Getting Through Together / Wellbeing for parents and whānau / I’m feeling guilty that I’m not being a good parent right now

It’s important to recognise that since COVID-19 life has changed. Even as we transition down alert levels it is still a time of increased stress and uncertainty and it’s likely that you need to reorient your priorities and expectations of yourself, your children and the household. This may mean letting some things go.

Many tamariki will have been spending a lot of time on devices and having more screen time than usual. Many parents may feel guilty about this, even as children transition back to school life. Although research in this area is varied we have been and are still living through exceptional times. Many psychologists agree that children are not going to be “damaged” by having too much screen time. If it’s what you and your children needed and still need to get through each day right now, then that’s okay.

You can find more information about screen time here:

Rethinking screen time

Device use for kids

Transitioning from lots of screen time to less

“The guilt I feel for the amount of screen time my kids are having is intense, but for my husband and I to continue our mahi, it’s one of the easiest options. I have worked previously in kaupapa Māori settings where I think I would probably feel a bit more relaxed about the integration of our kids in the work arena. Sometimes I am not sure if my current workplace understands the juggle as much, and the pressure from this uncertainty I find really hard. We are finding ways through it all, but I know that we are not the whānau we were before the noho rāhui/lockdown. Our kids have seen us at our worst due to the stress of balancing mahi, kura and parenting all under the same roof. On a positive note, we have had the best whānau games night, so much laughter! The kids are also doing way more housework than they ever have done previously – they are learning exactly what it takes to run a home, which are great practical lessons that will help them in the future greatly!” (Aroha – working from home mama of 2 young tamariki).

“My 15 year old son has aspergers and playing computer games is a really good way for him to calm down after a day at school, or after time he has been in a noisy or crowded situation with lots of social contact, which he can find stressful and overwhelming. I don’t like him playing violent games, but he often plays games that are creative. He can also play with other people online so he can still stay socially engaged with his friends. I notice he can seem irritable if he has too much screen time so I do try and set limits.” (Mereana – Mum of a 9 and 15 year old).

Now schools have reopened, most tamariki will be back at school. However, it is going to take awhile for children to adjust and whānau routines will need to change again.

Give your tamariki time to settle in. What’s most important right now is that transitioning back into kura/ school is as stress free and positive as possible. There may be a strong feeling of your tamariki needing to “catch up” or do extra work to make up for lost time. However, schools will recognise that students will all have had different experiences while away from school.

Students must not feel judged, or that it’s too late to be able to do well this year. It’s about finding out where students are at and making sure tamariki can feel good about their learning again.

You can find more information about tamariki returning to school here

During the noho rāhui/lockdown we saw many whānau posting their fun, happy times on social media as well as news items showing weird and wonderful things families have been up to. Now that children are returning to school, some parents may feel a sense of failure if they were unable to do lots of fun things or spend lots of quality time with their tamariki. However, many parents will not have had the time, emotional space or energy and just getting through with everyone safe was and is a big achievement. This will still be the case moving forward through different alert levels, and the uncertainty of the coming weeks and months.

There is a lot of advice about the importance of keeping to a routine to help ourselves and tamariki during these times. It’s great if you can and it works for you and your whānau, but many parents may also find this challenging. If sticking to a routine is difficult for whatever reason that’s okay. Remember it’s about getting through the day in whatever way you can.

With many tamariki going back to school it may be that developing a routine will become a little easier. However, this will also be a time of adjustment and change. So be patient and kind to yourself and your tamariki.

“I’m worried about how will I manage getting out of the door when we are so used to the kids getting up when they please and a slow morning routine. I tried to keep up a ‘tight’ morning routine but that slackened over time and now it’s gone.” (Olivia – mum to 4 and 7 year old).