‘Empathy and kindness will change the world’ Jo Frost shares her tips to help families come out of the pandemic stronger and healthier

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  • Who would have thought the ‘naughty step’, a concept Jo Frost – most famously known for her long-running TV show Supernanny – championed more than three decades ago to help children learn from their actions, would be relevant to all of us today.

    But Jo believes that the current pandemic is ‘Mother Nature putting us all on the naughty step to make us take a breather’. And she’s here to help parents cope in the wake of COVID-19.

    Hi Jo, you’ve spent 33 years in parenting, how does it feel?

    It’s a great feeling to give back and be of service, to pass on my knowledge knowing it’s made a difference to so many worldwide. It also professionally progressed into giving me an opportunity to executive produce my other TV projects and write several books. I was currently filming my return on Supernanny season eight when I made the decision to halt it was getting dangerous and people were panicked. Now they are more accepting of our new normal.

    Have more parents reached out to you during lockdown?

    Both my email and Twitter, found on my website jofrost.com, went off the chart from every country. By the third day I was feeling that heavy energy – I needed to breathe deep and then start helping as Covid-19 had brought new challenges to the surface like homeschooling. It also highlighted already existing parental problems including quarantined quarrels.

    How would you go about explaining the current COVID-19 situation to a child?

    Ask them, ‘What do you know about COVID-19?’ in order to give them age-appropriate factual information, emphasise hygiene and myth-bust anything incorrect. Listen to your child’s fears, show eye contact and offer a cuddle. If your child is aged six or under and has not heard about the virus, don’t bring it up, as it could cause unnecessary anxiety.

    Is it normal for us to experience different emotions during this pandemic?

    Absolutely, it’s to be expected. We are humans not robots. Parents tend to project a lot of their stress on to their kids unknowingly and become less patient and tolerant, get snappier which leads to yelling for some and instead of choosing your battles you end up fighting every one. We have to breathe, pace, be realistic with what we can let go off and not be so hard on ourselves as parents.

    If a child’s behavior has taken a turn, what can parents do to control the situation?

    Surrender and listen to how your child is feeling. Identify the root cause and be compassionate working through those feelings together. Suggest pockets of time to meditate, get out for some fresh air and be affectionate. Sometimes kids show stress with untypical behaviour. Have a routine that can support you all as a family mentally and physically.

    How can parents reward their children’s good behaviour in these times?

    By acknowledging their co- operation – maybe it’s those house tasks – through these difficult times. Practice the art of gratitude as thankfulness everyday so the focus is on the good. That may be a tall order with what has been happening, but I truly believe we are getting to value what is really important right now and that’s profound. Empathy and kindness being taught everyday will change the world we live in.

    Article originally appeared in our sister publication Woman’s Own. Woman’s Own would like to apologise to Jo Frost for an internal miscommunication that allowed the printed version to go to newstands with copy that was not approved by Jo Frost.