Staying at home with your family
As more of us need to stay at home with children over the coming weeks, here is what parents tell us will give a little help and relief, if we need to be indoors for a long time.
Structure the days and get into a routine
Having a wee timetable for getting everyone organised and so everyone knows what is happening when can be a big help.
Getting into a regular routine, including clear boundaries – some parents call them rules for behaviour – really helps children to feel secure.
Children are used to having a timetable for the school day, so a timetable for home in the coming weeks will help to make an uncertain situation feel a bit more 'normal'.
A messy house is a happy house
As a wise health visitor once said: "A messy house is a happy house" – it shows that children are busy creating entertainment (and some chaos!).
Cut yourself some slack if the house isn’t perfect. After all, kindness, love and looking after each other is more important.
When the clutter gets too much, tidying up helps us to feel in control. As part of your weekly routine, ask the kids to help with laundry and cleaning – you can even make it a game or a competition.
Or get creative and turn you home into a space station – with a science lab, sleeping pod, exercise zone, baking zone, reading and maths corners – their imagination will run riot but these things will keep children occupied too.
Try making signs for each of the zones and agree time for each as part of your timetable. Schools should help with homework and tips for learning at home – having some fun will help.
If you are working from home, explain to children that you won’t always be available to join in with them while you’re busy, and you might need a quiet space to work.
Managing our adult worries
It’s a very worrying time right now, with a lot of uncertainty. It’s unsurprising that many of us are feeling worried or stressed. While it’s important to have honest conversations with children and help them to feel safe, we parents also have to try to keep as calm as we can and manage our own fears.
The charity Mind has excellent information on coronavirus and mental wellbeing: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/
Try to make use of the positive aspects of the internet and social media. Our phones and devices can help us to stay connected, to make video calls with elderly relatives and to help kids keep in touch with their friends.
While following news and official advice is important, too much can make anyone anxious. Try to limit when and how much you look at. Put down your phone and switch over to some music or a relaxing programme if you catch yourself scrolling for a long time.
When it all gets too much, try closing your eyes, taking some deep breaths and clearing your mind of any thoughts. It sounds simple but it really helps to make you feel more in control.
Relax screentime rules – within reason!
Screen time and the internet get a bad press, but having a bit of downtime with a game, video or programme is a pretty normal part of most families’ lives – especially if we’re stuck indoors for a while.
It is important though to agree some rules and stick to them. Try to make sure screentime doesn’t take over from healthier ways to play or start to be a constant ‘babysitter’. For young children, it’s also important to keep an eye on what they’re watching, and to make sure it’s safe and appropriate for their age.
Manage the bad days
Among all the ideas for games, learning and keeping in touch, there are bound to be days when children, adults or both are fed up in the weeks ahead.
As adults it pays to remember this is a very unusual situation we are in, and that we are all in it together with our families. When the low days come, it might help to be open about your feelings, and to agree to be kind and forgiving. You could say: "I know you’re really fed up and you miss your friends. I’m feeling like that too."
You could suggest giving each other a little space and doing something quiet for an hour if you need a break. If you fall out, help your child to describe their feelings – and make up with plenty of cuddles.
Take time to look after yourself and remember Parentline is here to support you if you need somebody to talk to. Start a webchat below or call us free on 08000 28 22 33.