Looking after your child’s mental health during lockdown

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We never thought we’d be looking back adoringly at the spring lockdown of 2020 through rose-tinted glasses did we? Ahhh the good old days of being stuck in the house, not really knowing how long it would last. Some of us enjoyed the slower pace, worked on our tans, there was a definite feeling of all being in it together.

Fast forward to the schools closing in January and it all feels very different. Although we adults may have been watching the news and anticipating that the home-schooling was about to return; maybe our kids weren’t prepared for this. It may well feel like the rug has been pulled out from under their little feet. First time around the vast majority of children were off school, this time around so many kids are still in school, it might feel extra unfair to those little ones who have to stay home.

Sleep disturbances, nightmares, tantrums, lethargy and lack of motivation are all showing their ugly faces in our house again unfortunately! So in a bid to make this situation more bearable I have decided yet again that we will focus on being happy, rather than being productive. If you’re struggling to balance working and homeschooling, here are some top tips to help you manage the juggling act, and ensure your kids feel nurtured at the same time.

  • Expect the unexpected. It’s not an easy one this! I am working daily on letting go of my control freak tendencies. Children will want a snack as soon as you start a zoom meeting. The school’s broadband will crash during a live lesson and there will be tears. Try your best to take it an hour at a time, and if a certain activity or meeting goes wrong, chalk it up to experience and move onto the next one.
  • Hug it out. Give your kids extra physical affection at the moment. They’re as discombobulated as we are right now, so extra reminders that they are loved and safe will help them feel calm. Raising boys, it’s important to remember they may find it harder than their female peers, to verbalise their feelings so it’s worth thinking about how to help them express themselves, and that may require much more physicality.
  • Have an ‘ask me later’ book for your children to use. One of the things I’ve found so hard in the past week is how much I’ve had to say to my kids; ‘Sorry not now, I’m working.’ Make sure your children know their thoughts and questions are important to you, but if you’ve got an hour-long call where you absolutely cannot be interrupted; a spiral notebook comes in very handy. They can express what they need to say, knowing you’ll come and help them as soon as you’re able to.
  • When you are not working, offer your full attention. It’s tough for homeschool kids whose parents are busy working. They’re not used to their teachers at school saying “Not now!” all day, and it’s easy for them to take that phrase from a parent, as a rejection. So when the laptop goes off for the day, try not to pick up your phone and start scrolling. Instead engage fully, play a game, be silly. Make that hour or so before bedtime fun.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have a partner at home; communicate with them clearly about what your work schedule looks like day-to-day. My husband and I had a terrible clash the other day where both of us were fully unavailable to the kids for three hours. If we’d planned ahead adequately we might’ve been able to shuffle some things so that one of us was at least on hand to offer help with school work.
  • Help children help themselves. This could actually be an opportunity to build resilience in our children. So if a task is safe to be completed independently, encourage them to try to do it themselves without calling for you. Older siblings can come on board and demonstrate and they might enjoy having a bit more responsibility.
  • Praise your kids! Sounds like a really obvious one doesn’t it; but when things get fractious and tense and adults are overloaded, we can end up focussing on all the things our kids haven’t done, rather than the things they have. Celebrate their little wins, and speak to them in the way you would hope their teacher speaks to them.
  • Get them out of the house. This is the most important of all in my very humble opinion. It’s not natural for children to be cooped up indoors for the amount of time that they are when being homeschooled. So commit to at least once per day getting them out on their bikes, scooters or just for a muddy walk, regardless of the weather. They might well whinge as you’re dragging them out the door in the lashing rain, but a change of scene almost always presses the reset button and will help them approach their schoolwork with fresh eyes.
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