Facing the extraordinary circumstances brought on by COVID-19 and the lockdown have brought on numerous challenges for families. I just can’t help to wonder what impact this lockdown will leave on our children. Life as we knew it was turned upside down overnight and we had to try and establish some sense of a new normal. This can be challenging for us as adults so I can just imagine how difficult this must not be for our children. With the limitations of their comprehension and insight due to their level of cognitive development, they had to try and make sense of new rules and limitations they have never known before.
They had to say goodbye to sports/hobbies/friends/school/family. They are just as exposed to talk about illness/fears/ death rates and financial strain as we are, but they might not have the reasoning abilities to deal with it all sufficiently. Children function as part of the system (just like we all do) but they are very much dependent on us as adults to give the necessary stability and guidance in order to deal with the sudden changes we are facing within various levels of the system (globally/nationally/as a community and a family).
Here are some tips to help look out for our children’s wellbeing during lockdown:
Be careful what you say in front of them
It can be very stressful trying to keep the household going, doing your work and trying to be the teacher at home. The situation at home can become very straining and therefore it might be very easy to say “I can’t wait for the schools to open up again” or something in that line. Just be careful with your words as we don’t want our children to think that they are just a burden. Also be careful on what and how you discuss certain issues with your child. Yes, they need to be informed for their own protection but keep information appropriate to their developmental level and try not to overwhelm them – too much dread in what we say or show them on the news can also increase anxiety and fear.
Talk about feelings
Let us not get so focused on the academics that get impacted by the lockdown that we forget our children’s emotional wellbeing during this time. Try and create a safe space and time each week where your child can talk to you about their thoughts and feelings. We might constantly ask them if their school work is done and up to date but how often do we ask about their thoughts and feelings? A lot of the time we might notice our children acting out of character and we might even notice some behavioural problems which cause concern. Concerning behaviour is like a fire alarm that goes off, telling us that somewhere something is wrong and we need to go and investigate. Talking to your child can help them to feel safe and contained during these times of uncertainty.
Sitting with your child and creating a daily planner with the chores and activities that need to be done (and putting it up where everyone can see it) can create some helpful structure for the whole family. Also try and schedule time for some fun activities, not only for the children but maybe even for the whole family. This can help achieve some structure and balance during the week.
Before bed, spend some time with your child to reflect on the day and identify about three good things that they might have achieved or what they are grateful for out of their day. Spending a few minutes at the end of the day reflecting on the good can have a positive impact on mood.
Anxiety has a lot to do with our minds getting so stuck in worrying about things from the past we can’t change anything about or worrying about the “maybe” and “what if” scenarios in the future. One way to beat that is to be mindful and present in the moment. Sit in the room or go walk in the garden and try and see how many things you can notice with your 5 senses. Name 5 things you can see; 4 things you can hear; 3 things you can feel; 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. Helping your child to be mindful and living in the moment is a valuable skill to help curb anxiety.
Being good enough beats being perfect
“The most important thing she’d learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” – Jill Churchill
Be gentle with yourself knowing that there is no such thing as the perfect parent and it is okay to feel a bit overwhelmed with being housekeeper/ spouse/partner/parent/employer and teacher all in one. Also try and look after yourself since these are stressful circumstances for most and children are so dependent on us for the security and structure in these times. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and just know that doing your best is good enough. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if needed.