In the third part of my mini-series, I’m focusing on the connection between you and your children during this unprecedented time.
It’s easy to get lost in a wave of news reports, work demands and adult discussion, but it’s even more important to be present for your children. Children are hyper-aware of you and your presence. Even if you’re in the same room with them or playing, they know when you are distracted and thinking about other things. Being mindful of your interactions with your children, whether you are with them all day or only for a few hours, is one way to ensure that your bond will be strengthened during this time.
1. Don’t let them overhear you complaining about being ‘stuck at home’ with them. Don’t make them feel like a burden. Sometimes, simply changing your wording can change your mindset. Tell them that you are all ‘safe at home’ rather than stuck and you’re looking forward to spending special time together.
2. Focus on the connection. If we want to build resilient and mentally healthy children they need a strong, loving relationship with at least one parent/carer. They need to feel safe and secure. Use this as a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the bond you have with them by having extra cuddles, little chats and one-on-one time.
3. Keep your sense of humour. It will get you through most things!
4. In my first article in this mini-series, I talked about the benefits of having a flexible schedule when it comes to home-schooling and educating at home. However, what we do know is that children thrive on routine and predictability. Therefore, I would suggest once you’re in the swing of things, getting up at the same time you normally would and going to bed at the same time. Regular late nights for children aren’t conducive to a tranquil, relaxed household the next day. Personal hygiene and getting out of pyjamas and into clothes are also important for children to learn about responsibility and self-care. Regular, family meal-times are also beneficial to bringing some form of consistency in to an otherwise tumultuous time.
5. Children are like sponges; they absorb our energy, so try to remain calm and positive around them. If you’re overly anxious and panicky, they will start to worry and feel afraid. If you need to vent or share your anxieties, find a support system outside of your children, even if they are teenagers.
6. Limit their media exposure. They don’t need to be watching the continuous death toll data or images of hospital beds. If children ask questions about the pandemic, give them age-appropriate, factual information but don’t go into too much detail. Protect them from adult conversation.
7. Try to be a role model your children can emulate and be proud of. Challenging situations can bring out the best and worst in people so teach your children to look for the good in the world by focusing on the acts of selflessness rather than selfishness. If the conversation around the dinner table turns to COVID-19, express your appreciation for the NHS, teachers and key workers rather than the fear-mongering and negativity. Use this as a teachable moment for your children.
We can’t control the situation going on around us, but we can choose how we respond to it. When our children look back at this time, will they have feelings of anxiety, worry and pain or will they look back fondly, with memories of quality time with those they loved? Despite the terrible reality of the global pandemic, we can always choose to look at this as an opportunity to slow down, re-connect and cherish what we have.
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.