If you read the first part of my mini-series, you will know that I focused on home-schooling during the pandemic. In this second part, I’m going to look at what your family really needs during this challenging time. Please remember though, that there is no right way of doing this and there is no right way to respond; this is simply guidance based on my tranquil parenting principles.
1. Give your family time to ease in to your ‘new normal.’ So much has changed outside of the house in the past few weeks; the last thing your children need is a huge upheaval inside their house, too. This is not going to be an easy transition, but we are in it for the long-haul, so give yourself (and your family) grace.
2. Children are resilient and are very adaptable but don’t overlook their underlying feelings. Be gentle with them. They are in the process of grieving. Suddenly, they have lost a lot. They have lost access to school, friends, extended family, teachers, routine, clubs/groups etc. Acknowledge, accept and validate their concerns.
3. Expect tantrums and meltdowns from your children, whatever their age! They could be screaming about a lollipop, the iPad running out of battery or your teen not being able to see their friends, but it won’t really be about any of those things. The behaviour is just a symptom; a form of communication. Look deeper and you’ll find a child who is overwhelmed, uncertain and possibly scared. Just like us. They are trying to process their emotions so have patience and compassion. Encourage them to express their emotions in a healthy way; bottling it up will do them (and you) no favours.
4. When we feel powerless, we usually turn to control and perfectionism or we give up. Nothing needs to be perfect in a time like this, but we also can’t give up. Accept that your children will say they are hungry 265,809 times per day. Accept that siblings will argue incessantly. Accept that your house will not look like it normally does. Try not to sweat the small stuff as it takes up too much of your precious energy.
5. Have a family meeting every few days, to update children on new changes and alleviate any fears. It could be as simple as writing the essential shopping list together or agreeing on family movies for the week. Allow your children to voice their opinions and welcome their suggestions. Treating them as a valued member of your family will help them feel more confident and secure during a time when they may be feeling vulnerable and insignificant.
6. Give choices to your children. For example, give them a small selection of snacks to choose from each day and then they get to decide when they eat them. Let them choose what they wear every day. Does it really matter if they are wearing Christmas leggings and a Superman cape? Nope. We’re all in isolation! By loosening the reins and giving your children autonomy over lots of little things, you are reducing the amount of unnecessary power struggles. In doing so, they will be more responsive when you ask them to do something they’re not that keen on, for example, going to bed!
In the third part of this mini-series, I’ll continue to offer guidance about how to maintain some form of normality in your family life and how best to support your children.
Stay safe and take care.
Nadia McSheffrey is founder of The Tranquil Treehouse. Nadia works with parents to help them be the parent they want to be and find tranquillity in their family lives. She also works with children and teachers to support their own emotional wellbeing.