we have been asked once again to stay at home as we #flattenthecurve of COVID19. Parenting from work / home is a big challenge on a practical level for most of us. Those parents who are also remote working, face an additional multitasking challenge. It is essential to remain upbeat and to focus on our strengths to help us to get through this. Below are some thoughts which I hope parents will find useful in planning these next few weeks.
1. Read the language of behaviours and identify what works.
- Children often tell us what they need through their behaviour instead of verbally requesting what they need. As parents, our challenge is to remain alert to these behavioural cues. Even while parenting from work / home. Then we can assist our children in understanding their own needs, and learning how to meet these themselves. The ultimate task of parenting is to help our children to become responsible, happy, independent adults. And not to let them fall into patterns of procrastination.
- We all have competing needs, and under these circumstances, agendas may collide at times. This can cause unnecessary stress and tension. Children cannot always understand the demands of our work. However, if we can identify our children’s needs, we can better attend to these.
- Talk about the fact that you need to work and they need to learn. An important principle is to identify what works in your life with your children and do more of that.
2. Establish a regular routine for learning
- Setup regularity in the day this will provide certainty for yourself and your child. Certainty helps to support everyone to feel less agitated about the current, abnormal circumstances.
- Establish habits around times that school happens at home, try to stick to the schedule.
- Encourage children to get dressed in the morning, to change out of their pyjamas into comfortable clothes. Getting dressed will help to cue the brain that it is school time.
- Create a dedicated space for children to use for their learning. If a dedicated space is impossible, try to use the same room to learn from each day. If need be, pack it away after the school day is over – prepare for school the night before.
- Set an alarm and get up at the same time each morning. As you would if you were travelling to school. Encourage children to do the same and to have a tasty, enjoyable breakfast before the school day starts.
- Highlight the wonder and joy of learning. Take breaks during ‘school time’ as you would if you were in the physical school environment.
3. Provide as much certainty as possible while parenting from work / home
- Children thrive on knowing what is coming next. Let them know in advance what the plan for the day is. Make a schedule for the week together. This will include any directions from your child’s school about what is expected from them. With younger children, this could be an activity that you can be creative with. Draw up the schedule and decorate using different art mediums.
- Try to keep the daily routine with only a few surprises, to keep kids occupied and engaged. This helps them to remain interested and stimulated. They will be comforted by the safety we create due to the certainty and regularity of their daily routine.
4. Go wild with exercise
- Be sure to include outdoor activity every day- this helps with reducing cabin fever and any sense of being confined.
- Include daily exercise of at least 30min of cardio-vascular exercise. This will assist with burning off excess adrenalin which accumulates in the system when we are stressed and not moving.
- If going outdoors isn’t possible, don’t forget about putting aerobics, dance, yoga or meditation on the daily schedule.
5. Encourage gratitude and kindness
- Supporting our children while parenting from work, to think of 3 things each day that they are grateful for. This is a wonderful habit to encourage. When we are focussed on the things we are thankful for, it helps to lift our mood and supports resilience.
- Acts of kindness towards others also help us to feel more social in these socially interrupted. Thinking about creative ways we can make one another smile, is a great way we can destress. Examples may include creating a hand made card or picture for a grandparent and sending it to them by post.
- Brainstorming ways that we can be kind, is an activity we could engage kids with. Even though we are apart from one another.
6. Encourage connection with others
- Being in regular contact using video to connect with a friend, cousins or grandparent can be positive for everyone.
- Setting a regular time each week, can assist this to become a habit and has benefits for all involved. Sometimes, young children may not want to engage by video with adults. It is important to honour and not force them.
- We can encourage connection with friends and help them to stay connected using shared games. Setting up calls where they can chat to each other about what they are doing at that moment. Young children usually love to “show and tell”. You can set up an activity adjacent to the camera. The child then shows their setup to their friend and vice versa and they chat about that.
- Talk about feelings and what it is like to be at home together. Open up conversations with children and young people about what they think and feel during this time. Highlight that they have been very patient and have shown great strength in all that they have experienced this year.
- Remind children that this period of homeschooling and parenting from work / home, is short time to endure. Assure them it will pass. They will soon be able to go back to school as soon as normal.
- Acknowledge any feelings of sadness or loss that may come up. This is ok and it is important that children are encouraged to express their feelings. Sometimes it can be hard for us to hear negative feelings from our children. It is essential however, that we can hold and validate their experience.
- Play together where possible when parenting from work / home. This is a great way to generate positivity within the family home. It also helps to relieve stress or tension during confinement. Try something different like a board games you have not played for a long time. Doing a jigsaw together over a period of days is also a great idea. Jigsaws can facilitate conversations that are not too intense. This will help with connections and shared experiences creating positive memories.
7. Set clear boundaries on screen time
- Establish clear boundaries in relation to screen time, as well as sleep and wake times. Healthy sleep routine is essential for mental as well as physical health.
- Too much late-night screen time interrupts the brain’s ability to wind down and interferes with adequate quality sleep. One hour of screen-free time, is a good goal to assist children and teens to get sufficient healthy sleep.
8. Actively support winding downtime
- With infants, we create routines to help them to wind down at the end of the day. This will assist with the sleep routine, in the same way now we need to do this with older children. So encourage your child to do something completely different at the end of the day. This will help transition away from work and into a relaxed frame of mind.
- Watching a favourite programme.
- Go for a walk together around the block, after you finish school work. This is a good way to signal the end of the school day. This allows interaction to happen as you walk and talk. It will help the, decompress and destress.
- Reading a physical book with pages is another great way to wind down and relax before sleeping.
- Taking a warm bubble bath with aromatherapy oils such as lavender can also help the body relax. It will also cue that it is time for sleeping.
- Taking a warm drink before going to bed, is a comforting ritual which invites the land of nod.
9. Clear the bedroom to make it a safe space for sleeping.
- Ensure that all technology is removed from the bedroom. Especially at night to support children’s resting and recharging.
- It is always better if bedrooms are associated solely with sleeping; however, in times such as these, many children are doing school work from their bedrooms. It is essential to find ways to separate work and relaxation and to create ques for your brain to know. NOW it is work time…or equally… NOW it is sleep time.
- Keep to a regular bed time. Support your children to get enough sleep, by encouraging good sleep habits for a early age. Youth children need between 7 – 9 hours each night. Teens should get between 7 – 10 hours and healthy adults require between 7 and 9 hours sleep. (Www.sleep foundation.org)
10. Nourish yourselves with healthy eating habits
- Food helps us to feel better, especially when we make healthy eating choices.
- Healthy food helps our bodies by boosting immunity as well as improving mood and general well being. Try to keep regular mealtimes together as this also promotes connection. It is a great opportunity to connect which is healthy for the family. Also try to make healthy food choices. This includes plenty of water, protein as well as fruit and green leafy vegetables in your diet.
- During this time, when we are sensorily deprived, our senses, are all that much more important to us. Taste and smell are two of our senses which help us to enjoy our food. When we enjoy our food, this helps our general well being. It makes sense then, to take a bit of time to consider what we put into our bodies. Since this will have an impact on our health.
Take time to plan what you and your family will be eating during the lockdown. Use the opportunity to be creative about trying new recipes and eating healthily. This is also a creative activity which can be very enjoyable to do with children. Engaging children in cooking together will also encourage those who are fussy eaters, to try some new things.
Let us stay home and stay safe, and support each other through this difficult time. Keep in touch with your network of friends while you are apart from them. But remember even though our experiences differ, we are all living through these times together. We need one another more than ever.
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By Catriona Brennan