What the world has been experiencing is something that is totally new to most of us, something that we could only imagine happening in a blockbuster movie. Most of us may be concerned about the physical and emotional wellbeing and the safety of our children. As parents, we have the most challenging role to fill right now, and for this reason, it is crucial that we take care of ourselves first.
Today I will share some practical tips and strategies that may make the journey smoother. Every family is different and we shouldn’t compare our own family to another. What may work for one family may simply not work for another. Think about which of these tips work for your family:
Compassion and Kindness
Be compassionate and kind to yourself and those around you. This is really a great art to master. Having compassion and being kind to yourself may mean making sure you are getting your sleep, doing some kind of exercise to get your body moving, going outside or perhaps sitting in the sun for 10-15 minutes to get your daily dose of vitamin D. Self-Compassion is a crucial aspect to parenting as when we feel recharged and our needs are met to some degree we have what it takes to be able to remain calm and grounded. Sometimes being compassionate and kind may also mean letting some things go for the day and picking up where you left off the following day.
Take notice of what is actually going well. During stressful and challenging moments, we tend to see the world we are experiencing through a lens that looks at what is not working. By building the muscle to acknowledge three things every day we begin to shift the way we see and experience life. Notice your children, their behaviour that you have been wanting to see. If you can remember trying to name the behaviour and praise what they are doing which is bringing workability. This also allows our children to see what they are doing and what is working. They may be caring, helpful, listening to instructions, cooperating, getting on with siblings, sharing or taking turns. We all benefit from acknowledging each other. We have a need to be seen, heard and understood. It is simply a human need.
Human beings are hardwired to connect with others. Physical comfort is really a powerful way to manage stressful events. Sometimes a hug or a cuddle may often be what our kids need to manage some big emotions. They are a great way for kids to feel loved, safe and connected to their HOME.
We need 4 hugs a day for survival
We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance and
12 hugs a day for growth.
Plan (a little) + Let them know
Plan your day in advance so that you don’t have to keep remembering what you need to do and what to do. There is a certain number of wake hours in a day. There are certain tasks that you may have to attend to and there are tasks that you may like to do. By planning your day, even a little, can really make all the difference to your day. Depending on your child’s age, you can let them know what they will be doing for the day It is important to give them a choice in some of the tasks to allow them to feel power and control in their own lives. It could be as simple as would you like to do a puzzle or perhaps read your new book? Each and every family will have their own plan designed by them specifically for them. You can always have a look at the end of the day on what worked, what didn’t and make some tweaks to the plan.
We all do better when we have some structure around us, even more so during times of stress and high levels of uncertainty. If you can maintain and keep to your routines when possible. Children need to have a predictable routine that is also flexible. They thrive on routine as they know what is coming next, it gives them a sense of safety and comfort. It is also important to remember to be compassionate and kind to yourself with your routines. Check-in with yourself by checking your body, how are you feeling within? Being kind to yourself may mean having short breaks and rests in between where possible and sometimes being ok with leaving something for the following day or perhaps a later time.
Play & Joy
Play, play, play. Almost all children love playing whatever it is they are into depending on how old they are, their own particular interests and what may be popular now. Play-based learning is crucial to children’s development and learning. Physical activity whether it is indoor or out is extremely beneficial to the body and mind. For younger children, play is a great way where they can learn new skills. Play has enormous benefits to a child’s development especially allowing them the opportunity to manage their emotions. Play is a great way to bring joy into life. Find and do things that give you and your children joy. Play gives children and adults to experiment with different ideas and concepts and discover what brings us joy. Remember play is also a great outlet for adults when you are having a hard time you can try to surrender to what is, and participate in imaginative play to create funny voices, get messy and release built-up energy.
Reach Out and Connect/Check-In on Others
We are currently actually required to be physically distancing ourselves not socially. With today’s technological advancements there are so many different platforms we can use to connect with people who nurture us and fill our tank. As mentioned earlier, we are hardwired for connection, by connecting with friends and family we can have the gift of being listened to and listen to another. If you are feeling overwhelmed or just need someone we trust and respect to be there for us, even if that means a short phone call. Remember to check-in on friends from time to time, this doesn’t have to be a lengthy conversation if that isn’t possible. It could be something as simple as “Hi Jack, you crossed my mind and I really wanted to hear your voice.”
Breathe + Pause + Compassion + Repair + Reconnect (BPCRR)
This is one of my favourite ones and I find it to be highly beneficial. Sometimes there are challenging moments during the day and after all, we are human beings and not human robots. So, if you can choose not to react, as when we are in reaction mode the skills we really need to overcome challenging moments become extremely harder to access. However, if you catch yourself reacting, breathe in and out, pause and bring in compassion to yourself. Then when you are calm and grounded go back to your child and repair. Repairing is a great opportunity to apologise for behaving in a way that is not OK with you based on your values. It also shows our children that mistakes are OK, learning and growing is a life-long journey. This is the best role modeling we can provide our children.
Working from home
There are many parents right now faced with the challenge of working from home while their children are in the home. As every family will be unique in their own way, we may need to experiment with what works for us and what doesn’t. Some suggestions for parents and carers working from home could be hit the mute button when you are not speaking to avoid any unexpected yells of ‘Mummmm’ in the background. If possible chose a location in your home where your camera will not have the children visible in the camera if they have a need to come in. If you have older children, perhaps they can support their family by taking care of their siblings for a set time. Perhaps you can schedule your meetings or calls during nap time or during an activity, your child loves to do. Also, don’t forget to ask for support from your partner. Perhaps they can take the children for a walk and play games outside in the garden.
Which one of these tips did you like the most? Do you have a tip that you would like to share with us? Please leave your comments below.
Written by one of our awesome facilitators and parenting expert, Ozlem Mehmet-Radji
Ozlem Mehmet-Radji is passionate and committed to contributing to young people in a variety of ways. She is a workshop facilitator for Stride leading resilience-based programs in schools across Melbourne. She works as a consultant leading health and well-being workshops. She is dedicated to having all young people thrive in loving and conscious environments. Spending time with her daughter in nature, playing games and going on an adventure brings her joy. She is light-hearted and loves reading, writing and researching. She also loves eating edamame, okra and dark chocolate.