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Pandemic Parenting Survival Guide: For Parents of Young Children and Toddlers

Updated: Mar 25, 2020

How to come out of this Coronavirus quarantine with all family members still alive

It’s halfway through the second week of quarantine, and moms around the globe are beginning to pull out their hair. “That activity took a whole day to plan and prep for, and my kid lost interest after 10 min!” “That was totally not worth the mess!” And my favorite- “I truly wish my toddler would just be content watching 30 minutes of tv!”

Can we all just take a break from the frantic Pinterest-inspired activities? Even if just for a few days?

To tell you the truth, there is only one thing your child truly needs.


You can have the most elaborate activities that are both stimulating and educational, but at the end of the day there is only one thing your child is truly craving- quality time with you. The parent is the most important thing in the child’s world. Let’s make the most of that fact and give ourselves a break from the pressure of planning perfect activities.

I am often asked which is more important- intellectual and academic development (ie, learning based play) or social and emotional development (play based in recognizing, validating, and responding to your child’s emotions)- and I always have the same answer. When it comes to your child’s best chances of becoming a positively contributing member of society, social and emotional development wins every time. A child may be the brightest and most academically advanced student in the room, but if he can’t control his emotions he will never reach his potential.

When it comes to creating the most developmentally appropriate activities to engage in with your child, keep the parent-child relationship at the forefront. Go into your child’s room or play area, and have a seat on the floor. Follow your child’s lead in their play. Be an active participant, but don’t direct. Try not to give any corrections to their behaviors, even if just for a few moments. I promise it will pay dividends.

Let go of the stress of planning, and challenge yourself to just be with your child. He will know how to direct you towards what he needs, whether it’s most sensory play, books, puzzles, or imaginary play time. Let his intuition be your guide. The most magical moments often occur with a cardboard box or other seemingly useless items. Pinterest is fabulous for inspiration, but there is a fine line between needing new ideas to have fun with, and laying in bed at night and going over all the ways in which we failed as a parent today because the volcano we made didn’t actually explode like advertised and the lava was a little too orange.

Additional Survival Tips for Parents of Toddlers

1.) Make sure you are getting plenty of outdoor time, weather permitting.

Let off some steam, move your body. These work wonders for the soul. If the weather is bad, no one is going to comment if you happen to go over the AAP recommended screen time. It is a pandemic after all!

2.) Read some books together, every day if possible

Books are the brain’s fuel. Reading books together sparks your child’s imagination and creativity, and helps him problem solve and think about the future (the emergence of planning and organization skills). Bonus if you read the books together, as you are also getting quality connection time and your child’s brain stores this moment as a positive, secure experience with mom or dad.

3.) Enjoy this time, as this too shall pass

If you can, try to re-frame this time in your mind to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for another maternity leave. You may never get a chance to miss several weeks of work and for your child to miss daycare or school and all the other extracurricular activities to just be at home with you. Once you are able to shift your mindset, this time begins to feel much more bearable, and maybe even a little enjoyable.

Grab your child, head to the play area, and make yourself comfortable on the floor. Something tells me we will have a lot of time to enjoy these moments over the coming months. If all else fails, Baby Shark is available on iTunes and Amazon Music and can be played infinite times without judgement.

Laura McLaughlin is the Founder and Therapist at HeadFirst Counseling in Dallas, TX. Laura works with children, teens, and parents to foster secure attachments and create an environment for families to thrive. Read more about Laura and HeadFirst Counseling at

Laura can be reached by contacting the HeadFirst Office at (469) 665-9416 or

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