Are you juggling parenting duties with working from home and educating your children? Read on to find out how to survive with your sanity (almost) intact!
During the global outbreak of coronavirus we are experiencing, your regular daily family routine will probably look quite different to what it normally does. Many of us are facing new stresses in our lives such as job losses and employment changes, financial difficulty, and isolation, not to mention the worry about how coronavirus could affect our families and the ones we love. On top of this new normal, our children are now home with us full time, and we are expected to be teachers too. And trust me, even as a qualified teacher with years of experience working with children, this is a tricky challenge! With this in mind, I would like to share my experience of lockdown parenting with you. Here are my top tips to making parenting (slightly) easier during a pandemic.
Make a routine – and stick to it!
Children thrive on routine – it helps them to feel safe and secure, knowing what to expect and what will come next. However, children are also very adaptable and flexible, and will embrace new routines when they are properly prepared (think about how quickly your child adapts to their later wake up time during school holidays!). If your routine has changed recently due to Covid-19, here are a few tips to help you design a new schedule:
- Really consider what works well for your family. For example, if you are not early risers, don’t plan to have a spelling test at 8am; if you know your children have more energy than a professional athlete in the morning, plan to have some form of physical activity first thing to burn off that energy. Taking care to consider how your family functions (and let’s face it, considering which elements you are slightly dysfunctional in) will ensure you will not be setting yourselves up to fail.
- Plan your timetable with your child. Your children will be much more likely to stick to a new routine if you involve them in the process of planning it; ask for their ideas and suggestions on what they would like to do and when (obviously, if they are suggesting they would like to spend 10 hours watching TV then this might need a little more creative discussion!). You could ask them to create their own daily or weekly timetable and encourage them to decorate it in their own way to encourage ownership of their new plan.
- Design a clear set of expectations for the day. This may be how much time you expect your child to spend on schoolwork, how much help they will give you around the house, or how much time they can spend on gaming. You may want to consider rewards and consequences for when these expectations are met or not met. Again, these plans will be much more effective when done with your child, gathering their ideas and opinions.
- Aim to actually stick to your new routine! This will help you all to stay motivated and on task.
- But…also be flexible when necessary. If you know you have an important work meeting at 11am and will need to use the family computer, you may need to consider changing your child’s normal routine to fit in with this. Where possible, always give your child a bit of advance warning so they have time to prepare for the change in routine.
- Plan in regular rest breaks, ideally where your child can get some physical exercise or play with their favourite toys. Children lose concentration quickly, and a regular recharge can help them feel more energetic and focussed.
- Don’t be afraid to amend (or even scrap) routines that aren’t working effectively – this can be a great lesson for your child on evaluating what is working well and what could be better.
Remember, you are not tied to the regular school day for now, so who says to you need to keep your learning schedule the same? If schoolwork in the afternoon on the weekend works for you, go for it! If you have young children, you might find a picture schedule works well for your family.
Enjoy time together
Ok, this one may seem rather obvious, but hear me out. How often do we, as parents, get to slow down and spend time at home with our children? For most of us, our daily routine of work and school or nursery does not allow us to spend much time together, aside from the morning (when we are lovingly reminding our little darlings to get their shoes on for the fifth time) and the evening (when we are eagerly counting down the minutes until bedtime so we can crack open that bottle of wine – it’s been a long and tiring day!). Lockdown parenting undoubtedly has many cons, but for me the ability to spend quality time together is a massive pro. We now have the chance to really spend time doing those things we don’t always get time to do, such as playing board games as a family or cooking together. Here are some examples of ways you can make the most of this extra and unexpected time with your children:
- Talk to each other. Again, this seems rather obvious, but I don’t just mean the usual parent child talk such as ‘what do you want for dinner?’ and ‘who is sitting on the remote?’. Your child craves your time and attention, so what better way to give it to them than a meaningful conversation? Ask them about their hobbies, their favourite Youtubers, their toys, their friends… the list is endless! Children know when you are really listening to them, and I can guarantee you they will appreciate it. A lot of parents believe they already know their children well, but you would be surprised how much more you can learn about them from just taking the time to chat regularly. Talking is great for building strong relationships with your child, as well as a fantastic opportunity for your child to learn new vocabulary, social skills and interests.
- Play with your child. I mean really play. For no adult led purpose or outcome, just for the joy of playing. Play is a great learning tool in its own right (dressing up and role play is a great way to understand social skills, for example), as well as being a great way for your child to relax, investigate and bond with their playmate. Follow your child’s lead and really take the time to understand what fascinates and motivates them. As well as providing your child with an outlet to express their worries (such as ‘dolly is sad because she misses her friends’), it also provides genuine time and space to talk with your child.
- Learn a new skill. This could be anything, from supporting your child to develop their life skills (doing up buttons and zips, cooking simple meals etc) to learning a new language. You could even learn a new skill alongside your child, which is a great opportunity to teach your child that you are never too old to learn something new! Some of the skills my own children have suggested include; learning magic tricks, growing vegetables, learning to knit and learning woodwork skills.
Take care of yourself too
These are unprecedented times, and with all the extra time you will probably spend caring for others it can be easy to forget about your own needs. In normal everyday life, your child probably comes into contact with many various adult role models, including teachers, child carers, and relatives, which means that if you are having a ‘wobbly’ parenting moment there are likely to be other adults around to inspire your child. Yet lockdown means you are likely to be the main (or only) role model for your child for significant length of time, which brings a great deal of pressure and responsibility onto your shoulders. Taking a little time to make sure you are feeling your best is not selfish (as parents are often made to feel if they are not acting like Mary Poppins 24/7), and is truly essential for being the best parent you can be. Here are some tips to make sure you are feeling great:
- Nurture your own interests. Whether you enjoy sewing, crafting, or watching movies, make sure you have some time to do your favourite hobbies regularly. Not only is this important for your overall wellbeing, it is a great example to set to your child.
- Look after yourself. Get enough sleep, vegetables, exercise, laughter and relaxation! This is often easier said than done when you are a parent, but this is the ideal time to really consider what you need to change in your life to feel a bit healthier. Start getting those healthy habits formed now and your body will thank you (what better time to learn how to cook healthy meals and take up jogging!).
- Don’t spend too much time watching or reading the news. This may be a little controversial, but I think there is such a thing as too much information, which can feed the feeling of anxiety and uncertainty. Keep yourself up to date with important updates but try not to fixate on the constant Covid-19 updates or death tolls.
- Spend time apart. Despite what I said about spending time together earlier in this post, spending time alone is also very important to your lockdown sanity. Take the time to be alone when you need to – shut your bedroom door for a few minutes of peace while the kids are engrossed in play, sit in the kitchen and read while your child watches a bit of TV, or do some exercise while your child naps. If you have younger children or no other adult to support you, you could pop on a set of headphones and listen to a bit of music (this always makes me feel like I am in my own ‘bubble’) or you could do your own thing but alongside your child so you can still supervise them.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone has bad parenting days, even the ‘experts’! Shouted at your kids unnecessarily? Abandoned a lesson to enjoy the sun in your back garden? You are only human – put it down to experience and move on. If you are struggling, then do what makes life easier for you and your children in that moment – your children won’t remember each individual maths lesson they have completed, but they will remember having a loving parent who supports them. You know your child better than anyone, and you know what they need to feel safe and secure.
There you have it, my top tips for parenting during the coronavirus pandemic. I really hope that I have helped you to feel a little more confident and in control during these tough times. Thinking of you all! Stay safe and keep up the great work.
Love, Heather x
Have more questions? Want to share your top tips? I would love to hear your comments.
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