The pandemic and the associated lockdowns have made parenting even more challenging than usual. There is a colossal amount being asked of parents. However, there are some actions parents can take to support themselves and their wellbeing and mental health along with that of their child or young person during lockdown and particularly now that the schools are once again temporarily closed. Parents can be more supportive to others if they are better prepared themselves.
Try and have a daily routine even if it is not your usual routine. You may need to adapt one to suit the lockdown and circumstances. But be flexible and don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t go according to plan.
Maintain relationships with friends and family even if you cannot meet in person, there is always the phone or social media. Talk about your worries rather than bottling up your fears.
If you are working from home have a clear work/life balance.
Look after your physical health through exercise and eating as healthily as possible. The benefits of exercise can be felt from even a short bout of 15 to 30 minutes.
Try and get a good night’s sleep as it makes a big difference as to how you feel mentally and physically. Try and maintain a regular sleep pattern.
Focus on the things you can control. This might include limiting the amount of time you spend checking social media or news updates or any media coverage of the pandemic.
Try and manage your own emotions and remain calm. Take some time to relax.
If you are home schooling, remember it’s ok to struggle a little as home schooling is tough and a big adjustment. You might need to adjust your expectations of how productive you would like your children to be. They are unlikely to sit and study for 5 or 6 hours each day as they would do in school.
For younger children, a change of scenery might be good during their home school day. Every child works differently and what works for one might not work for another.
Don’t expect yourself to be an expert in all of your child’s school subjects, there are plenty of other things you can do to help them with their home schooling.
Be kind to teenagers and remember that social media is a vital aspect of their social life and a way for them to maintain friendships and share interests. This connectivity is more important than ever at the moment. However, parents need to talk, guide and teach children how to manage and navigate the risks associated with social media and the internet and to be responsible, respectful and safe online.
Most importantly do one thing every day that you enjoy doing just for yourself. If you cannot do the things you normally enjoy then try to find a way to adapt them or try something new.
Finally, keep remembering there is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ parent you only have to be a ‘good enough’ parent.
Show them support and love remembering their lives have utterly changed and they are confused and unsure about both the present and the future.
Listen to them and acknowledge their concerns. It’s perfectly natural for children to be worried during these uncertain times.
Give clear information about the situation and provide honest answers. This gives children a sense of control.
Separate reality from rumour. Be wary that they may be receiving false information from their peers or social media. Teach them to stick to reliable and trustworthy sources of information and not to listen or pass on rumours.
Explain what it being done to keep them and everyone else safe. Keep the channels of communication open and talk openly about what is happening.
Strike a balance. There is no benefit in allowing them to watch, read or hear back to back coverage of the Covid 19 pandemic in the media.
Ensure there is a routine even it is a different routine to the usual. Children like structure and this is particularly important with schools closed and teaching and learning being done remotely.
Be more flexible in terms on online activity, remembering this may be your child’s only connectivity with friends. But be vigilant about teaching children to stay safe online. Also encourage no screens at bedtime or in the bedroom if possible.
Also encourage a balance between being online and offline.
If there are not enough tablets or laptops or devices to suit all the schooling and working requirements, then work out a sharing rota within the home.
Try to ensure children have some physical activity every day, even if this is difficult with long periods spent indoors. Plan for some outside time whether walking or in the garden or local park.
Try to keep to existing bedtime routines as sleep is extremely important for children and young people.
Avoid lie ins. Try to encourage them to get up at a similar time each morning. Long lie ins disrupt the sleep rhythm and make it harder for children to go to sleep at an appropriate time.
Mealtimes are also vital and should be as structured and regular as possible.
Children of different ages will have different concerns and be conscious that older children may have worries about how the school closures will affect them and concerns over how upcoming exams might be affected.
Try to keep children, particularly those in an exam year, motivated to study.