Are you feeling stressed as a parent during this time of  coronavirus lockdown?

Worried about how to cope with kids at home 24/7 for who knows how long?

What issues is the coronavirus pandemic raising for you and your family in your own home?

Do you have kids underfoot, who are needing to work off energy?

Are you concerned about how to give emotional support to kids who are missing their wider family, friends, and their activities?

What about the nightmare of home-schooling? And how to keep a routine for your child?

Or perhaps you are facing other parenting worries, like sibling fighting, bed-wetting that had previously stopped months or even years ago, or an anxious child who won’t settle at night.

 

Anxious mother

 

This, on top of the tsunami of other stresses that the coronavirus pandemic has flung upon us. Who would ever have thought our lives would be turned upside down so quickly as we entered this new millennium!

So, what does a parent do? Here are ways to make home life calmer in this time of stress.

 

#1 Don’t try to be Super-Parent

It’s more important at this time to be a “good- enough” parent than worry about being a ‘super-parent’ – choose what really matters, and recognise that life won’t be perfect at this time. This is a time, more than any other time, that your family need the place they live to be a comfortable home, not a showhouse.

And your children need you to be their parent more than they need you to be effectively home-schooling.

So be easy on yourself, and be easy on your children. Connection matters far more than perfection ever could.

 

#2 Remember life isn’t ‘normal’ for any of you at present

There will be times when you or your kids might behave in ways you might not feel proud of.

An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behaviour.

Victor Frankl

If there is a meltdown in the family, figure out how to ease the tensions and get relationships back on track. You and your family all need home to be a soft place to fall, especially in this stressful time, when life isn’t normal.

 

#3 Know that anxiety is normal in challenging circumstances

We deal better with our emotions when we acknowledge them. It’s totally normal to feel anxious when we are facing strange or unknown situations that we have never experienced before. Our inner reactivity is triggered, in an attempt to keep us safe. And our children are experiencing this anxiety too.

When we help our children to name and claim their emotions, we help them to tame them. The emotion is not ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’. Anxiety is an inner signal: “Watch out – be careful!” Our feelings are not wrong, it’s what we do with them that counts.

Deeply listening to your child, if and when they choose to talk about what’s worrying them, helps them to articulate their own experiences about lockdown at home – to name, claim and tame their emotions.

For more on this see my blog,  “How to Listen So Your Child Will Talk”

 

Click this link for your free checklist:  “How Well Do I Tune in to My Child?”    

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#4 Keep in mind how you would like to remember this lockdown period in later years

There are many factors that are beyond our control, but one thing that is within our control is how we choose to respond or react to a challenging situation.

Keep in mind, “What really matters here?”

“What do I want to model to my children?”

Imagine how you would like to remember this lockdown period in future years. How would you like your children to remember it?

 

#5 Set flexible boundaries around the activities that need to happen

A routine will help you and your family to feel a sense of security, and will be needed if you have to work from home. Yet, too rigid a structure in routine will cause stress at a time when stress levels are already sky high. We need to ‘flatten the curve’ of our family stress levels, by creating and upholding only boundaries that support family well-being.

The more you can collaborate together around the boundaries that are needed in the home at this time, and discuss why these limits matter, the more co-operative you can all be to one another’s needs.

Create boundaries for yourself and your children, not only for ‘work’ time but for ‘off’ time too – without checking the smartphone for work, without finishing that one last work task, that tends up taking far more time than you anticipated …

Schedule for shared fun and relaxed times that nurture your family well-being.

 

#6 Give yourself a break

You’re not getting any time away from your children. That’s tough – no matter how much you love them! At present, there is no-one (except those in your household) to physically share the load of raising a child, at a time when you most need support. Find that safe and encouraging space with like-minded people online, where you can share the challenges you’re facing. Or join up with friends online for a natter, or a bit of fun. You need some adult company too!

 

#7 Give Your Kids a Break

Figure out ways your children can connect with their friends, and with other people who are special in their lives. Give them time to chill – they need a break from you too. And create ways for them to ease their stress of not being able to connect with the people they care about at this time.

Writing letters and making art work to send to people they care about may help them to feel connected during this time of isolation.

 

#8 Build in time for fun, activity, relaxation and creativity 

Having fun, colouring in, art or craft activities, gardening, taking the dog for a walk, mindfulness practices – all these gentle activities help to soothe our inner reactivity and re-establish a sense of calm, that lowers the stress levels in our bodies (and also supports our immune system!)  This past week, I created a ‘picture story book’ of my life in lockdown, which I posted to my elderly mother, who is in the early stages of dementia, whom I cannot currently visit in her carehome. I was surprised how much I enjoyed making it, and how soothing it was to create and colour my own pictures. Now is the time to get out the art materials, to try a new craft, to use chalks to decorate a brick wall or create a driveway drawing. Remember the non-tech activities you did as a child – or ask the older generation. Ball games, simple card games, memory games, can all be fun experiences for children.

 

#9 Be okay with your children telling you they are “bored”

Out of boredom grows creativity. And, particularly in this time of high anxiety, we all need time to chill out, including children! Doing “nothing” gives our brains time to process new and unexpected circumstances.

What book or movie is your child enjoying? Invite them to ‘bring the story to life’. Help them find them props and materials for creative expression and encourage them to ‘surprise’ you with activities like creating their own plays,  puppet shows, or  3D constructions. Help children to look around and find objects to use in their creations. For example, can you rummage through the wardrobes to create a dressing-up box?

Then step out the way, unless they ask your help to solve a particular problem.  Children’s imaginations work better when given their own space.

(When I was about ten years old, I spent weeks creating a 3D map of “The Wind in the Willows” in our back garden. (Although I had three siblings I chose this to be a solitary activity; it had me totally absorbed for many hours).

 

#10 Notice all the things for which you are grateful 

An attitude of gratitude is one of the greatest antidotes to stress. Perhaps at a mealtime every day, start by each naming at least one thing you are thankful for – and try to think of different things each day.

  • Keep a thankfulness journal.
  • Every time I wash my hands I think of a different thing for which I am thankful as I wash the space between the fingers. What was a constant reminder of the COVID-19 stress is transformed into a simple gratitude habit.
  • Secure a large sheet of paper on the wall and encourage everybody to write or draw things they are thankful for. Keep the drawings small (or the paper very large!) so there is plenty of space to keep adding to the mural!

Life is fragile. And the present coronavirus pandemic has made us more aware of that than ever before. Look for the rainbows every day

Look for the rainbows every day.

 

Now it’s over to you: Which one of these thoughts most resonates with you, that could ease your parenting stress during the coronavirus lockdown? What will you choose to do implement this? Make a conscious plan and write it down, that way you are far more likely to implement it.

Blog Post by Val Mullally

Do you want your parenting to be a positive experience for you and your child, especially in this challenging time?

For practical support on how to be the parent you’d love to be,  join my online Parenting course:

How to Stop the Yelling – 9 Steps to a Calmer Happier Home  – easy-to-follow, step-by-step, self-paced start-anytime online course

Last edited April 21st 2020

“Parents only enjoy their children after they leave home.” A shocking statement on a recent the local radio programme.

Okay so parenting is hard work and can be stressful at times – but do parents really believe that we only enjoy our children once we don’t have them in the home!  What if it is the stress we’re under that is the culprit, rather than our kids?

And what impact can our stress have on our children?  Sadly, parenting stress can damage child well-being!

Parenting Stress can damage child well-being! - blog post by Val Mullally

It makes sense that parents are stressed right now, but often our stress becomes a ‘distress’, and we lose sight of what really matters.

How many times do we caution our children about the fragile things in life. ‘Don’t touch. Be careful. It will break!’

But do we sometimes overlook the fragile precious beings our children are? Do we forget to handle with care the young people in our lives?

‘Of course I care for my kids!’ is our automatic reaction. But perhaps there are times when we have so much on our plates that we can’t see that our stress is negatively impacting the relationships that matter most to us. A careless action or word can dent our children’s self-esteem. Our parental stress can cause us to  forget we are the custodians of their emotional well-being.

And then we have the challenge of becoming stressed about our stress!  So what are some of the ‘handle with care’ cautions we need to remind ourselves?

3 Ways Our Children Are At Risk 

#1 Giving the message that parenting is exhausting and a pain

Okay, parenting isn’t always easy. But how much do the stresses of the rest of our lives overflow into the home – and it’s the children that take the brunt of it. Whether we yell at them, scold, roll our eyes, nag, or talk about how hard it is to be a parent, children sense our attitude. Think about how some of the favourite comedians, like Michael McIntyre often play the “parenting is a pain” line. The audiences love it because they identify with it!

But imagine if you regularly overheard your life partner  talking about what  a pain it is to have you in their life. And you notice how the listener agrees or nods knowingly.

What would that do for your self esteem?

Do you really think that relationship would last?

Or if you did stay in that relationship can you imagine how it would undermine your confidence and sense of worth?

Some parents are stuck in “Oh, it’s so hard /draining/ depressing to be a parent!” This message may be directly spoken or not-so-subtly conveyed but the thing is, children don’t have anywhere else to go! If you had a life partner who thought so little of you, you’d probably move out. But children have to live with it and they get to believe this is the truth about them:

“I’m the kind of person it’s draining to be around,”
I’m a pain to live with.”
“I’m troublesome.”
“It’s not fun to be with me.”
“I’m annoying and aggravating.”
“I don’t have anything to contribute.”

And when children believe they are a pain they are likely to behave that way. We create a self perpetuating downward spiral, unless we consciously choose a different route. If we want to nurture our children’s well-being the best place to start is with our own attitude and actions.

#2 Calling children names

Some labels we hurl at our kids are outright unkind and can dent a child’s self-esteem  – ‘stupid’, ‘selfish’, ‘brat’. When we refer to our children as ‘princess’, ‘madam’, ‘his lordship’ it may seem to make light of challenging behaviours, but perhaps that’s like casually mishandling a precious Ming vase.

Putting labels on our children is like mishandling a precious Ming vase - blog post by Val Mullally

What part of our child’s innate value is shattered when we carelessly knock them? And seemingly innocuous titles can damage our perspective of the child we are here to raise. These insults distort our vision so that we see stupidity or entitlement instead of our children’s vulnerability and their human struggle. It’s not always easy to be a child. And it can be even harder to be a teen. It’s a time when their sense of self can be very fragile and needs to be handled with sensitivity. Careless words hurt our children, and they hurt us too. They hurt us by causing us to expect negativity and resistance; by focusing our attention on the slight scratch or imperfection on who our child is, so that we forget the innate value and beauty of who they truly are. Careless words can cement a negative mindset within us, so that we treat our relationships as something cheap and shoddy, instead of the  precious gift they are.  If we mishandle interactions and toss words around that can damage relationships, similar cutting words and attitudes may boomerang back at us.  It’s time to rethink our attitude because it will be reflected in our actions.

#3 Being impatient

‘Hurry up. We’ re going to be late! Pick that up – now!’ We give a message that objects are more important than people; that our agenda is the only one that matters. How often do we rush carelessly in relationships. Today stop and assess whether you are giving the urgent priority over the important. What really matters?

A More Helpful Way Forward

So I ask you, what does a mindset of “Parenting  is draining” do to our children and our families?

Do you sometimes see parenting as exhausting or a pain?

How is this impacting your own perception of life?

How does the impact your interaction?
How might your attitude and behaviour dent your relationship with your child?
How might your attitude and behaviour dent your child?

I love browsing in antique shops, seeking some beautiful treasure others may have overlooked. My husband often cautions me to be careful with my handbag – concerned that I could bump some delicate object and cause damage. He reminds me to be mindful. The same holds true in relationship.

Here are some thoughts from that analogy that can help us shift our mindset and way of being with our children.

antique shop - handle with care

  • hold in awareness that there are things in close proximity that are fragile
  • be present to whatever is before you in this moment
  •  avoid unnecessary speed; take time to notice
  • be aware how you hold yourself in that space, physically and emotionally
  • be conscious of how you interact and move
  • be aware of where you are focusing your attention
  • look for the beauty – it may be  hidden by clutter, tarnish or dust

Life is Fragile

These days that we have with our children are precious and irreplaceable. Let’s handle with care. Child well-being is impacted by how they perceive themselves being perceived by others. Let’s not forget parenting stress can undermine child well-being! What underlying message do our children read from the way we communicate with them and about them?

Getting stressed about stressing our children is obviously only going to add fuel to the fire. I believe we can find a better way forward. 

Are you concerned about how your stress might be affecting your child?

It makes sense that, in the present circumstances, stress can leave us feeling so shattered that we can’t even pick up the pieces.

 I can help you to think more clearly, so that you can let go the stress and regain your clarity on what’s needed.

Click here to find out  more about  online coaching with me.

I’d love to support you to regain your joy and be the parent you want to be.  

Last edited September 26th 2020