Getting prepared for isolation with your kids – 10 tips
Confined with your kids and working from home? 10 tips to help
Given the latest news we asked the wonderful Heather at The Parenting Partnership for some help as we transition to having your children and family at home for what may well be an extended period. Over to you, Heather…
It’s normal to feel anxious faced with the uncertainty this unprecedented situation brings. There have been many wise words written about ways to keep anxiety in check by acknowledging our concern and focusing on the preparations we can make to keep our family and our community safe. We like this article by Ali Binn on coping with anxiety. Ali walks us through things we can do to acknowledge our worry and keep the middle ground between overestimating and underestimating the threat. In addition to her article we pass on the highly recommended video by Ali Matthu on coronavirus anxiety.
We know that thoughtful preparation helps us manage anxiety, stay consistent and supports us in staying calm for ourselves and our families. We are in uncharted territory and we be thoughtful, flexible as well as kind. We express our worries in different ways depending upon our unique temperament and outlook– you will and your kids will. The key is to be understanding and to show compassion to others and especially to ourselves. We can’t take away the uncertainty and the fear and it is not healthy to push it aside or deny it. We can only work on the things over which we do have some control. In addition to washing our hands and social distancing, there are things we can do knowing that we may be at home with our family and kids for an open-ended period.
We share here our thoughts on ways to get prepared as well as ideas on managing the added pressure of working from home.
Getting prepared for isolation
Working from home. We have never been here before and we will need to manage our expectations. If you are trying to work from home the reality is that you will not get as much work done and if you have small children this will be even less. The expectation around your work, your kids and your life at home will need to shift and adjust. One parent told me that their colleague announced to everyone on yesterday’s conference call – “you will hear kids in the background from time to time – this is going to be our new normal.” Keep flexible. Be honest. Try to ditch the guilt. If both parents are at home perhaps take turns with the childcare so the other one can get some work done. Work in shorter bursts that fit in with your kids learning schedule or if they are younger, their naps. The reality for all those with kids at home, especially those with little ones, is that you are going to be getting work done when they have gone to bed or if you are an early bird, before they get up.
Here are a few of our practical suggestions:
1. Have a family get together – (with some good snacks) at the beginning of your family confinement. It’s important to keep acknowledging everyone’s concerns, including your own. Talk about the unprecedented nature of this worrying situation in age appropriate terms and that you are going to take it one day at a time and focus on what you can control knowing that you will all need to be flexible. Talk through with them what you all think needs to happen at home and get their thoughts on how each of them can help. This is the time to talk through guidelines, expectations and worries. Engage them, get their buy in and let them voice their concerns. Agree that this is not one conversation but the beginning of many as you all learn together and adjust. Don’t forget to think about the enjoyable and fun things you can do as you are all together and what you can do to help others.
2. Talk through the Schedule – This will be determined by your school situation. It is important to set up a schedule if your kids are school age (or even university) and vital if you hope to get some work done as well. Talk through the ‘class’ times and when breaks, lunch will occur. It is crucial that your kids come up with the schedule with you. Perhaps a visual timetable would help, especially for younger kids, so that everyone knows where they need to be and what is happening. Let them know when you might have conference calls and explain that it would be very helpful if you weren’t interrupted. Empathise with any parts that you think might be tough “I can imagine that it might be hard to be at home but then have to be at school.” ‘You are used to having Mummy all to yourself as when I am working, you are school. I get that.” You will need to be realistic about what you can get achieved if you have young kids.
3. Daily rhythm – If there is school work to be done then you can incorporate fun activities which give everyone things to look forward to and provide a rhythm to your day. Remember that no one works for 8 hours straight at school, days are punctuated by activities, interaction with friends and exercise. Reading a story in the morning, baking in the afternoon, playing a board game after lunch, practicing the trumpet at 4pm and walking the dog together are all good options. Fit them around your own work schedule and try to have them happen at the same time every day. Perhaps you feel that you never have enough time to play board games with your kids, or read to them – this is your chance.
4. Prepare the environment – Should you have school aged children you can decide together where you will all work. It is ideal if each family member has a special working space with laptop if necessary and available and perhaps headphones. If office space is short, set up a table in the living room or a bedroom, with a good light, that can be left up. Let kids be involved in gathering all they need and feeling comfortable about their space.
5. Screens – This time will likely show us the blessings and the challenges of screens. It is more important than ever to stay in contact with family and friends and we are all thankful for Skype, Facetime, House party etc. Over the coming weeks screens will help our kids stay in touch with their friends and relatives, learn on line, listen to music, laugh at TikTok, follow their interests – all of which can have a hugely positive impact. We talk often about screen time boundaries and have lots of good practical ideas in our blog on screens . This is however an exceptional time and we will all need to remain open minded and listen. Talk about screens with your family soon and often and decide how you all feel about social media, the bombardment of information, news feeds and how they make you feel. Is it contributing to your anxiety? You may all decide to check your feeds just a couple of times a day. Have your kids, especially teens, come up with their own strategies for not getting distracted or adversely impacted by what they are seeing on their screens. Communication is the key.
6. Outside time – If you can get out of the house, do it. Fresh air, exercise and moving their bodies will all have a positive impact on how they and you feel. You child may be reluctant if their ‘exercise’is normally as part of an organised extra-curricular activity. Empathise with this and try and find a new take on outdoor time – perhaps taking a football on a walk, trying to train the dog (finally!), planting seeds in your garden.
7. Share your worries and concerns with a friend rather than with your kids. Our kids look to us to set the mood, for guidance and are incredibly perceptive. Rather than unloading your fears on your kids talk with your partner or a friend. It doesn’t mean that your kids can’t know that you are worried but it helps you work through some of your own feelings so that you can remain calm with your kids. Take a quiet moment and give a friend a ring. Our fears, guilt, worries and all big emotions are likely to surface in our behaviour unless we can process them in a healthy way. Articulating and sharing our concerns to an empathetic listener will help.
8. Notice the small things that everyone gets right. If there is ever a time to notice, point out and acknowledge with descriptive praise all the positive things that your kids and family get right, it is now. We want to use every single opportunity we have to deepen our connection and help our kids feel surrounded and supported by love. Social distancing means less affection. If we can’t show how we feel physically we need to do it with our attention, our interest and our words.
9. Sharing is caring. Helping our kids think of ways that they can help others in need not only is the right thing to do but it builds resilience in tough times. Whether it is drawing pictures or writing to family or friends who are confined at home, sending a food package or delivering, if you can, special treats to those at home, come up with things that you can do together for others.
10. Play. It is important that we make laughter and playing with our kids a priority– no matter what their age. Perhaps the novelty of being home will wear off. Perhaps we will get frustrated at all being under one roof. Persevere in finding ways that you can play together as laughter is a vital counterbalance to stress. Play your favourite family games, come up with new ones, be silly, be spontaneous, be creative – just have fun. Laughing relaxes your body, triggers the release of endorphins, boosts the immune system. When we are playing, and engaged with our kids, they feel more connected, secure and safe. We send you our love and our support and we are here to help in any way that we can. Get in touch, ask questions, share your thoughts. We are a community. xx
The Parenting Partnership are offering Skype consultations so do get in touch at theparentingpartnership.com