Parents deal with the coronavirus scare differently, but with the same end goal: Give their kids the best no matter what.
For Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio, empathizing with your kids and allowing distractions will help them as they look for relief. To honor moms around the globe, this ABS-CBN Lifestyle Mod Mom shared how she’s navigating these troubled times—with updates on her family’s current state of mind during this pandemic, as they all got stuck in the States after supposedly just staying there for vacay.
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How did you explain COVID-19 to your kids?
We were traveling, there was already coronavirus when we left the Philippines on March 5. So, we were just telling him little things na, “Oh, be careful of the things you touch. We will always wash our hands every time we touch something or when we go out, we’d have to wash our hands often, and we need to wash them well. And then we don't touch our eyes, we don't touch our nose, and we don't put our hands in our mouth because there's a virus that's been going around and it's spreading really fast. So, we don't want to catch that naman, diba?” We said it in the beginning in that way. But eventually when it has become a pandemic and yun na nga, everyone is very fearful about the situation. I'm very grateful that there are shows online that kind of teach you about how to catch colds and viruses. One is... Cells At Work is an anime about the cells of the body. So, I felt like it was an interesting—it's an interesting time to actually home school your child on how the body works. And I feel kasi when you just tell a child, “Alam mo, may virus. So don’t touch this, don’t touch that.” Hindi deep enough yung understanding nya para gawin nya yung tama, para sundin ka niya na kailangan lagi maghugas ng kamay or na wag kang mag touch basta basta ng surfaces. So, I felt, lalo na with the age of my child who is six years old, he's very into absorbing information. So, yun yung ginagawa ko. Nagpi-present ako sa kanya ng information about the body so he has a deeper understanding of how it all works and how we actually catch the virus.
How do you manage your kids' emotions?
I’m actually super grateful that my eldest does not get overwhelmed. And I think the reason why he doesn't get overwhelmed is because we don't get overwhelmed. You know how kids just take after their parents? They say nga diba, fear is learned? So parang nakita ko to before sa anak ko, yung eldest namin, na hindi naman sya natatakot before, pero nung nakita nya ko, after the first time nya kong nakitang sumigaw when he was a baby, doon ko na nakita nagkaroon sya ng fear. And then I realized, “Oh, okay. I really must control my reactions because sometimes it signals fear to them, even when in fact it was just surprise for you, but they learn it as fear.” I feel like now my eldest is not really so overwhelmed by everything because the key to that is me not being overwhelmed by everything.
We’re not in a normal situation. Everything is abnormal, this is not our day-to-day experience of life. And I feel like minsan, nagkakagalit na kami ng asawa ko kasi minsan nawawala yung structure in place, kasi nga hindi ito yung regular life mo. And sometimes, pag wala yung mga structures na ganon, feeling mo, “Sobra na ba kong lenient? Sobra na ba kong hindi nati-train yung anak ko to do good things?” And then after a while, magri-relax din kami ng husband ko na parang, “You know what? This is not the best time to implement rules because we're not living under normal circumstances.” So, may mga ganun din kami na course correction. Kung ano man feeling namin as of the moment, we really study it well—not the situation, but ourselves—we study it well, “Bakit ba tayo? Bakit ba natin feeling ganito? And tama ba na ma-feel natin ito sa panahon ngayon?”
So, right now we're just really being more relaxed than usual. We're not putting too many rules, we are allowing more desserts more than normal. Also, we're spending much more time with them. Well, I always spend this much time with them because I'm a stay-at-home mom naman, but my husband used to be in the office like from Mondays through Fridays, so he doesn't really get this much time with the kids. And so, I think that’s part of the blessing that comes with this abnormal condition that we are in right now na mas marami kaming panahon na pwede ma-spend sa kanila. And I feel like yun yung way kumbaga on how we can soften the blows off of this condition that we're in right now.
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What values have you imparted to your kids during crisis?
One is to have faith in God; to have that relationship, not only a faith na parang about religiosity, but to have a real relationship with God.
Second is, we really want them to be diverse. We want them to be learners. We want them to be open to the differences that other people have, other families have with us, and so that leads to a thinking or a value of how God has made all of us differently. Hindi naman tayo robots na parang one type lang hinihingi ni God from all of us. And so, we want them to embrace the differences all around them and to actually learn from them as much as possible.
We value learning. We feel like you need to change and to evolve in life. We also feel like that the best way to do that is if you have a continuously learning mind and that's one value that we have in our house, na we are always open to new things and we're always looking for something to learn so our minds are—little little or big things. Like ako, I'm trying to learn how to cook right now, and you might think a little less than other things to learn, like you could learn greater things in books. But I mean, that in itself is an exercise for your mind and your body to get into something new, so you always are open, it's training your body and your spirit to be open to changing, to developing.
What advice can you give parents on helping their children cope?
My number one tip is your children will only feel what you are personally feeling. So, if there’s anyone that could start a really confident and peaceful spirit in your home, that's you. Because you set the tone, you set the atmosphere for your home. If there's anything to concentrate on, I feel like kasi as parents, we see like controlling the kids—kid must feel this way, the kid must react this way—without really first checking ourselves. “Ano nga ba talaga yung nararamdaman natin?” Kasi, sa atin sila kukuha ng cue on how to react and take things. We are the moral compass of our children and so we must remember that if the child is actually acting a certain way, maybe it reflects something about you—maybe it's your anxiety, it's your fears and so it's best talaga to go back and say, “Ano nga ba yung sine-set kong example for my children?” That's one.
But also I don't wanna burden you naman by saying you're not you're not supposed to be anxious, you're not supposed to be fearful because the truth, it really can get scary outside especially when we watch the news or when we hear of stories here and there na may namatay, may ganito. Syempre nakaka-anxious naman talaga yon. And I feel like that's also a good way to model to your children. Like just be honest with them, “You know I'm getting scared about this and that because I've been hearing stories here and there that haven't been very encouraging for Mama or Papa. And so I get anxious and I get scared about that.” And I feel like when you say that do your children, it also says that to be anxious is actually normal. Hindi naman kasalanan kung matakot ka eh, but it's what you do afterwards it's more important—that you’re anxious and you're scared, but there is something else that you can do.
And for us, our family it’s praying for God na we surrender our fears to Him, and we trust that God will give us the peace that we need even when we're going through such a challenging time. So, kung kaya natin masabi at ma-explain sa mga anak natin yun in a way that they will understand, I feel like that's actually a very good thing to learn in this moment. We're only going through this right now because of the pandemic, diba? Na meron tayong global crisis, pero the reality is, kahit naman matapos to, magkakaroon at magkakaroon parin ng challenges yung bata sa buhay nya, at ikaw din. So, we might as well make this time purposeful in learning how to handle times of stress, times of fear, times of anxiety. Paano nga ba yung mga sarili natin. Good to observe: How do we react when something like this happens, how do we react when a crisis comes up in our life, and how do we overcome it. It would be a good way to use your time we're not now that we’re on lockdown.
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Photos from @ricaperalejo
Banner image by Kang Garcia