Parenting During a Pandemic (Free Talk with guest Holly Forman-Patel, LMFT, LPCC)


This 25-minute talk addresses several topics related to Parenting During a Pandemic, and most of these extend outside of the current situation as well. 

Whether you're in a single-parenting, double-parenting or co-parenting situation, these resources and information may be relevant and helpful for you.



I've been working with so many clients who are struggling with the new challenges, (amidst the COVID-19 situation) around keeping their children safe, healthy and happy while navigating new parenting challenges and trying to keep the peace and sanity for all involved.

To provide some support to those struggling with these new challenges, I invited my colleague, Holly Forman-Patel to join me to share some information and resources.

Holly is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in working with children and adults who have experienced trauma. She also specializes in Parent Coaching, which is helping parents of children (10 and under) work through challenging behaviors that are occurring. She has become a close colleague and trusted partner over the years, as we’ve worked together to help our clients (both the parents and the children) transition through the divorce process in a way that will help them to grow and evolve. So, we wanted to come together to discuss the current challenges many parents are facing within the current pandemic situation.

Although we’ve found that some parents and children are really liking the stability of the situation (with reduced transitions between homes and activities and more time together), there are still plenty of new challenges that they are working through. We address those, specifically, in this talk. 

Please watch the video and/or read the summary (and more) below. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Holly and/or me.


Parents are dealing with the tension and challenges around having their kids home (all of the time) while dealing with the limitations and added stressors around the current COVID-19 situation. So, how can parents help their kids by minimizing the negative impacts of the isolation and maximizing the opportunities? By:

  • creating an environment of LOVE and STRUCTURE for your kids
  • forming a united plan with your co-parent (the other parent, whether a spouse/partner or not)
  • taking this opportunity to spend quality time with your children
  • designating space and establishing agreements for taking alone-time - for everyone

First… how might this situation be affecting your children?
They may be:

  • feeling more at ease, in some ways, with fewer transitions, commitments, and responsibilities
  • feeling cabin fever, boredom, overwhelm, or depression
  • taking on their parents’ stress (financial, work, fears, parental conflict)
  • overhearing the news on the media outlets, from parents and/or other children and drawing false or exaggerated narratives (more downtime can allow for more time to focus on the issues around COVID-19)

Now, to expand on the items outlined above:

Create an Environment of LOVE and STRUCTURE for Your Kids

Spread the love -- generously. Try to have compassion for everyone and what they’re going through. This is a difficult time for everyone. Be patient, be kind and be forgiving. That means to yourself as well. A positive attitude and a loving environment can have a very positive impact on everyone in the house.

Having structure helps to create a space for clear expectations, some level of predictability, and a safety net that allows us to keep operating.

Some parents are building resentment around the challenges with homeschooling and understanding their child’s developmental level and needs. It can be frustrating and challenging to create an environment where kids can actually learn from their parents, all while parents are trying to focus on working and/or maintaining the household responsibilities.  So, it might be a good time to think about what you might be able to let go for the time being.

In the classroom, kids can spend between 6 and 8 hours in a learning environment, while, at home, they struggle to complete just a couple hours of work. Why is that? Teachers deliberately take the time to create an environment for structured learning with clear expectations -- and it doesn’t happen overnight

So, how can you foster a productive, loving and structured environment for your children?

  • Create a clear (yet fun and flexible) schedule and routine -- and set realistic expectations.
    • Schedule what/when things need to be accomplished (but remain fairly flexible). Help kids to listen to their bodies and balance their responsibilities with their needs for breaks. Time at school is broken up with social time -- whether it be conferring with a desk partner, recess, lunch or transitioning between activities. At home, there are far fewer opportunities to be social and often much more time spent in a focused state. So, be realistic with expectations around work time.
    • List activities for children to choose from when they’re bored, need a break or are finished with their school work. If you’re struggling with their screen time exposure and boredom (and trying to monitor schoolwork vs. video games), set times for school work and allow times for approved screen time (and be sure to have lots of non-screen options readily available to them -- see our ideas below).
  • Avoid power struggles with your kids (over screen time, schooling or vegging time). Be flexible and bond with your child.
  • Create positive activities for kids to look forward to at the end of each day (not just as a reward).
    • Have a dance party
    • Prepare a bubble bath for your child
    • Bake cookies or their favorite dinner -- together
    • Allow them to style your hair, dress you up and paint your face (this is always a big hit with the younger kids)
    • Start a new book and read a bit aloud each night. Talk about what you read.
    • Write a story together. Have each family member contribute to the story and develop a bit more each evening before bed. It’ll be quite interesting to read it later on!
  • Exercise forgiveness around behavior regression. Though kids may appear to be more relaxed, they may be experiencing a high level of stress. Any time kids (or adults) are faced with a crisis, behaviors can regress and newly conquered skills may reverse -- temporarily (e.g., potty training, anger issues, skills mastery).
  • Provide developmentally appropriate information to your kids around the COVID-19 situation, so that they’re not hearing bits and pieces of information and drawing false or incomplete narratives. Answer their questions. Address any misunderstandings and try to minimize the constant stream of news about the situation.
  • Help your children develop stress-management skills by guiding them and modeling activities and practices to reduce stress, such as mediation, exercise, breathing exercises, physical activity, etc.

To address the some of the issues around too much screen time, boredom, cabin fever, overwhelm and depression, we explored some ideas for bonding activities that you can do with your children (which do NOT involve a screen (unless you’re conducting them on a video conference, which is just great too!)):

    • Talk. Yes -- just talk. Talk to your children about their concerns, questions, needs. Provide reassurance. Put your phone away. Give them eye contact. Give them your full attention (when you can). Give them lots of hugs. Help them to understand that you’re going to take care of them and that -- this too, shall pass.
    • Play “Simon Says” (kids get a positive, pro-social way of having some control)
    • Play “red light, green light” (a little physical activity can really help)
    • Create co-art projects (work on the same project, together)
    • Do puppet shows (pull out socks, if necessary)
    • Create scavenger hunts
      • Hide a bunch of stuff, create a list of things to find and set everyone loose! OR, hide one thing each day (make it hard) and have the goal of the day to find it (kids often find old things along the way that they have forgotten about and it becomes a discovery activity along the way as well!)
    • Play “hide and seek” (be sure to set guidelines on where kids can both hide AND seek, so there are no safety issues)
    • Have a fort-building contest (try not to worry about the mess -- the clean-up competition comes after!)
    • Go for a walk outside (if you’re comfortable with that) or just get some fresh air and exercise
    • Engage in discovery activities (e.g., find 5 different types of caterpillars in the backyard; identify 5 different types of bird songs you’re hearing outside, etc.)
    • Since many parents and children have work to accomplish during the day, you can also do your work/activities side-by-side (parallel play), so that the activity becomes a shared experience, even though you’re working independently.
    • Have fun, be creative and engage with your kids! Be mindful and in the moment.

Form a United Plan with your Co-Parent
(i.e. the other parent, whether a spouse/partner or not)

Every parenting situation and style is different. As much as possible, come to an agreement with your parent partner on how children will be advised on safety precautions, allowable activities, and expectations for schoolwork, breaks, and behavior. Disagreements and differences between parents can cause a lot of stress and confusion for kids (and their parents). Try to find common ground, compromise where you can, and be consistent with your kids. Do what you can to avoid putting them in awkward and uncomfortable situations between parenting styles, rules, and expectations. If you can’t agree, consider employing a professional to help you work it out.

Take this opportunity to spend quality time with your children

Whether you’re with your child physically, or trying to maintain a connection remotely, take this opportunity to connect or reconnect with them and keep the focus on them. This really is a rare opportunity where parents and children are able to spend time together -- without the competing outside activities.

Some co-parents have revised their visitation schedule for the isolation period, and are feeling that the periods in-between visits are too long. Whether you’re physically together or not, you can still connect with your kids in a meaningful way during this unique opportunity.

  • For parents trying to stay connected remotely, using the obvious tools, such as videoconferencing, phone calls, and text messaging, stay in touch with your kids by reading together, playing online games, having a dance party, just talking, doing a “parallel” art activity, or singing a song. 
  • Resist the urge to check-in about how the other parent is parenting and managing the situation and, instead, talk about how your kids are doing, fun things they’re doing, challenges they’re having and checking-in to see if they need anything or have questions. Share how you’re managing your time and any anxiety to demonstrate positive role modeling.

Designate Space and Establish Agreements for Taking Alone-Time

When everyone is spending all of their time together in a confined space, it’s important to create or designate the space for household members to take time alone (for young children, this could be just a fort or tent in the living room). This alone time could be both scheduled and as-needed. Creating agreements about the alone-time and creating cues, such as dimming the lights, playing music or opening the windows, could help to support the much-needed breaks.  Adults can model these coping skills for their children.


If you’re really struggling, remember that this has been a very sudden and major change for everyone, and it takes time to process and adapt. If you need help, please do not hesitate to contact Holly or me

Also, if you're interested in joining my online workshop for co-parenting support, click here to learn more or contact me at [email protected].

Take care.




More About My Guest:

Holly Forman-Patel, LMFT, LPCC

Phone: 510-677-9264
Email:  [email protected]  
Instagram: @hollyformanpatelmft


Holly Forman-Patel is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. She has been working with children throughout her life in different capacities and settings, including as a preschool teacher, a therapist in the Berkeley School system and for the last decade in her therapy private practice.

Her specialties include not only working with anger but with children and their parents and with adults recovering from trauma. She is versed in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), a proven way to support individuals who have experienced traumatic events and assists in facilitation at trainings for other therapists in EMDR. She additionally provides Parent Coaching to address behavioral challenges and is a consultant for therapists honing their craft.

She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. When she is not working, she enjoys cooking, gardening and anything involving comedy.

ALSO: Holly will be offering an activity book for kids (aged 5-8), which comes out at the end of May. The workbook includes 50+ activities around how to create insights about your anger and skills for moving through it. Contact her to be notified when it becomes available! 


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