Lockdowns are REALLY challenging for your mental health – and for your children’s wellbeing too. In a time of global uncertainty, I feel a call to sit gently with our emotions and take a conscious approach to the structure of the day. It’s a time to gently lean into the truth of our feelings and accept them – even if they are uncomfortable.
Stick to structure
I’m a firm believer that children thrive off a schedule. I think it gives us all a little comfort to know what is happening next. And some predictability in this uncertain world is essential more than ever. The last lockdown, when my children were younger and required visual aids, I stuck a schedule to the fridge with outdoor play, craft, TV time, reading time, mealtimes and bath times mapped out. They are much more independent a year later, but we’ve still stuck to a loose schedule. Bedtimes and wake-up times are the same, as are mealtimes, and we are doing a craft activity, outdoor time and tv time each day (I still have to do some work, so the TV comes in handy then!). If you have school-age kids, a structured schedule will help to keep them on track.
Schedule some ‘you time’
Following on from the first point, I find a structured day as helpful for me as for the kids and perhaps even more essential. I am still getting up early every morning to get some precious alone time in to exercise and/or meditate and sip tea without being heckled for porridge. This quiet solo time is more valuable to me than a sleep-in. My children sleep through the night, so that may not be as easy for some of you. Either way, try to structure in some time for you each day. I know it isn’t easy during a pandemic. (Boy, do I miss daycare as much as my boys!). But everyone needs some time to themselves. Just don’t spend it doomscrolling on social media. 😉
Have a ‘yes’ day
I am guilty of often saying, ‘In a minute’, ‘Hmmm another day’, and other such phrases to my kids. So, this weekend I plan on having a ‘yes day’. Do they want pancakes for dinner? Sure! They want to kick a ball for an hour. Yep! Do they want to watch a movie in their PJs and have popcorn for breakfast? Why not? Of course, the yes day is the antithesis to the structure and schedule I mentioned above, but it provides a lovely balance and a pleasant surprise for kids to get a sense of control in their day. As parents, it’s our job to be organised and ‘get shit done’, but sometimes completely going with the flow is valuable for myself and the kids. It gets tricky if you have multiple kids wanting different things, so you might need to let them take turns choosing activities and meals. Lockdown is when we really HAVE to make time for fun and joy, and I often find our children are my best teachers when it comes to this.
Keep in touch
Just as we are missing our normality, our kids are too. They can’t see their friends or hug their grandparents, so trying to keep in contact with them can spread a little love from your house to others. Zoom time with grandparents and their daycare or school buddies will delight everyone – even if the conversation isn’t all that scintillating. (My kids have a habit of getting painfully shy on Zoom and sitting there in silence).
Get them involved
Are you enjoying time to weed the garden, craving a spotless fridge, or keen to sort the pantry? When you can’t go anywhere but your nest for a while, the urge to make your home a clean, tidy and happy place can be intense. So, now is the perfect time to teach your children the importance of taking care of the home. Although it can take a lot of
nagging coaxing, I ask my boys to help with folding washing, mopping floors and washing doors and grubby marks off the wall. As a result, the house feels better, and they love doing grown-up things. (Long may it last!). I’ve also discovered that one of my boys wants to help me cook. The bonus is that they will scoff just about any food they have helped make. Together, we’ve kneaded the dough for flatbread, mixed up pasta dinners and baked muffins and cake.
Lockdown is hard. I’ve spent the last two weeks with moments of being on the brink of tears and other times being filled with anger. And you know what? It is what it is. If we lean away from our suffering, not only are we neglecting our reality, but we are not responding to our needs. The Buddha said, “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere.” So, if you’re struggling, treat yourself with the love and compassion you would give your child if they were feeling depressed, sad, overwhelmed or angry.
People may have avoided you if you’ve ever experienced grief because they didn’t know what to say. But all you wanted was for someone to sit with you through the emotions. I love how one of my children (a little empath) examines other people’s feelings with openheartedness. If I’m sad, he will carefully review my face and then throw his arms around me. It’s beautiful to experience his willingness to sit with other people’s discomfort even though he feels so deeply that he is one of those people that cries at sad songs.
Just as we cannot shield ourselves from pain, we cannot always protect our children from pain. After all, if we run from our negative feelings, how can we teach our children to accept their emotions and manage them?
At times like this, mindfulness comes into play for me. This Mindful Pause is also outlined in my book The Little Tiger with the Big Temper so that children can learn too.
* I examine my feelings gently and without judgement. (Yep, I’m not feeling good, and it’s OK to think that lockdown sucks. I do NOT do toxic positivity).
* I look at how it feels in my body (tired, wiped, unenthusiastic, a little gloomy and depressed).
* I accept that all these feelings are normal and will pass. (I know this is not my permanent state of being. I journey through this space and energy because the only way out is through.)
Then I NURTURE myself.
* I take deep breaths and feel a sense of calm wash over me as I do so.
* I make a mental (or physical) list of the many things I am grateful for (a roof over my head, a warm bed, a full belly and even the clean hot water pouring into the sink while I do (yet another!) load of lockdown dishes).
* I give myself affirmations like ‘I am loved. I am safe. It will be OK.’ This isn’t toxic positivity, this is a gentle reminder of the truth, so it’s helpful to remind yourself.
* I carve out extra time to do the things that fill my soul – reading books, dancing, exercising, long walks, listening to an inspiring podcast. If you think you don’t have time, delete your social media apps from your phone, and you might be surprised how much more you can find in the day.
When many of us are missing connections with others, I think it’s even more important to connect deeply with ourselves during these challenging times.
Take care, stay safe and remember, this too shall pass.
We need to talk about expectations because it seems to be standard these days that everyone’s expectations are too damn high.
As I see it, the challenge for our generation is that we are ‘unlearning’. For example, there’s still a tendency to believe that adults can feel and express anger, but our children must not.
If I ask you what you want your kids to be, chances are you’ll say ‘happy,’ right?
Lockdowns are REALLY challenging for your mental health – and for your children’s wellbeing too. In a time of global uncertainty, I feel a call to sit gently with our emotions and take a conscious approach to the structure of the day.