Life has changed for all of us. What was normal before is not any more. And maybe that’s OK. Maybe we don’t want, or need, to go back to how it was before. And maybe we can do more than just survive and actually thrive during the pandemic. Perhaps we can come out the other end as a stronger and more connected family. What if we placed more focus on who we want (and need) to be during this lockdown, and look at what didn’t work for us before and leave that behind? With awareness and focus we might just be able to achieve this.
It’s highly likely that parenting during a pandemic is bringing out some deep emotions in us. We might feel frustration, stress, irritability, helplessness, worry, loneliness or even the desire to just give up!
And that is OK – and very normal and natural. So let’s start with acknowledging that you are allowed to feel these emotions as long as you are aware of them, accept them and make a decision that they are not in control of how you parent your kids during the pandemic.
TIP 1: when you are feeling some deep emotions STOP (what you are about to say and do), BREATHE and step into the emotions and for now just accept them as your emotions but say ‘I don’t want them to hijack the way I parent’.
Tip 2: Prioritise what is right for YOUR family. All families are unique, we all have individual circumstances and different values and situations. So be creative and put what is important for YOUR family set up and situation first.
Tip 3: Long term goal:
We will get through this. Maybe not today, tomorrow or even next week – but we WILL get out of the lockdown and back to some kind of normality. So let’s start with the end in mind:
- How do you want your kids to remember the lockdown?
- What kind of memories do you hope you and your family will have from this time? Connection, fun, bonding, chilled, pride? Or stress, anger and guilt?
Maybe it’s a good time to have a tidy up of your family situation: Take with you what has been good and leave behind what didn’t work so well before the lockdown
Often family life is lived at 100 miles an hour; we are always on the go, both physically and mentally. Now is your chance to instil some new habits to take with you out of the lockdown.
So ask yourself, what was not working for you before: stress, your kids’ resistance to helping around the house, too much yelling? Welcome this opportunity to pull on the brakes, breathe and slow down. Maybe we don’t have to do all the things and tasks we did before and can have a simpler routine with less to think about.
Sit down and have a chat about how you can work together as a team and create more co-operation.
Once the lockdown is over, make sure you have a chat about how you want your ‘new normality’ to be. Look at what works well for you and what you want to leave behind. This is your opportunity to live the family life you want.
Whatever your goals, it’s not too late to create these positive memories with our behaviours, actions and words. And if you remember to base your goals on connection, communication and consistency then you are in a good place.
Connect with your family: You might be a bit sick of all the time you have together by now – but try to see it as a time to talk, play, listen and bond without outside distractions.
Create time every day with each of your children where you are 100% together and zoned into what is NOW, and what matters. Give your child the attention he / she craves where you are focused on them and only them. Again this doesn’t have to be big; just BE, there is no need to DO lots of stuff and definitely not the time to ask lots of questions (these are followed by expectations and a right / wrong answer) – just listen and tune in. Make sure you are not just AROUND your kids (doing chores, routine etc.) but WITH them. Where you zone into the here and now with them. Zone out from what is not important right now (e.g. your phone, social media, chores, work etc.)
Fun: Try to plan some fun activities as a family. It can be small things: take turns cooking for each other, sport and fitness in the garden, board games etc.
Try to do some ‘time travelling’ with your family – where you talk about what you would like to do this summer, next Christmas, for someone’s birthday. You need to keep the positive spirit up so it helps to talk about ‘WHEN’ the lockdown is over we will do XX’.
Connect with yourself: Look after yourself: if you are OK your family will be fine. I know it’s easy to put the kids, house, job, pets etc. first but you need to recharge your batteries EVERY DAY so you have the energy to give your family the support and care they need.
And it doesn’t have to be anything big. Small, simple (but important) things will do: a cup of tea on your own with some nice music or a book. Call a friend. Go for a walk with your partner or a friend, if the lockdown rules where you live allow for this.
Connect with important friends and adults in your life: It is so important that we support our kids to stay connected with their friends so when things change they can easily be together again. Think of a way that they can meet outside If rules allow, set up a virtual playdate, maybe they can have fun baking a cake / doing a drawing / making a gift or card for their friends and leaving it on their doorstep as a surprise
Likewise, children need to stay in touch with adults in their life that matter: family members, teachers, adult friends of the family etc., especially as they might be someone that your child can talk to if they feel a bit low. Things they might not want to share with their parents. Here again things like outdoor walks / activities if allowed, facetime or zooms, or leaving a surprise at their house can come in handy.
Tips 4: use positive discipline:
Of course we don’t have to use the pandemic as an excuse for our kids to do what they want or get out of doing what they don’t want to do. But we are all a bit more anxious, worried and on edge so we need to be sensitive to the fact that our kids might also be more emotional than usual.
Younger children may not have the words to describe their feelings so are more likely to act out their stress, anxiety or fear through their behaviour, which can, in turn, upset parents, particularly if they are already stressed or overloaded.
Older kids will most likely suffer from the fact that they can’t go out and socialise and do the events or activities they would have done before with their friends. This can make them irritable and angry.
- So try to be curious instead of furious: all behaviour is a communication – so have a think about what is behind your child’s behaviour, attitude or words, the ‘WHY’. Are they sad, worried, have they had enough, are bored, miss the life they had before etc.? Or maybe they just need a different routine where they get more sleep and fresh air. Redirect bad behaviour: Some children start misbehaving when bored or when they don’t know any better. Find something else for them to do.
- Catch them being good: give them your FULL attention when they are doing what you like (and want to see more of) to reinforce good behaviours. Ignore behaviours you want to see less of in order to discourage them. Notice good behaviour and point it out, praising effort and good tries.
- Have agreed expectations: Set clear expectations, particularly with older kids. Kids thrive when knowing what’s expected from them, or not. Have clear rules in your house where they know what will happen IF they CHOOSE to break them.
- Use rewards instead of consequences: when your child DOES help, completes their school work (or tries hard), goes to bed on time etc. – give them small rewards so they want to do it again and maybe do even better next time i.e. time together, baking a cake etc.
And BE KIND to you all: this is new to all of us and we are all trying our best to manage the situation. So maybe lower your expectations of yourself and your family and place more focus on CONNECTION and how you can come out the other end OK, and maybe even stronger!
All the best