Four months ago we were collectively thrown into the challenge of our lifetimes – a global pandemic and lockdown. Families braced themselves for a ‘perfect storm’ of challenges – school closures, loss of childcare, closure of all playgrounds, camps, and in fact, anything we could use to entertain our children. At the same time many parents were trying to juggle working from home (I’ve heard parents starting work at 2 am to get half a day done before the children wake up) and homeschool at the same time.
It was unbelievably intense for many. In fact, 87%* of parents told me they are stressed with family life – still.
We had very little warning, and had to adapt our lives literally overnight. It was a time of survival. Getting through each day, collapsing at the end of it in front of the TV (or a laptop) ready to do it all again the next day. We had no idea how long this groundhog day would go on or what our future might look like.
Of course, for some there were moments of pure joy amongst the challenge, because rarely are things in life black and white. The family lunches (and breakfasts, and dinners…), the walking down the stairs commute (not the breathless sprint home). The slowing down, the connecting.
Now we find ourselves in no-man’s land.
Some families still isolating, some off on holiday like it never happened and many not sure what to do. But one thing is for sure, this pandemic is far from over. Every day evidence is mounting that in a couple of weeks we could be back in lockdown.
So, during this collective exhale, it’s time to reset.
Now is the time to pause, reflect and learn some new tools. To future proof our families for whatever the coming weeks, months and years may bring.
Let’s use this ‘schools out’ feeling to not bury our heads in the sand (literally or metaphorically), but to prepare for whatever might lie ahead.
Unlike last time, we know what to expect now.
There are five vital areas we need to consider:
- Stress: stress is a natural response to uncertainty – but when we’re stressed for a long time without addressing it, it can become chronic and often shows in physical signs – exhaustion, headaches, digestive issues, aches and pains. Learn about stress – how it shows up for you (we all feel it differently) and what you can do about it.
- Supporting ourselves: during lockdown many parents’ own needs went further down the pile than ever before. Of course it did. But in times of intense pressure, it’s even more important to look after ourselves. When things get pushed down and down, the result tends to be an explosion. Think of a beachball being pushed under water and then released. Your needs don’t go anywhere just because you’re not tending to them. ‘Self-care’ as a parent isn’t about expensive spa days or candlelit baths. It’s taking just 5 minutes every day to fill your cup back up. The trick is knowing what to do – my favourites are meditation, free writing and mindful breathing.
- How to support your children – I’ve heard consistently that across all ages, children’s behaviour has changed through this experience – they too have been on an emotional corona-coaster. It’s really important we learn the tools to help our children process their challenging feelings. There’s neuroscience behind how to do this – it’s just a matter of learning the skills.
- How to handle dissapointments and change – one thing is for sure, whatever the future may bring, it will bring change. Despite the rhetoric, of children handling change well, studies actually show children need more help with change than we may realise. Learn the ways to help your child handle change and disappointments that will make them feel heard, loved and connected to you – not pacified.
- Reshape your future – in a recent study* 83% of parents shared they want to make changes to family life going forwards but change only happens when we are deliberate about it. So this is a perfect time to reflect on where we’ve been and how you want to handle wherever we might be going.
Deep breath. And reset.
*2,000 National UK parents surveyed with One Poll