Helping My Family Through The COVID-19 Changes

Schools closed, social contact minimised, days out and holidays cancelled. These are unprecedented times and they are a challenge to all of us in different ways. We don't know what lies ahead, but this is what I am doing to feel more in control and support my family's mental health through social distancing and potential isolation.

6 Things We Are Doing To Cope Better With COVID-19

My children on a sofa. The girls are reading books and my son is looking out of the window. This is about how we work together as a family to keep strong mental health through the COVID 19 changes

Making A Family Agreement

We will be sitting down as a family once school finishes to make an agreement to help us all over the coming weeks. This is something we can all contribute to rather than us as parents enforcing rules on the children. There are 4 main sections to our agreement:
Priorities: Everyone can put forward the things that they want and need so we can compromise and agree how to support everyone. For example it is very important that G and I have childfree time each night to "reset" ourselves so regardless of what time the children get up I need them to be in their room and asleep (or reading) by 8pm, another priority for me is to spend sometime writing every few days or I feel lost.
Responsibilities: 5 people home all day everyday means a lot of cooking, cleaning and mess and it is only fair that all of us (ok all of us except the baby) contribute to staying on top of things. The girls can choose how they want to help around the house in age appropriate ways.
Limits: We know from experience that behaviour gets worse if the children are allowed to spend large amounts of time on small screens so we will be agreeing how much time and when the girls can be on their iPod and iPad. We already have an agreement that people don’t go on their phones/ kindle etc at the table when we are all eating which was requested by the children a while ago and they will have the opportunity to suggest other rules too.
Consequences: If everyone follows the agreement then it should be a reward in itself; the consequences of keeping to what we have agreed should be a happier household, but what happens when people don’t? It’s important to agree together what is reasonable punishment. There will of course be exceptions allowed eg if anyone is unwell.

Keeping in Touch with Family and Friends

We might not be able to see family members in person if they don't live with us, but I am making more effort to check in with everyone. This helps me worry less and eases the potential boredom. We are lucky to be able to FaceTime, call and message family members. Keeping in touch with friends is important too and I am lucky to be in several online groups that provide support and amusement. There are lots of groups like this popping up so it's worth having a look if you feel one would help you.

Keeping Moving

Every day I am trying to ensure we do an activity to keep moving. Whether it is going out for a walk or dancing around the house it’s important for all of us that we find a way to be active.

Planned Activities

I need a plan, it's what makes me feel in control, but right now there isn't much I can make plans about apart from our day ahead. I am coming up with activities (educational and otherwise) for each day to make sure the day has some structure and entertainment. 

It's important that children still feel they have some freedom and choice too so I am offering them options where ever possible, from choosing their plate colour to the order of activities, little things can help.

Smiling at Others

Stories on social media seem to be one of two extremes: "everyone is selfish, look at them panic buying all the things they don’t need” or “let’s do what we can to support everyone”. Truth is probably somewhere in between. Of course we are scared, of course we want to make sure we have the food and essentials for our family, but we are worried about others too. People I see out and about are worried, but I am trying to smile more at people when I’m out. This simple social interaction is safe and can make a big impact on others, but it makes me feel more normal too. I was reminded by a school mum friend just how important it is to keep interacting with others however we can to help us all feel more normal.

Holding my children

There is nothing I can do to avoid getting the germs my small ones have so I may as well hug them and hold them at every opportunity. It is hard not to make them worry about what is happening because they know they can’t go places and see people that they could before. My children know I am worried because it’s not the sort of thing I can hide, but the more I can show them love, do fun activities with them and make the most of this enforced family time the stronger I think we will come out the other side.

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