Managing children during the coronavirus outbreak?

Be kind to yourself in the [times] ahead. Remember to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. It’s too easy to be outraged these days, so much harder to change things, to reach out, to understand Neil Gaiman  

 

Managing children during the coronavirus outbreak and being stuck at home is tough. There is no other way to put this. Different ages will pose different challenges- and perhaps different joys.  When the lockdown became a reality, I found myself at home with my adorable 2.5-year-old daughter. Putting a pause to the serenity of my teaching secondary school girls and working in a quiet private practice. My life moved on-line.  

We are finding ourselves in a situation, we did not plan for, nor even imagined at the beginning of the year. And yet here we areThe current situation has turned our lives upside down. For many, it brings the uncertainty of jobs, businesses, health. Navigating in the uncertainty is a challenge for everyone.  We may notice our general well being and mental health taking a dip.  

We find ourselves at homes with the kids who are used to a routine – be it a school or a nursery/ child-minder or a relative.  We are also used to the routine. Our social contacts and worklife are all virtual or limited besides the people who share our households. In the midst of all this, one thing that I keep reminding myself is that this will also pass and that in these uncertain times, I am taking one day at a time. Here are some strategies that I have found helpful 

Helpful Strategies  for managing the isolation with children

1. Look after yourself 

Remember the instructions on planes – to always put an oxygen mask on yourself first and then attend to your child’s. It is important to look after yourself to be available to attend to others. Rest and nourish your body, if possible have some time to rest, re-wind and manage stress, anxiety and low mood – even in the simplest forms like enjoying a cup of tea or taking some mindful breaths in. Go to bed early, include some movement daily. Limit the news and social media. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Pause the need for perfectionism. 

If you are still working on-line and it is possible, negotiate with your workplace to reduce the workload for the time being. 

2. Be

Our children do not necessarily need us to ‘do’ things to them all the time. I am not a fan of ‘entertaining‘ kids or to constantly keeping them busy. I am a mother and not a circus clown.  Allowing yourself to just be present with your kids, listening more, talking less and staying curious about their world can be a new and exciting experience. Remind your kids that you love them unconditionally. Talk to them about things you are grateful for and asking to tell (or write) their list (s) 

Children may need to be heard about how they are feeling in the current situation. Are they scared, worriedrelieved or happy that they do not need to go to school? If your kids were at the end of primary, secondary or college, they would miss these transitions. For them, it is also a powerful lesson in struggle and disappointment. And boredom.  

3. Play and creativity 

  Sometimes-greatest fun comes out of the simplest activities. Dancing, singing, cuddling, listening to classical music or some upbeat tunes together. There are loads of on-line expressive dance classes that you can sign up to and dance with your children in your living room (5 Rhythms or Open Floor classes) or preparing, cooking and eating meals together. There is a variety of fun and creative activities on-line (Toddler and baby lockdown Tips and easy activities– a Facebook group with plenty of activities, for example). Read stories together. Listen to stories (Audible has released free access to children stories for a limited amount of time ) 

4. Boundaries

Providing boundaries and having a simple daily routine can be beneficial for everyone in the household. Create a timetable for the week with activities and chores. Follow up with your usual procedures regarding boundaries, but be mindful that the children’s behaviour may be out of the ordinary.  The other day my daughter was asking for her dummy, which she stopped using months ago. She also wants to be spoon-fed more– even though she had been enjoying feeding herself for a while now. Be curious about what your kids may be communicating with their behaviour. I figured that my daughter wants a reassurance that we are there for her. She is seeking more proximity for reassurance. 

Be mindful about screen time – it is very tempting to let the young ones watch more TV or spend more time in front of electronic devices. If it is possible chunk the time spent in front of screen and keep a no-screen rule an hour before bedtime. Try to incorporate some simple mindfulness activity before bedtime (Useful book is Sitting Still Like a Frog’ –everyone in the family will benefit from these exercises.) 

5. Connect and reach out for support  

Social distancing can be very challenging for everyone- we will miss our relatives, friends, work colleagues, even our neighbours. Our kids, especially the older ones, will miss their friends and classmates. Encourage them to regularly call/video friends and family.  

When you are struggling, remind yourself that there is no one way to feel in these circumstances. If you are concerned about your mental well being, do not hesitate to reach out for professional support. There are many ways to access online therapy, via video, phone, messaging and email. Either way, don’t struggle aloneFor further information on available online therapists see here or contact me directly here.  

Overall remember you are doing the best you can with a situation we were all unprepared for. Sas Neil Gailman states, I encourage you first and foremost toremember to be kind with yourself. 

Ula Sroda, psychotherapist, teacher and mother