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Men's Health 2021

Parenting in a pandemic: tips to keep things calm

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Michelle Terry

CEO, Movember

With the current pandemic forcing us to spend more time at home, here are some tips on how fathers can get through extended periods at home without sacrificing their sanity.


Anyone who has faced down the fury of a five-year-old who’s refusing to eat their peas nicely or be parted from the iPad, knows that parenting can be tough. Parenting during a pandemic is even harder. Levels of stress, depression and anxiety among parents and carers have soared during successive lockdowns.

Extended periods at home, juggling work commitments, alongside looking after children, and home-schooling causes friction which has had a huge impact on parents’ mental health and wellbeing. But you can get through it without completely sacrificing your sanity. Here are some tips to help:

Divide up the house

Nobody likes feeling constantly on top of each other. If you can, define clear zones – such as noisy play zones, areas for quiet activities, adult only zones – in your home – to limit the chaos. Put a map of this on the fridge for everyone to see.

Plan rewards (and consequences)

Work out what behaviours you want to see more of and what you want to see less of and plan responses for both. Positive behaviours such as following instructions and playing nicely should be rewarded with praise, cuddles and one-on-one time. Fighting, aggression and refusing to follow instructions should be met with calm, clear consequences. This could include losing a privilege or a time out.

Extended periods at home, juggling work commitments, alongside looking after children, and home-schooling causes friction which has had a huge impact on parents’ mental health and wellbeing.

Hold a family meeting

Involve the entire household, listen to your children’s opinions and keep it fun. The more kids feel as though they’re part of the process, the better. Make decisions as a family and shake on it at the end of the meeting.

Don’t be the referee

Trying to find out who started what and did what to whom, is only useful sometimes. It can actually reinforce fighting. Instead, treat children as a team, refuse to get involved in fighting and reward them as a group for playing nicely. If they are fighting and not playing well together, apply consequences to them as a group.

Do an online parenting course

Positive parenting programmes can really help to tackle problem behaviour in kids, yet only a fifth of those who take part are fathers. Free online courses like Family Man are aimed at helping dads (and mums) improve their parenting skills and confidence. The evidence-based strategies include how to deal with tantrums and ignoring instructions have been vetted by psychologists and parenting experts around the world.

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