Although many families have now returned to the routine of going out to school and some to work, these are uncertain times. In addition, we are continuing to follow social distancing (as well as other) guidance and as a result we are spending much of our time at home and with our families.
Here are some ideas to help make this time easier, and to help you to make the most of this time together with your family.
Did you follow a routine whilst you and your family were in lockdown? Keeping to a routine can bring some certainty to uncertain times and help us to feel more secure. School and work help us to have routine in our lives. However in these unpredictable times, things can change with little notice. For example, your child’s class may be asked to quarantine for 14 days, you may returning to working from home. During such times, try to keep to regular bedtimes, meal and snack times. Getting up, washed and dressed on time are important for physical and emotional health, as is exercise. This can also help us move back into our regular routine when the time comes.
The NHS has useful information about how much sleep children and teenagers need alongside sleep tips.
If the situation should arise when you are all at home for an extended period, it’s easier to keep everyone occupied for several short stretches, rather than for one long one. Making a timetable together and breaking up the day can help to make staying at home feel normal and keep your children busy and having fun. However, downtime is also important, treat the weekend as a break; either don’t use your timetable or create a different one.
You may also be working from home, which brings its own challenges; Parent Club Scotland has some helpful advice on this.
There’s no such thing as perfect parenting. These are strange, challenging times, and some days will go better than others. Take every new day as it comes, acknowledge everyday successes however small, look after yourself as well and remember you’re not alone. If you can, use your time together at home, to do the things that you have always been meaning to do but never usually get time to do, e.g. carry out a joint art or crafts project, play more games together, cook together.
The Keeping healthy: emotional wellbeing section also has guidance and resources to help with:
- Managing worries and anxieties – for children, young people and parents and carers
- Ideas for parents and carers on looking after themselves
- Coping with illness, loss and bereavement
It is normal for conflicts and tensions to arise between families. Giving plenty of praise, having a flexible routine, giving each other space, and time together one to one, will help to reduce difficult behaviour. Here are some other helpful tips:
- Make family rules: As a family, come up with some rules that you all agree on and can follow at home. Involve your child in making the rules. This helps them to understand the reasons behind the rules and ensures that they feel that they are fair. Having rules helps children understand what is expected of them and others and helps them manage their emotions and behaviour.
- Recognise and label emotions: Behaviour is a way for children to communicate how they are feeling. Help them verbalise how they are feeling by recognising and labelling their emotions for them. For example, “I can see you get angry when you have to put your game away”. Empathise – “I know it's frustrating when you have to stop something you’re really enjoy.’ Set limits on behaviour – “These are the rules we decided in our house, to make sure you do a balance of things.” Finally, when your child is calm, problem solve with them - Ask them what you could do next time so it’s easier for both of you.
- Nip it in the bud and use distraction: Check in on your own and your child’s emotions regularly. Recognise when things are changing and distract them with something interesting or fun (this works well with younger children). If you want to use it with older children, try changing the topic of conversation.
- Pause: You are a role model for your child. You are constantly showing them how to manage emotions and behaviour. How you talk and behave affects how they talk and behave. Talking openly about your feelings will encourage them to do the same. Model the behaviours you want to see in them. To do this effectively, you will need to take care of yourself, it’s part of being a good parent. Try to do something you enjoy/find relaxing when the kids have gone to bed!
- Notice when they are doing something well: When children are doing something well, such as playing cooperatively together, concentrating well, notice this and let them know how pleased you are. Sometimes it is easier for us to notice misbehaviour but by saying things like ‘Well done for sharing the puppet with your sister’ or ‘I’m so proud of you for concentrating on your homework’, this will help them understand what positive behaviour looks like and encourage them to repeat this in the future.
- Make time for one on one time: Spend individual time with each child doing something that they really enjoy. Giving more time and attention to your child will help you both to develop a trusting relationship, where your child feels secure, understood and loved.
The NSPCC have a useful Positive Parenting Guide.
Young Minds have tips and advice for parents about supporting children through the pandemic. They also have ideas about what to do if your child won’t stay home. They also have a free Parents Helpline on 0808 802 5544 (Monday – Friday, 9.30am-4pm).
Getting along at home – for parents and carers
Relationships with those around us are more important than ever right now. Getting along at home can be difficult when things are constantly changing and there are many challenges. We need to give ourselves and others permission to ask for space, to change activity if we lose focus and to feel sad about what may have been lost.
Setting aside some time each day to spend with each of your children can help them to feel loved and secure and shows them that they are important to you. Young Minds have some ideas for conversation starters and the World Health Organisation have ideas for babies, teenagers and children.
For the teenagers, try asking them how they’re doing during another activity, like on a walk, baking or tidying up. Something as simple as hearing ‘yeah that sounds really tough’ or ‘it makes sense that you’re feeling anxious/sad’ can provide a sense of relief. If they’re struggling to open up, give them time and let them know you are there to listen when they are ready.
Communicating feelings can be difficult and sometimes we can get more information from what a person doesn’t say. Think about what your children might be communicating through their behaviour. It could be a variety of messages; difficulty understanding or frustration at not being able to tell you what they want. This can also apply to teenagers, strong feelings of sadness, fear or confusion, could be behind those angry outbursts or withdrawal.
Inevitably, arguments and conflicts will arise. Remain calm and if you feel like it is turning into a screaming match, end the conversation and return to it later. Listen carefully to the problem, acknowledge the distress and problem solve together once everyone has calmed down.
Don’t forget to look after yourself too – see our section on emotional wellbeing and looking after yourself.
Other tips for getting along at home:
- Think creatively and have fun together: Write some open-ended questions that encourage creative thinking and discussion. Put them in a hat and take turns in answering them. Remember there are no right or wrong answers, it’s just for fun. For example: ‘What things do you wish grew on trees?’ or ‘If you could design a perfect planet, what would it look like. Here are some other examples.
- Be kind to one another: thank each other for the small things, like clearing away the dirty plates without being asked, saying "good morning" or playing quietly when others are trying to concentrate on their homework etc. You are a role model to your children. Carrying out acts of kindness towards others, helps your child / teen/ partner appreciate the power of these acts and encourages them to do them too.
- Joint projects: plan a project that you can do with each child/teenager or that you can all do together, such as, looking at old photographs and sharing stories, growing seeds from fruits you've eaten.
- Look at the ideas for activities section for other things you could do together
Getting along at home – ideas for children and young people
The stress caused by the uncertainty of the current situation, along with the increased time you spent at home during the lockdown period, might have led to increased tension or conflict at home.
Childline has good tips on how to avoid arguments or deal with disagreements
Find space – if you feel you need time to calm down. You could use headphones to listen to music, a book or film to feel like you can escape.
Understand – just as you may behave in a certain way when you are tired or stressed, try to understand the other person’s reaction. Your brother may be bothering you but is he worried about being behind at school?
Communicate calmly – walk away or ask to continue the conversation when you feel calmer. Try to explain how you feel using ‘I’ words – ‘I feel like you didn’t hear me out earlier’.
Enjoy – suggest something fun for you all to do together to reconnect, or offer to do something kind such as make lunch.
Self-care – is about things that we can do to look after our own mental health; the Anna Freud National Centre website gives many ideas for young people on what can help.
There’s a big difference between having an argument and being aggressive. If someone is threatening or hurting you or someone else, that is abuse and it is always wrong. Speak to a trusted adult or ring 999 in a dangerous situation.
This is an unusual and uncertain time, which can lead to higher levels of stress. This coupled with spending more time at home with our partners, children and other family members can increase the likelihood of arguments and conflict and can put a lot of strain on relationships.
It is normal and natural for people to feel more emotional and irritable at the moment. Try to understand this and be kind to yourself and each other. If you need to, try to give each other some space (as far as is possible!) and reach out to friends, family or professionals by phone or online for additional support.
Be aware that high stress and anxiety can affect how we behave, so the better we are at managing difficult feelings, the easier it will be to respond positively.
Try to be patient and communicate clearly and respectfully with each other. Take time, if you need it, to calm down before a difficult conversation, but try not to let resentments build up.
Don’t put children in the middle of the conflict by asking them to choose sides, using them to communicate with the other person or blaming them for any tensions.
If the situation is causing a lot of friction between the adults in the house, try not to expose children to this as it can have a negative effect on them.
If you feel unsafe with your partner call the police or contact Solace on 020 3795 5070 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday).
If you are worried about the wellbeing or safety of a child call Islington Council Children’s Services Contact Team 020 7527 7400.
Ideas for activities
We are lucky that we live in a time where, though we might not see people as much as we would like, we can stay socially connected through phones and social media. Connecting with other people is a key part of maintaining our wellbeing and keeping up our routines.
Friends and family - if you have to self-isolate make time to voice, video call or message people you care about each day – you could try building this into your routine, and ring someone after lunch each day. Even if you don’t feel much like talking to people, you will be helping by cheering them up and checking on their wellbeing. Putting up photos of family and friends who we can’t be with helps adults and children feel connected and reminds us of good times together.
School/work – If you have to self-isolate and cannot attend school, college or work, make sure you keep in touch and check your emails or phone for updates. It can be hard to motivate yourself to carry on as normal, but you don’t want to create any problems for when you are able to return.
If you do not have a way of keeping connected with people, speak to the helpline (020 7527 8222) at We Are Islington or look on the coronavirus support directory for organisations and mutual support groups.
As most of us are spending more time at home, we will be spending longer online. Being online can be a lifeline: helping us to stay in touch, for home learning and using technology for entertainment.
Parents and carers will want to continue to keep their children safe when they are online and help them to manage their screen time:
- Talk with your children about the benefits of being online, how to keep themselves safe and let them know they can always come to you if they need help or something goes wrong.Talk about behaving online as you would in real life; about being a good friend, asking for help and being kind.
- Parental controls can be an effective tool to help protect children online. Although they’re not foolproof, they should be installed on all devices children use: Parent Zone and Internet Matters have guides on how to do this.
- Talk to children and teenagers about regularly checking their privacy settings and ensure they are familiar with blocking and reporting features. Net-aware from the NSPCC has tips and advice about online safety and reviews apps and has a guide to different social networks, apps and games with advice about their suitability for different age children.
- There is no recommended ‘screen time’ for children and it is worth bearing in mind that what children and young people are doing on devices is as important as for how long. Keeping in touch with friends and family, learning, creating, are not the same as scrolling through social media.
- Join in with games and exploring new sites. Talk about what your children are doing online; they may have found interesting new platforms and apps.