Zirpoli: Basics still apply when parenting during a pandemic | COMMENTARY

There has been a lot of discussions these days about the well-being of our children during this pandemic. Concerns about social isolation and mental health issues are real.

With my background in education and psychology, I humbly offer some advice.


Provide appropriate supervision. Parental supervision is one of the major correlates of successful outcomes for children. They need our guidance and, when necessary, our redirection. Supervision means knowing what our children are doing and this includes their online activities. We need to remain a strong guiding voice in their lives.

That voice provides them with a stable platform upon which to develop and grow. This is not the time to slack off on parental supervision.


The research shows that supervision is the most important thing we provide our children. In addition, it communicates to them that we care.

Provide appropriate structure and routines. Contrary to the popular myth, structure and routines do not stifle children's creativity, development, or personality. Instead, structure helps children develop organization and an understanding of what is acceptable behavior.

Routines add predictability to a child's day. Without the routine of school, this is especially important. Establish daily routines for getting up in the morning, making their bed, helping with meals, and doing schoolwork, and so on. Give children jobs and responsibilities for them to complete each day.

Parents are their children’s primary model on how to deal with these difficult times. Our lives are filled with disappointment right now as various social activities like school and vacations are canceled. If we deal with these disappointments in a positive manner, our children will follow. If we keep things in perspective, so will our children.

If we look toward a positive future, so will our children. If we are hopeful, our children will be, too. A good question to ask ourselves at the end of the day: Based upon my words and my actions, what did my children learn from me today?

Our children need encouragement now more than ever. Thank them for following the rules and completing their daily responsibilities. As much as possible in this crazy environment, create a reinforcing and positive environment for our children. In fact, we all need this right now. So let’s all try harder to be kind to each other.

The pandemic is not a reason to let our children get away with breaking our rules or acting inappropriately. Remember, more than ever, children need structure, routines, and rules to organize their lives and their emotions. For the sake of our children, we need to remain strong and consistent in our expectations.

Work with their teachers. Even if children are taking classes virtually, we can still email teachers to find out what we can do to help them succeed in school. We must tell our children that, virtual or in-person, school is important — it is their primary job right now.

Set aside time for schoolwork and homework. This should be part of their daily routine mentioned above.

Social isolation is a primary concern. But we can help children maintain social interactions. They are already using social media to stay in contact with family and friends. We can encourage them to host virtual gatherings, clubs, and activities. Organize nature hikes where kids can meet and social distance while wearing masks. They can organize volunteer projects with friends like cleaning up trash around the neighborhood, painting a neighbor’s fence, or shopping for an elderly neighbor. We all need a purpose in our lives.

We need to empower our children to take control of their safety.

Wearing a mask, social distancing, washing hands, avoiding large groups. These are the primary means of stopping the spread of the virus. We need to be the role model for these behaviors and explain that we do these things to keep our family and friends safe. What a great way to teach social and personal responsibility.


Like all of us, our children are probably feeling a little insecure right now. Not sure about their future, our children need to know that they will be safe and that they are loved. We can talk to children about how they are feeling. We can listen and affirm their feelings.

We can tell them that we love them.

Things are difficult right now but do try to have some fun with your children. Even with everything going on, try to find reasons to be grateful. For children, seeing a parent smile and hearing them say that we will recover from these difficult times provides hope and optimism.

Our children are listening and taking their cues from us.

Tom Zirpoli is the program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster. His column appears on Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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