13 Sep Parenting During Lockdown and Why Connection is Key
Parenting during lockdown does not come with a manual or magic strategies. The key to getting through is about setting your intentions and making connection a priority. So how do parents give more when they have less? Maybe it’s more about what you are doing rather than how much you are doing. Here are 6 tips that may help to ease the stress of lockdown for families with children.
What’s happening is NOT normal.
So it’s time to lower your expectations and stay flexible. This might mean cutting yourself some slack and practicing self-compassion. Think of the type of gentleness and forgiveness that you’d encourage a friend to practice if they were feeling like they were failing. It might mean taking some time out after a hectic teleconference or turning on a movie for your kids during the day. Try and make this choice without guilt. You can readjust your expectations when life returns to normal.
Talk about the elephant in the room.
Gather your family and speak about what you’re all going through. Acknowledge that it is stressful, and that you know many other families are having a hard time too. Normalising this NOT normal period in our lives might bring some relief to your children that a lot of families are feeling the same way. Providing language around the experience can also help children to identify and name what they are feeling. Use phrases such ‘it’s understandable that we might all be feeling unmotivated, more sensitive, irritable and unsure’.
Provide hope and highlight strengths.
Highlight some of what you’ve noticed as the strengths of your family members during lockdown. Ask about what they’re most proud of within themselves. Provide words of hope and tell stories of how older generations have gotten through difficult times in the past. This is your time to lead and positively influence your family culture. It’s okay to provide some child appropriate insights about your own struggles. You can also shine a light on how supporting, loving and caring for each other will help you get through this together as a family.
Decide on your non-negotiables.
If one of your parenting values is to be calm and kind, then keep this as a priority even during high pressure times. Make time to develop your non-negotiables or parenting bottom lines with yourself, your partner, and children. This might include mostly healthy eating, always speaking respectfully and kindly to each other, sticking to bedtimes, and enforcing at least 30 mins of school learning during the weekdays. This allows for flexibility around time on screens, making beds and getting out of PJ’s.
Acknowledging the parenting wins and knowing what to let go.
A win might look like keeping your cool during a power struggle with your teenager that would have normally ended up in yelling or tears. Get to know what your limits are. Identify when you’re tired and reaching your tipping point. Choose to let something slide instead of getting into an argument over why the recycling hasn’t been done. This is not a parenting failure, it’s a sign of being steady and self-aware. You can always circle back to these issues later when you are in the right frame of mind.
Do more of what matters most:
There are many parents that say that they are at their wits end trying to meet their children’s emotional, social and learning needs. Of course, as parents you can’t replace the class teacher, best friend, or soccer mates. However, you may be able to provide more of what your child needs: connection versus attention. When parents deeply connect with their children, studies show that this can reduce 80-90% of challenging behaviours. Dr Brené Brown defines connection as ‘the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued’. Connection is not only about being understood at a cognitive level but also at an affective or heart felt level. Think about a time when someone truly listened to you with undivided attention. How connected did you feel with this person? When children are increasingly acting out it might be a good time to double down on connecting.