Tips on Parenting During the Coronavirus by Author Judy Reith
Judy Reith has been coaching mums and dads for twenty years, featuring on TV and in the press regularly. She founded www.parentingpeople.co.uk providing courses, workshops, talks, coaching and media for parents. She is the author of Be A Great Mum, 7 Secrets of Raising Girls Every Parent Must Know and the parenting course: Transform Living With Teenagers.
She lives in an empty nest in Cambridge, and is the far-from-perfect mum of 3 grown-up daughters. When asked ‘ Why don’t you work with children,’ she replies,
“ I’m interested in what helps children most, which I believe is to coach their parents to a place of confidence, perspective, and values led parenting. “
It’s a pleasure to welcome Judy to the blog.
I write this on a glorious spring Monday morning. Inside, I am stuck at my desk and my three adult daughters are all working in different parts of the house. None of us have chosen this. We are here because of Coronavirus sweeping the world.
We are in unprecedented times. All of us. A teenager said,
‘Mum, what did you do last time this happened? you know, Swine flu wasn’t it?’
‘No darling,” her mother replied, ‘This has never happened before in my life time’.
Parents are having to adapt to several new, conflicting roles. Families are all under one roof, trying to work, study, play, survive and manage all the daily needs of a home, work, and family. I have spent many hours on the phone or on Zoom talking to parents, speaking on webinars and keeping up with family and friends I haven’t seen in person, for weeks.
Right now, some children are returning to school, but many can’t or their families are nervous to let them do so.
I spoke to a parent the other day who said, ‘My Year 6 son is really excited to be going back, but that is tough for his super jealous little brother’. Somehow, parents are having to dig even deeper into their depleted tanks of energy, patience, and imagination to keep the whole show on the road, and we haven’t hit the summer holidays yet, with all this year’s uncertainty over travel, budgets, and activities cancelled. What a gloomy picture.
But, the human race, and parents, in particular, are brilliant problem solvers. Yes, start by owning up to the strength of your difficult feelings and challenging situations but don’t stay there too long. Instead, see if each day can be a fresh start. If your child is back at school, try to return to some of the habits you used to have around working and home needs but don’t aim too high to start with – we’re all exhausted! If you still have a child at home, ask yourself whether it’s time to reboot your routines? Always ask children first for their ideas before wading in with your own. Most of the time, you’re doing what you can, and who knows, with an emphasis on optimism, today could be the day you shout a bit less, and hug and laugh a bit more.
Themes are emerging on what helps parents most, and what might make life more challenging so I have combined my professional training with current experience to bring you my top 5 tips for being a parent right now.
1. DEALING WITH ANXIETY and other hard feelings
Your children maybe fine one minute, anxious, moody and upset, the next. Your job is to help them stay calm and to listen. Don’t worry too much about their schooling. For now, eating well, good sleep and being outside is essential. Do listen with kindness and empathy, rather than trying to fix things. Find someone to listen to you, not your children, or keep a journal of your fears so you can process them. Include what’s positive about this time together too.
2. LOWER THE BAR
We are currently experiencing unprecedented times so it might be wise to relax the rules on screen time and social networking. Keeping in touch with friends and family is vital for all of us, your children included. The house is also likely to more of a mess than you would like so accept that and try not to stress about it too much. Do make sure everyone is on board with family contributions (a more positive word than ‘ chores’) to help but prioritise loving and supporting your children.
3. TOO MUCH INFORMATION
‘Will granny die?’ asked a child. Worries about coronavirus, school issues, friendship concerns are future things, they are not with us now. Ask them what they know about Coronavirus and how they know? What are they hearing and seeing? Recommend trusted news sources such as NHS, BBC, and Public Health England. Watch for rumours or scaremongering. Be mindful of how much you are watching the news, being negative and allowing your feelings to take over. Be honest about how you feel, but take steps to stay calm yourself.
Family meetings are essential but manage them constructively using my ‘Triple Cs’.
C- CHECK- IN, ask how everyone is doing first. How do they feel about things? Just listen to the good, the bad, and the ugly.
C – for CREATE – come up with ideas to make life better – get creative with solutions and no ridiculing of suggestions – listen to children’s ideas first – they are often the best!
C – for COMMIT – what will you decide to do?
Review – meet regularly and listen to who needs what from the week ahead.
Your children are used to playtime at school. It is an essential part of their day, just as valuable as their English and Maths lessons. When they are on a break, don’t interrupt them or assume they are ‘wasting’ time. Agree how long breaks are and make sure there are periods where they are off screens too. Parents need breaks as well. Plan in some uninterrupted time for you to recharge. Getting outside, while we can, is the best way to improve our mental and physical health and do stay connected to your friends and family. Lastly, make it everyone’s responsibility to bring some fun into the house! We dress up for dinner every Friday and play cards.
A silver lining in all this could be that in some small way, you can see this time of being with your family as a gift, when under normal circumstances, we’re so often complaining we never have enough time.
I hope these tips help, and please contact me at www.parentingpeople.co.uk for any coaching or support. I am offering free coaching to anyone (or their partner) working in the NHS or caring services, during lockdown.