Changes in my child post lockdown

Children thrive off stability, routine, and consistency. They feel happy, safe, and secure when they know what is expected of them and when. A child will never thank you for boundaries and day-to-day routine, but those working with children can quickly identify those who have boundaries and routine in comparison to those who don’t.

Lockdown has led to our worlds being turned upside down. In a matter of days we went from “normal life” to being confined to our homes, with no access to school, work, friends, family members, or the other usual aspects of our lives. A family walk or bike ride was limited to the backyard. Children couldn’t see granny and grandpa, yet they were being told that older people were “at risk” for this unknown virus. Once lockdown was eased children were allowed to return to school… with masks, shields, thermometers, social distancing and strict rules that they may not give their teachers or friends a hug, School was intermittent for many, with one day attending, and the next day not. Just as we thought we were getting used to the new normal, schools were closed once again.

When we consider as adults how we struggle to adapt to the end of a December holiday, and the dread that many experience when we have to leave the comforts of our home and return to “real life” we can only imagine how this is unsettling for our children. Although we often find that we feel better and more settled the moment we are back at work and in our routines. The difference here though is that the children have no routine. They were forced to leave home, and return to academic work but with many rules, and no sense of stability.

Many parents are experiencing children having emotional meltdowns, difficulty convincing their children to attend school each day, and an increase in anxiety levels and behavioural difficulties. When we consider all our children have, and are, enduring it is no wonder they are having difficulty containing their emotions. Their worlds feel scary, different, and unpredictable. Many of us adults feel stressed and have our emotional baggage that comes with living through these times in terms of loss of income, work stress, sickly or at-risk family members, and lack of social support. Children pick up on our emotions, and this exacerbates their emotional distress.

Parents are also choosing to keep their children from school, and rather home-school if their school provides the option. While this is sometimes necessary, when family members are at-risk, it comes with a new set of troubles. As mentioned above, consistent attendance of school and other usual routines helps children to feel safe and secure. Many parents are thus facing the difficult decision of weighing up whether the benefit outweighs the harm of attending school during these times. This is no easy decision to make.

As parents we only want what is best for our children. We want to keep them and our other significant others safe from the virus, but we also want happy and confident young children. So, what can we do?

  • Try and stick to your daily routines as far as possible. Use what works for your family and do it consistently. This may be supper at a set time around the dinner table where you speak about your day. Perhaps a bedtime story read every night before lights are turned out. It may be a family walk or bike ride once a week. A movie or boardgame night one evening every weekend. There are so many wonderful ways to do this.
  • If saying goodbye in the mornings is difficult, try and create a positive and fun ritual of saying goodbye that is done each time. This could be a unique handshake you create together, a song you sing, etc. You can even use it each time you see each other in the afternoon or evening.
  • Constantly remind your children that they can chat to you about anything, at any time. Remind them that you are always available should they have questions. Sometimes we assume they know this, but they don’t, or they feel that their questions are silly. They need these constant reminders.
  • Validate your child’s feelings. If they do not want to attend school and we tell them there’s nothing to be scared of and they will have fun, we are not acknowledging their feelings. By saying I understand that you are feeling anxious about leaving home. I also get nervous when I have been home for a while and I must go to work all day. You can have these feelings. What do you think we can do about these feelings to help you feel better? By doing this we are validating and normalising their feelings, but then focusing on handing them back the power and working on positive coping tools.
  • Be patient. Be patient with your child, and patient with yourself. This is a tough time that we have all gone and are going through. Don’t underestimate the effect it has had on everyone from young to old.

Please note that this article is my opinion. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always consult a healthcare practitioner for personal medical advice and recommendations.

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