by: Jackie Schell, Clinical Psychologist
The stress of another lockdown goes beyond the fear of the virus. How do we work at home? How do we manage to home-school our primary aged kids? How do we do it all and manage to preserve our sanity and our relationships with our kids?
1. Mindset: the first thing we need to acknowledge as parents is that our kids are doing the best that they can. Kids generally don’t wake up in the morning and decide that they are going to be ‘difficult’. They simply react to their own emotions, to our emotions and to their environment. Make adjustments, as needed to accommodate your child’s limitations. If we look at our kids everyday with compassion and remind ourselves that they are kids and that we need to provide for them, then we are well on our way to a calm day.
And remember: take a deep breath and keep going!
2. Plan in Advance and Create a Schedule: Have work and learning materials and spaces set up. Plan your work schedule and the kids’ school schedule the night before. This serves two purposes. One, you’ll go to bed feeling calmer by eliminating anticipatory anxiety about the next day. Two, by having a regular routine you will help your kids feel as emotionally stable as possible whilst they are missing the routine of school.
And remember: what gets scheduled gets done!
3. Tell your kids what you expect: What would you like your kids to do? How would you like them to do it? When can they interrupt you? For older kids, ask them to write on a post-it-note something they need to remember to tell you, or if they are stuck what to move on to something they can do whilst they wait for you. You can use a visual reference like a big clock or an alarm clock to let them know you will be free. And then GIVE THEM YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION. This reinforces and helps them to understand that when you are there for them that they have ALL your attention. This will help decrease anxiety and unwanted behaviours in kids by providing those stop points for them.
And remember: follow through!
4. Reinforce in a Positive way: Delivering your time when you say you will be available, offering a favourite object, or highly preferred activity following compliance of the kids, ensures that the desirable behaviour will occur again. Some people see this as a bribe. It is not! You are actively helping your child’s Executive Functioning. In part, this consists of developing a sense of when….then…or if… then… self talk. For example, when the big hand on the clock gets to the ‘3’ then my mum/dad will come out to be with me… IF I get stuck, then I can go on to something that I find easy whilst I wait for help.
And remember: use when/then statements for clear communication with the kids!.
5. Be Calm: if your emotions are running away from you, then your child’s will too! If your expectation is that your child use words to ask for what they want rather than shouting or interrupting you, be sure to model this in your behaviour toward them. For example, instead of saying “hurry up with the math problem I’m going to be late to my meeting” (which can have a negative effect); stay calm and steady and redirect your child to do something else whilst they are waiting for you, if you have to get to a meeting.
And remember: stay calm and keep going!