Follow our guide to keeping your youngsters happy
If your three-year-old is demanding the next activity, your eight-year-old is covered in paint and your 15-year-old isn't speaking to you because the pandemic has ruined their life, welcome to the club.
Parenting can be hard whatever age and stage your children are at, and Covid-19 has thrown parents into unknown territory. Home-schooling; balancing full-time working hours with childcare needs; being stuck in the house with no escape to playgroups, playgrounds, play dates...Yep, it all just got a whole lot harder.
Top all of that with worries and anxiety about where you'll be able to source your next food shop from, whether you'll be using tissues instead of toilet roll and worries about your own parents, and it's no wonder so many of us are feeling under immense pressure. The good news is that we are not alone.
Being friends and colleagues, we wanted to bring together our parenting experiences of the last few weeks and share hints and tips to help keep each other stay safe and sane. We've made a start below by grouping tips into age ranges. We're all in this together.
Have a routine
- 8am: follow the Nike Training Club free exercise app
Why not do it with your baby? You might even find they are a fan of a press up or two!
- 10am: Walk around a park
Get baby to sleep and improve brain function for work.
- 1pm: lunch
Can baby learn to hold a cup or use a spoon? How about both trying a new food – especially as we’re buying different items to ensure our cupboards are filled.
- 7.30pm: yoga/meditation
Signal the end of work and baby duties (hopefully baby is asleep by now)
Accept the above will not work out…
but make sure you find time to do something for yourself, even if it’s just lying on the floor and closing your eyes.
Try walking meetings
Being in the house with a little one can be draining. Give yourself some space and walk in your garden if possible.
Have dedicated work and baby time
Use the Forest app to block off time where you are just working. Don’t let your phone or little one distract you (unless urgent)
Don't feel guilty about blocking out your calendar for dedicated childcare time. Right now, it's about balance.
Make an activity list or schedule to suit you
There are so many free Audible books for kids, lesson plans or activity ideas, YouTube classes, live Facebook parties...frankly, it can be overwhelming. Try creating a list of activities that would be of interest to you and add to it each time you see an idea that you think your pre-schooler would like. Variety and quick activities help to keep them engaged.
Don't expect too much
As a general rule of thumb you can use their age as a guide to how many minutes they are likely to engage in a new activity (three-year-old, three minutes, four-year-old, four minutes etc). Activities can be as small as 'make a paper airplane and see whose flies the furthest'. It takes all of about two minutes but if you're lucky they will come back to the flying part time and again. If you're really lucky you can extend the activity: colour it in, call Grandma and show her how far it flies and so on.
Create a dedicated messy space
They'll need it and so will you...the best thing is to accept it and try and contain the resulting mess.
Make it a game
Little ones like nothing more than scoring points, and celebrating little wins together can improve how everyone feels.
Call out emotions
Pre-schoolers pick up on how we are feeling more than we realise. If you are feeling sad because you are worried, they are probably feeling it, too. Make sure they know it is okay to feel that way and encourage them to talk about it so you can reassure them and take steps to manage their emotions.
If you’ve chosen to explain why we all have to stay indoors, use a story and things they can relate to
Coronavirus is the cousin of the common cold in our household.
Get them active in the morning
Joe Wicks and others are offering free PE lessons, free yoga and free dance classes.
Create competitions between siblings (outdoors is best if you can manage it)
Having them entertain each other for a bit helps maintain everyone's sanity. The 30-day Lego Challenge is a great activity for this.
If your kids get along (at least most of the time) get them to help each other with schoolwork
Let them keep in touch with friends
This may mean sharing your phone/tablet/laptop for a small part of the day but interacting with peers is crucial for their wellbeing.
Speak to other parents from your kids’ classes: could they do one session via video call and you do the next? You may still need to sit with them but at least you haven't got to spend so much time planning – plus you help out another parent, too!
Spend any time with them that you can.
This is an opportunity to be together. You might do something as simple as getting them to help make dinner: you can also get adventurous and use fractions to talk about how much of each ingredient is needed or how many vegetables are going on each plate.
Perhaps they get to choose the family movie if they tidy up their books or lay the table. You may end up sitting through movies you can't stand – but it'll be worth it!
Teenagers and young adults
Teenagers and young adults
Don’t force togetherness
Just like before, it’s fine for young adults to be hanging out with their mates on social media, lying in, mooching in rooms etc. Why not keep things normal?
Have an optional jobs day
The day is fixed, the job you pick is optional: for example, laundry, gardening or cleaning. Nobody has to do things they hate but everyone pitches in with something. Make it more interesting with saws or axes. If you don’t have a garden, why not go for houseplants or window boxes instead?
Friday night is movie night
Have a Friday night hang out together, argue about what to watch and have a laugh.
Set up a weekly family Skype
Get together in the afternoon for family time. This is particularly good for reaching out to grandparents or older relatives – even if it results in just five minutes of interest!
Pick your regime. Outside exercise is fine; just make sure they know to be careful with social distancing rules.
Dig out whatever you have in the house: darts, backgammon, Cards Against Humanity – if you (and they) can bear it.
From growing moustaches to dying hair and creative new meals, nobody will see your disasters – so let them go wild
Looking after you
Make sure you sit down and chat to someone, whether it’s a partner or friend on Skype or Zoom.
Laugh about the situation over a glass of wine or beer.
Give yourself a break
These are unprecedented times and as our usual 'safe space' at home becomes an increasingly stressful place it can be hard to see just how you are meant to manage such a multitude of demands. You are only human. There is only a set amount of time. And you can't do everything. In the long run, you and everyone around you need your sanity intact.
Practise the art of saying no
Most people are empathetic or at least understand, to some degree, how hard it is right now. Blocking out your diary to dedicate time to schooling, wellbeing or family should be part of your new normal. Try "I can't do that, but what I can do is... " with colleagues and employers. This keeps requests at bay but also shows willing and is more likely to be well received.
Try to share working and childcare responsibilities
If two of you are working from home, you can chunk up your day and fit meetings wherever possible into your work stints.
Ask for help from relatives if you are a single parent or own on your own at home
Grandparents are often happy to read a book over FaceTime or have a play enacted back to them to give you a much-needed break.
At the end of each day, write down or say three nice things that happened
Remember to look at the positives and appreciate the opportunity you have to spend more time together as a family.
If things are really tough, talk to your manager
Have an open conversation about alternative ways to manage your workload. Be ruthless: you may not be needed in every meeting, so you could input your thoughts by email in advance and get a summary of the meeting discussion and action points after.
Look for practical quick wins
The one thing you probably don't have as a parent right now is much spare time. Think about what you can do quickly to pick up your mood or improve your day. A plant on your desk? Lighting a candle? Putting up a picture or rainbow? What will help you find your feel-good factor quickly? The little things can really build up.
Amber Kirkbride is ACCA's product portfolio lead, strategy and alignment