Welcome to 2021 everybody. I hope you all had a safe & peaceful Christmas & I wish everyone a happy & hopeful new year. So, here we are. A week into January and back in lockdown. Lots of people I have been speaking to are saying that they are finding it’s getting harder to keep the chin up and stay positive. Let’s face it, January is rarely a fun-filled month for any of us, so it’s no surprise really that this year it feels like an absolutely Herculean struggle. There is so little we can control right now and that lack of control is frightening for a lot of people. From personal experience, something I have found helpful in times of trauma is to avoid looking too far ahead. We can let ourselves be carried away on a wave of ‘what ifs’ about when this is going to end and work ourselves up into a state of overwhelm and anxiety….. or we can calmly focus on what’s directly in front of us right now and just deal with that. So, let’s just get to the end of January. Then we’ll get to the end of February. Then it’s March and suddenly the days are getting brighter. It’s not about being positive all the time, it’s about shifting your perspective to proactive and pragmatic!
One issue that we do have to deal with right now is homeschooling. I know that this causes huge problems in a lot of homes the length and breadth of the country. Throw in the fact that most of us are feeling emotionally fragile right about now, I would imagine that this time around, it’s going to be a bit like pulling teeth, for parents & kids alike.
Here are a couple of ideas that might help you to get through the next couple of weeks:
- Prioritise the core curriculum – maths and English. Try to remember that your best is enough and you do not have to overload yourself – or your kids!
- You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There is an abundance of free online resources, as well as those that your child’s school will probably send you.
- Instead, prioritise and plan what you’re going to cover, and do your best to execute your plan. Like any new job, the first few days will be about finding your feet.
- Children and adults react well to structure, especially a morning routine. Get out of your PJs, start the day as if the kids are going to school. How you spend your morning is a blueprint for the day ahead, so feed your body & mind well.
- Try to design the schedule together and if possible, set a specific workspace for the classroom. This way the kids can primarily associate this space with their learning and will find it easier to switch off when in other areas of the house.
- Try to maintain some links to their usual school experience, consider setting break and lunchtimes. Make sure you take into consideration any of your work commitments that may affect this if you need to align your work with learning time. There will be ample opportunity in the evening for some downtime and being firm on breaks will help to reinforce the value of learning.
- A good teacher is reflective. Stubbornness is different to being firm. If things aren’t working out, don’t be harsh on yourself or the kids. Just tweak it and find what works for you. Don’t assume that what works for your friend/neighbour/ that-girl-on-Instagram-with-the-perfect-life will work for you and your kids – Be flexible and realistic.
- Take time to relax, have a varied and balanced diet and prioritise physical exercise in your plans. That’s not easy in a 2 km exercise zone, but even 20 minutes of fast walking will clear your head and get your heart positively pumping.
- In the past, I have found journaling, meditation and breathing exercises all to be very useful for reducing stress. Find what works for you…. Check-in with yourself, ask yourself what you need. Are you feeling anxious, unsettled in your body? Take a shower. Let the warm water run over your skin for as long as you can. The hot water not only feels soothing but the sound is relaxing as well. Do you need a distraction? Watch tv. Preferably something that makes you laugh. Laughter is a great stress reliever. DO NOT WATCH THE NEWS!!! Read a book, listen to music or a podcast. Do you need a connection? Call a friend for a catch-up. Someone you can be real with. Chances are they’re feeling exactly the same as you.
One day, we’ll look back at this time and be absolutely amazed at how resilient and resourceful we were. When we’re old, we will try to describe it to the young ones and they won’t be able to understand it. We can’t understand it ourselves, but we can get through it. I’m not for one minute suggesting that this is anything other than horrible and I’m not suggesting that I feel better or happier or any less unsettled and anxious than anybody else. But here’s the thing: we’re going through this, one way or the other. There is no opt-out. We don’t have a choice. However, we do have a choice in trying to help ourselves & each other through, so let’s do that.