These are extraordinary times and extraordinary circumstances. Being in lock down to keep everyone safe places an unbelievable burden on families who are living with the most vulnerable of children. Lockdown seems to be about managing not just the restrictions that are placed on us, but also our own emotions – our fear and anxiety for vulnerable members of our families, our anxiety about finances and our ability to support our families, our fear about how on earth we are supposed to manage all of this 24/7 whilst at the same time being able to cope with the escalating anxiety of the children, many of whom express their fear about the ongoing situation and their own insecurity by being extra clinging, extra demanding. They need more attention at a time when we are least able to give this, and of course many of our children are showing regressed, aggressive(verbal or physical) or violent behaviours. Small wonder that many parents are beginning to slide into blocked care, or are having doubts that they will be able to manage this situation over an extended period of time.
I wanted to offer some practical solutions:
1. Be completely honest with the children. Trying to hide your anxiety from them will not work as they will be very alert to your body language. If your words do not match with your body language they will be very fearful and this will cause them to cling to you all the more. It is OK to say that you are worried because of the virus; reassure them that by keeping to the advice you are keeping everyone safe, and they are not going anywhere. This youtube video will help you to explain Covid 19 in a clear way to younger children without being terrifying: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5zIJJClEig
2. Routine and timetables – keeping to a routine helps your children to feel safe, keeps life predictable and reliable and also gives you a structure. The great thing about lock down is that as you are not going anywhere, you can be completely relaxed if they decide not to be compliant – you can just say “OK I can see you are having a bit of difficulty with this. I will just go and make a cup of tea. Let me know when you are ready to”… You can literally wait out almost any situation without an argument. When they see you being calm they will also calm down. Remember you are their safe base! There is another great reason for timetabling which is that you can ensure there is some time for you! For instance, get the kids to do PE with Joe Wicks while you have a cuppa! Alternate physical activities with learning experiences, and reward them with screen time while you cook tea (aka take time out to breathe). Also keep to bed times – carve out your evening time for yourself.
3. More about Brain breaks. Short breaks are of course out of the question as is babysitting. If you live with another adult – partner or adult birth child/family member then you can team tag and take your exercise at different times to get a break, or take turns taking children for their exercise to give each other a break. Alternate supervising an activity with taking time out (to “work” or fill in paperwork, of course!) If you are single then getting the routine right is vital as it will mean you get some time at the end of the day. Also as above schedule in screen time to allow you to take a pause.
4. Have a mindful moment – there are lots of videos – this is good for adults or older children: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fpiw2hH-dlc or for children: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bk_qU7l-fcU or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYI0TPJOuGk . There is so much online from Joe Wicks to Yoga – see what you can find to suit your family. Just schedule it in. If they do not engage, no problem, keep going yourself, and keep to your schedule. Try again tomorrow.
5. Don’t stress about class work. (Unless of course they want to do this!) Remember that learning experiences are all around us, and the most important lesson at the moment is that you will keep them safe even in a crisis. Focus on life skills, housework, cooking and nature walks. This will not do any harm to the children, and in fact by creating a strong connection with you may enhance their ability to learn when schools re-open.
6. Paradoxically, to enable the children to relax and to buy yourself some headspace, you first need to keep them close, snuggle them in, and let them know you are there for them. Remember that if you are feeling overwhelmed, so are they. Acknowledge how hard it is for them. Uncertain times are very triggering for us all, and may remind children of previous uncertainty/fear in their lives.
7. If they are able to access school as a LAC and this is best for you, then send them in. If you do this, then use the time as your brain break time so that you are able to deal with their needs and anxiety when they get home.
8. Step away from unnecessary arguments or power battles. Prioritise and pick your battles.
9. ALWAYS have a treat for yourself tucked away somewhere.
This situation requires us to ask so much of ourselves when we are already stretched to breaking point. Take one day at a time, or even an hour at a time. You are amazing. You have got this. You will make mistakes – of course you will! Be kind to yourself and use the opportunity to repair the relationship. This will model that anyone can make mistakes and build resilience and trust. Just remember, if you are apologising for something you have done (such as shouting) do not turn it into blame by saying “but”. You are taking responsibility for your actions, so that they can step out of shame and take responsibility for theirs.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! YOU ARE WONDERFUL, BRAVE, LOVING AND STRONG.
By Jane Mitchell