If you’re a parent or carer going through the second lockdown, you might feel differently to the way you did during the first one. For me, this lockdown – whilst painful and joyless, in many ways – feels more bearable by virtue of the fact that (for now) schools and childcare settings remain open.
I nearly lost my mind, literally, trying to work through the lockdown in March, whilst homeschooling my four and eight-year-old. Zoom meetings were accompanied by the gasps and grunts of Joe Wicks, and I was interrupted every five minutes by my kids’ demands for snacks. I even created a flowchart to express how it feels to hear the constant call of “Mummy!”, 567 times a day.
This time around, however, things are more peaceful... because my children are at school. Hallelujah! Of course, there are still challenges involved in getting through lockdown with kids – particularly at weekends, now socialising is limited to meeting one other person at a time, outdoors, from another household.
So if you’re worried how to get through it, what to say to your kids about it – or what to do you when feel like you’re going mad, never fear, we’ve got you covered. Here, two childcare experts give their advice on making sure the next month is as manageable as possible.
1. Spot when you’re starting to lose your temper
Being able to pinpoint when you’re starting to lose it is vital, author and parenting expert Liat Hughes Joshi tells HuffPost UK.
“Noticing when the stress hormone cortisol is flooding in and you’re heading into ‘fight or flight territory’ can make such a difference,” she says. “It’s not easy, but it can be really effective.”
Obviously you can’t always walk away from young children in all situations, so if not, Joshi recommends deep breaths and a set phrase to grab in your mind when that feeling hits – “it could be just repeating the word ‘calm’ a few times. This will allow you to collect your thoughts and react to whatever is going on in a more measured way and prevent arguments escalating, whether that’s with your children or partner.”
2. Be honest with your children
Tell your children the truth, says Norland nanny Louenna Hood. This will be different depending on their age – but it’s important to contextualise why we are in a ‘lockdown’ and what that means.
“Reassure them that children are allowed to go to school because it isn’t dangerous for them,” says Hood, “and explain that by washing their hands with soap, they are helping to protect everybody else.”
3. Listen to how your children are feeling
Well before you even speak, do lots of listening to how they feel and what they have to say, advises Joshi. “Don’t dismiss their feelings as ‘silly’ or ‘wrong’ – it’s what they feel.”
However, she says it’s okay to correct any misunderstandings they have about what’s going on. “Children’s imaginations are a joyous thing, but the flip-side is that they can cause them to expand and exaggerate a problem into something scarier than it is,” she adds.
4. Keep busy, as much as you can
Enjoy fresh air – it makes everyone’s mood better and lets your children run off some steam, says Hood. “The saying, ‘children can’t climb the walls if you take the walls away’, is very apt. Activities such as baking, washing the car, painting outside with water, or making homemade Playdoh are all popular,” she says.
Try setting aside a time of day where everyone can sit down and watch something together. If you’re looking for other ways to occupy your kids, we listed 12 wacky ideas during the last lockdown – have you tried any of them?
5. Play the ‘worry game’
Families can do some activities at home as a family to address everyone’s concerns, Joshi says. This could be a ‘worry jar’, where everyone writes their individual worries on pieces of paper and puts them in the jar whenever they feel like it.
“Or, at dinner time, everyone can talk about three things they enjoyed that day, and three things they didn’t, or that they are worried about,” adds Joshi. “You can then discuss it as a family.”
6. Take a breather
“If everything is feeling overwhelming, stop, take a breather and re-set the house,” Hood advises.
“Talk to your children and explain how the whole house is going to have half an hour of ‘quiet time’. Older children can play or rest or read quietly in their rooms. This gives everyone a chance to have a break from each other.”
7. Look for the small joys
Seek out anything you think will bolster you this time around, Joshi advises. “I’m not suggesting this will solve everything, as this is a hard situation, but trying to look for life’s little joys will help,” she says.
We listed 50 small pleasures we rediscovered in lockdown – can you relate to any of them?
8. Keep up a light routine
Keeping up a routine – whether that’s having a film night at home every Friday evening or Sunday afternoon, with popcorn and cuddling up on the sofa, or simply going for a walk every day together at a particular time – can really help, advises Joshi. Why not spend an afternoon with your children writing down a schedule you can stick on the fridge?
9. Know it won’t last forever
Joshi says the key to staying sane – especially if you or your child has to self-isolate – is to remember it won’t last forever.
“Try to just get through one day at a time,” she says. “It’s not going to be easy, stuck totally at home. I’m a big believer in screen-time being kept sensible, but I think this is one situation where the rules can be relaxed and some extra films and TV won’t go amiss.”
Hood also advises parents to take heart. “Although we are in lockdown, we aren’t trapped – we can go for a socially distanced walk with a friend, we can FaceTime relatives, we have our lovely homes, and this isn’t forever,” she adds.