Author: Abigail Lee
Home-based learning, telecommuting to work, followed by the first circuit breaker and then an extended circuit breaker, no dining-in at coffee shops or in restaurants could have added to the list of frustrations for you as a parent. Maybe even before the announcement of the circuit breaker extension, you might have been at your wit’s end thinking of ways to remain positive, keep your spirit up and to make things work for your children and yourself during this period of time.
Here are some thoughts and ideas to consider both for your children and yourself not just for this circuit breaker time, but can be applied at any other time to enhance and strengthen the family system.
1. Keep Your Own Emotions and Expectations In Check
Most of us are familiar with the pre-flight safety briefing prior to take-off – oxygen masks are released from above you, but ensure that the oxygen mask is securely fastened on and that you are able to breathe normally before helping your child or someone else with their oxygen mask.
When we are unable to manage and cope with our own negative emotions, it is likely that we will not be able to assist in regulating the negative emotions of our children. In particular, during times of heightened stress and being together in a close space for an extended period of time, we need to recognise that it will not be “business as usual”, but the expectations for our children and even for ourselves to be able to function as per normal might need to be adjusted accordingly to a level that is more realistic given the current situation we are in.
2. Keep Routines In Place
Consistency and structure can be very calming during times of stress and hence setting and sticking to a regular schedule is a key factor during this time, even if the children are at home all day. Ensuring the children getting up, having their meals and going to bed at their normal times as per an ordinary school day will benefit in providing a sense of safety and security for your child, especially for the one who is more inclined towards anxiety.
The routine should include times for both study and play, providing indications either through action or sound for transiting from one activity to the next, giving allowances for more down-time for relaxation and exercise when you observe the energy of your child declining as a result of not being able to be outdoors as often. It might be helpful to go through the schedule with your child either the night before or each morning before they start their day and making changes accordingly as the days go by, bringing clarity. This will also assist in reducing meltdowns as sometimes anxiety and stress shows up in a child as anger, resistance, lack of concentration and focus as well as negativity.
Schedules and routines will look different between child to child within the family. This can even be turned into a fun family activity where there can be “joint family fun times” in everyone’s schedule, having a unique timer sound or ring-tone go off for an activity of family bonding such as cooking, playing a game, exercising together, doing something silly and fun together!
3. Keep Being Recreational and Creative
Having activities that the family are able to do together not only helps in strengthening family bonding times, but also keeps the physical body moving. Incorporate special parent-child or family play times into the routine and allow turn-taking between each family member (yes, including the kids) in determining how the play time should look like.
Parents can recall some of their favourite games they used to play with growing up and teach them to their children whilst children can also engage and welcome parents into their worlds through technology and their own versions of games and play, thereby also making this time a learning experience for all who are involved.
Remember to think of different ways your child can stay active physically – the burning off of energy helps to reduce pent-up stress hormones and increase positive happy hormones in all of us! Continue to encourage healthy habits such as having sufficient fluid and nutritious food intake. This is all the more important during the circuit breaker period in being able to maintain a positive mood.
4. Keep Ensuring Strong Social Support Network
Look at arranging and organising opportunities for your children to use social media (within healthy boundaries) such as Skype or FaceTime to connect with their friends and other family members.
Communication can assist in allowing kids to feel less alone and mitigate the stress that comes from not being able to be with their friends and other family members physically. Socialising, even in this format, plays an important role in regulating the mood of your child and allows them to be remain emotionally grounded.
Make plans to have some virtual activities that they can do when they communicate via technology – a virtual birthday celebration, a virtual dinner meal, the possibilities are endless.
5. Keep Listening, Validating and Acknowledging Their Feelings and Thoughts
Seek to understand and acknowledge any possible frustration on the part of your child in not being able to be in school, to play with their friends or to be able to celebrate events with loved ones.
Have a daily or regular times of check-in with your child to listen to how they are feeling and what they might be thinking about. Acknowledge and validate any negative or positive emotions and talk about how both of you can collaboratively come up with ideas and ways to make the situation more bearable.
Encourage your child to practice relaxation and mindfulness techniques as it can facilitate your child in increasing their self-awareness, learning to sit with whatever they are feeling and not fighting them.
This can be a challenging time for parents as they seek to navigate and manage their own work, household situation, home-based learning for the children and for some, caring for the elderly. Yet, this can also be an opportune time for enhancing and strengthening the family system, along with building healthier relationships with our children. Let us all take heart in recognising that this season does not go on indefinitely!
If you are finding this time particularly difficult, and would like to speak with and process through ways to manage and deal with the negative emotions and thoughts that are surfacing, or if your child is struggling and you would like for help to be extended to him/her, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can reach out and be part of strengthening and restoring your family relationships!
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