It’s been almost 5 weeks since the kids were sent home from School in Ireland, and to say it’s been a testing time for us Parents, is putting it mildly. No matter if you are trying to work from home, holding down an essential job or just at home with them, it is not easy. (Can I send a special heart felt ‘Thank You’ to those working in healthcare.)
My opinion is the kids are not too badly affected. Maybe I’m wrong, I know they can get upset, worried, angry and argumentative but overall, the fact that they are not in school or doing any activities, or having to deal with any face to face social interactions is probably helping – I know they miss their friends and wider families but they can mostly relax and chill out at home. (With the exception of the school work which in our house, is a special kind of torture for all involved!) I dread to think what will happen to those who are prone to worry and anxiety when we come out of this, and have to deal with life again.. But that’s for another day.
I wanted to discuss us parents trying to cope and juggle. The first step is always self awareness, in the last few weeks I’ve realized 2 things:
- Emotions are very close to the surface – I could burst out crying at the drop of a hat, I just have to watch the news or even an ad. It’s all sorts of emotions that are close to the surface, me losing my temper and shouting with frustration at the kids, or happy and delighted with the lovely weather. Emotions are riding high most of the time and it doesn’t take much to push our buttons.
- The ups and downs of family life has been intensified – when anyone asks me how am I doing I’m replying that I’m having ‘good days and bad days’. The truth is it’s good hours and bad hours. Some days it’s a good 10 minutes and a bad 10 minutes. The ups and downs of family life have intensified. There is stress about the future and loved ones, mixed in with getting through the day and keeping kids busy and not fighting. We have nothing to break up the ups and downs like we used to. Before all of this, we would have school for the kids, work or at least getting out of the house for parents, we would visit friends and family, go out for a meal or a night out, have weekends away and holidays to look forward to. Now that we don’t have any of that it’s like the ups and downs are more frequent, the term emotional roller-coaster springs to mind.
What can we do? Here are a few of my own top tips:
So in order to cope with all of these changes I’m trying to:
1. Breathe: and stay in the moment and practice mindfulness. (I’m finding printing off puzzles like Sudoku or word searches are keeping me in the moment and away from the phone/news! They were printed for the kids!)
2. Mindful eating: Eating food and enjoying every bite, without the phone or tv to distract me.
3. Temper: When I lose it, I try to walk away and get a breather. I made a 2-3 minute video about stopping arguments recently and shared it on facebook. Click here to view it – may help the kids too.
4. Escape: Use escapism to lose yourself when you need it. We all know this works – Netflix, Films, Shows, whatever it is that helps us unwind – we know more than ever that now is not time to feel guilty about it.
5. Worry: Until that bad thing actually happens and is knocking on the door, what is the point in worry! I recently had a very bad weekend worrying about my Dad getting covid 19, as he had to go into hospital with a blood clot, I was convinced that this was the end for him. 2 weeks on, he is currently fighting fit and clocking up his steps inside the house!
6. Exercise and a good diet – I’m not saying I’m doing this, but it is going to help us all feel better. Now that Easter is over, (and we also had my daughters birthday yesterday) I’m determined to get into better eating habits again. Exercise is as much for our mental health than our physical health. If you can get out alone without kids I think this is really good.
7. Relax: – whatever you can do to relax right now you need to be strict with yourself and make sure to fit it in – a bath, a guided meditation, reading your book, yoga, whatever it is. There is a difference between relaxing and switching off (binge watching shows etc). Relaxing slows our heart rate, and calms the nervous system, and thus the mind. It usually involved slower deeper breaths. Doing this before bedtime can help us to unwind and get a good nights sleep.
8. Setting a goal: Some of you may have one goal; to just get through each day. That is mine some days too.. but on the days when I hear the birds singing and sun shining, I realize how lucky I am to have some extra time, I try to find something useful that I can do. I started working on my garden (Like half the world is, right now!) and I’m also trying to set small little things that I can do each day in-between all the usual family stuff. Sometimes its really small things like sending an email or making a call, or teaching the kids to cook, doing some sowing! Motivation is lacking when there is less focus. So I’m trying some days to give myself that focus. I feel better when I’ve achieved something – anything!
I’ll finish with a little story – I thought I was doing a really good thing in the lead up to my daughter Sienna’s 11th birthday. I collected videos of her friends and our family to put into a mini-movie for her. Some were wishing her happy birthday, others were really funny and cute; puppet shows, music playing, singing you name it. It was all coming together really well until she saw some of the videos on my phone. She started bawling crying, tell me that I embarrassed her by asking her friends for these videos. I got so mad with her, I really lost it! She’s now 11 and I know I just can’t win with her. I eventually calmed myself down and explained that her friends only did it if they wanted to, and it shows how much they cared, she should try to ‘feel the love’ when people make an effort for her. In the end she absolutely loved it and we have 20 minutes of footage that she can look back on. What a lesson that was for me! No more secrets. The neighbors all came out onto our road to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her last night and overall it turned out to be a very special day.
Take care and stay well,
from my family to yours
P.S. Video Coaching & Exam coaching for Children and Teens is still available.
Caoimhe O’Grady Tegart : Child & Teen Life Coach