For me personally, going into national lockdown doesn’t feel nearly as shocking or difficult as it did the first time round. At the start of lockdown back in March, I was already very unwell with the virus, all 4 kids were off school, I couldn’t get any supermarket delivery slots, my son’s A levels had been cancelled and elderly people in my community were actually dying. It was an overwhelming, scary, uncertain time.
This time ‘lockdown’ feels much more familiar and we have already made so many adjustments to our normal way of life. The biggest difference for me as a mother of 4 is that my kids are actually where they are supposed to be: at school and university!
Nevertheless, a dad this week on my group parenting course asked for some top tips on creating a harmonious household during lockdown, so here are my thoughts.
Take some time to prioritise and be clear with yourself, your family and your work colleagues what your boundaries are. When are your slots for working, being with your children, taking care of the household and time for yourself? If you don’t create conscious boundaries, all your various responsibilities merge together and you may feel like you aren’t doing anything properly.
Use ‘Emotion Coaching’
If you don’t know what this is, there are lots of blogs about it on my website. We will all be experiencing a huge wave of different emotions. For your children, partners, wider family, friends and even work colleagues, the best way to listen is to empathise. Especially with children, all they really want from their parents is to feel heard and understood.
Drop the guilt
Feeling guilty is a huge waste of energy. If the house is a mess, the sheets aren’t ironed, your children are spending too long on screens, remember we are living through a global pandemic. These are not normal times. We are striving for ‘good enough’ not perfect.
Communication / Solution Time
We can all feel like we are going a bit stir crazy spending so much time together at home, especially now that it’s Winter. When something is bothering you about your partner or child, set aside time to talk it through. Explain how you feel with ‘I statements’ not ‘you statements’ and talk through possible solutions together, without blame or criticism.
Focus on the positive
‘Descriptive Praise’ is the most powerful motivator I know. Rather than constantly telling your children what they have done wrong, take the time to acknowledge and appreciate even the smallest things your child or partner does well. The magic ratio is 5 positive comments for every negative. This positive mindset truly has the power to change the whole atmosphere in your home.
Division of labour
Mothers in particular can feel a lot of resentment building when everyone is at home and they are bearing the brunt of childcare, cooking, cleaning etc. Sit down with your family, work out what needs to be done and how you can share the load. Ask yourself “What am I currently doing for my child that they could learn to be doing for themselves?” Write down a timetable for the week, outlining who is responsible for what.
We can very easily be in the same home with our children all day but still not be really with them. Schedule frequent, predictable 121 time to spend with your child irrespective of their age, with no agenda. It doesn’t need to be more than 15 minutes at a time but be truly present.
It’s good for children to be bored. Your job is not to be their entertainment director. Brainstorm with them some ideas for ‘boredom busters’ and talk about what they could do at home when the screens are off.
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. If you are not looking after yourself physically and emotionally at a basic level, you will struggle to look after your children or be productive at work. What do you need to stay sane and how are you going to give time to yourself so you can meet those needs?