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Frankly Fatherhood – Coping During COVID

I’ve recently come to the realization that I like to be in control. I am the type of person who thrives on routine and needs to know what is happening next. I like to plan, delight in preparedness, relish in organization, and I love to make lists – I currently have about 12 categorized “To Do” lists on the go. So when the uncertainty and restrictions of COVID-19 inundated our daily lives, a slow but growing wave of panic started setting in.

At first, like many others, I was in shock. All I could do was watch the news, bury my head in social media, and see the world unravelling on the screens. I kept telling myself to just go with the flow and see what happens. This couldn’t possibly last very long, right? A part of me welcomed the slower pace of life, the unique chance to catch up on some projects, and the ability to spend more quality time with my kids. But then things started to get more serious. Days slipped into weeks and now months. School closures, viral spreads, flattening the curve, death tolls, and isolating restrictions began to be part of our daily conversations. My husband works in health care and suddenly each trip from work had the chance to put our family at risk. And unexpectedly, I was homeschooling my kids for what could very well be the last few months of the school year.

My attempts to keep some sort of order and routine with my children slowly crumbled into loose goals of getting out of pyjamas and have them fed by noon. Only to be followed by too much screen time and arguments about personal space. Waves of sadness, anxiety, and helplessness became the new normal as we all shared this undefeatable global trauma.

I had to snap out of this! It took great effort to force my attention away from the news and towards my family. I can’t fixate on things I can’t control so I need to divert my attention to what is within my reach. I can control how much media I consume, how to structure our day, and how to explain this pandemic to my boys in a way they can process. I can choose to reach out to family and friends, schedule video chats, and get outside more often. We can immerse ourselves in play, art, and make plans to have family gatherings when all this is over. I can be mindful that my attitude, actions, and fears are easily mirrored by my kids. Ultimately, I can control how my children will remember this bizarre time in our lives. It could be riddled with anxiety and gloom, or bursting with pleasant memories of being together.

So we started with incorporating chores and exercise in our daily routines. Learning time was sandwiched between fun blocks of Lego challenges, art projects, and video games. We ordered new books, clothes, and games online. We prepared meals together and are spending more time outdoors. As my inner lens slowly shifted, I noticed that my kids were happier and getting along a little better. I was making more plans and looking forward to creative ways to spend our days. And while the dark days of doom don’t go away, they do become shorter and more manageable. My hope is that our efforts today will ensure that everyone we care about will be around to celebrate with us when all this is over. And that maybe our kids will come out of this with a better understanding of what truly matters in life.

Frank Emanuele is a proud father of two boys, a special education teacher, and a director of Dad Club London.


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