A recent study (which will be published later this year in the journal Child Development) found that giving children more autonomy (that is, freedom to make their own choices) was associated with improved well-being for parents, children, and the family as a whole during the pandemic. Specifically, parents who gave their children more autonomy reported that their children were doing better emotionally, their own needs were being fulfilled to a greater extent, and that their family was more emotionally bonded. In particular, this study found that parenting involving “choice within certain limits” seemed to be optimal during this stressful time.
This study included 496 school-age children (aged 6 to 19 years) in Germany from March to April of 2020. Parents included in this study reported on their parenting practices every day over the course of several weeks.
There is so much pressure on parents right now to be responsive, engaged, and sensitive with our children, but this study suggests that parents may need to step back occasionally. In other words, allowing your children the freedom to make choices when possible is likely to benefit both children and parents during a stressful period.
Many of us have adopted parenting practices during the pandemic that we intend to keep even as we move out of the pandemic, whether it is increased patience, gratitude, or autonomy. So how can we learn from the pandemic and allow our children more autonomy going forward?
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