety tools.
Technology is an inescapable reality and instead of looking for ways to avoid it, she advises parents to guide their children through their use of it and social media.
“We as parents have to take ownership of the parenting journey and not throw our hands in the air and say we have lost this battle before we can begin. There is lots of good that can come from it.
“The learning is more personalised, there will be artificial intelligence as part of their reality which can inform their world view for good or not good, and they will have social media as a form of communication.”
At the height of the pandemic, Klikd identified four key issues that changed the dynamic of parenting. They are:
- children being out of school;
- boredom; and
- the psychological inclination to take risks online.
This is where responsible parenting comes in, says Tudin.
“Before the risk might have been on the rugby field, in asking a girl out on a date. But now the risk is: 'I'm on my screen, I'm bored — and that combination means when somebody I don't know pops up on my screen and starts a chat with me, I am far more likely to engage in that conversation because my brain wants a bit of excitement and risk.'
“Kids are far more likely to engage in risk online than they were before.”
Not all hope is lost, she adds. Parents can still take charge by creating a work-life balance which involves drafting contracts with their children about their use of technology while still making time for other important life activities like family time and exercise.