2.4 children in lockdown...part 2
4 weeks in lockdown
We’ve made it through the first month. Phew. We’re still here, we are healthy, happy (most of the time) and we have a lot to be grateful for.
We’ve had so many memorable moments – moments that have felt like we are living in a Famous Five novel, living out an endless, innocent, adventurous summer where exciting discoveries are around every corner. We’ve walked for miles, discovered tunnels, giant logs to climb, tadpoles in mini creeks, swathes of bluebells and wild flowers; we’ve baked, made dens, crafted and played board games; we’ve made potions, conducted madcap science and maths projects in homemade tents or under the beating sun, and written imaginative stories and poetry about knights, farms and animals. This is the idyllic, Instagram-ready version of our time in lockdown and, although part of the story, not the whole one.
The unedited version tells a different story. Even in the world of the Famous Five, the plucky children and their trusty dog encounter trouble along the way. For us, there has been the sibling squabbling, rivalry, fighting, frustration and mess – not unusual, but heightened due to confinement. There has been exhaustion from trying to juggle many different aspects of our life and not meeting our own expectations. There has been the disappointment of trying so hard with late night lesson planning – desperately trying to make learning fun, whilst incorporating learning objectives set by the school - only to be faced with point blank refusal to cooperate the following day. There is the mess, chaos and mayhem of having four people in the house constantly. And it goes on.
Don’t get me wrong. The positives are outweighing the negatives, for us at least. I know we are lucky ones. We love each other, we are more relaxed not having to rush around, we are a little fatter but have more energy, the boys are happy and look so healthy from all the fresh air and family time they are having. We are safe. We are healthy. We are happy.
And, like many others, we are having time to reflect on life. How can we make our lives better? How can we improve family time? What are our priorities? And how can I better support my children?
I have also learnt a lot about my children, their habits and their needs which will affect my parenting methods going forward.
They need routine
Every parent knows that routine is important. From the moment our bundles of joy are born, health visitors, friends and family, gurus and Supernanny stress how children need a routine to regulate their body, emotions, sleep patterns, eating, and to help behaviour, development and to understand boundaries. Routine is even more important now, where their usual one has suddenly been turned on its head. I was fairly strict with our routine for the first couple of weeks – I had a home schooling schedule, and wanted to replicate our normal day as much as possible (breakfast at 7.30am, school at 9, bed at 7.30pm, and so on).
As we entered the Easter Holidays on week 3, I let the routine relax a little, mainly to allow me some recovery time – I was physically and mentally shattered as every waking hour was filled with planning, feeding, educating, entertaining, tidying, trying to work…juggling so many balls was dizzying!
The first few days of our ‘holiday’ were fine – the boys played happily, we had the Easter weekend to keep us entertained with egg hunts, crafts and chocolate consumption – and then behaviour dropped, frustration set in, and boredom. Sleep patterns became erratic. My husband and I tried to get on top of a few jobs around the house and the garden, leaving them more time to entertain themselves. I have read many times that boredom is good for children, that it helps to develop their imagination, but the first couple of days it just led to bickering which led to fighting, tears and mood swings. Bedtime was fraught, unsettled and a nightmare!
So routine was reintroduced, and calm resumed. Better sleep, led to better moods and emotional balance and the ability to be able to create their own entertainment rather than have it constantly spoon-fed. I’ve learnt that my children need fixed points in their day to regulate behaviour, regroup, and understand how things work. Not a militant schedule, but reminders to keep them on track mentally, emotionally and physically.
They need familiarity.
Familiarity and routine are linked, of course, but in this instance I’m talking more about environment and atmosphere. My 6 year old misses many aspects of school. He may say he doesn’t want to return, but he has asked if we can have assembly in the morning, he wants to start the day with some circle time; we have to replicate or imitate many aspects of his regular day as a sort of comforter, to help him process the situation and satisfy his subconscious that he is still at school when he is actually at home. It is a confusing time for him. So, we have tried to incorporate many aspects of his school life into our home-school life to make the transition easier to digest – we have a house system, we have a topic board, we do have circle time, we put our hands up when asking questions, and I am referred to as ‘Mrs. Mummy’ during school hours. My three year old likes me to ring some bells to start the day and begin by singing the ‘hello’ song and the ‘days of the week song’. It makes the school day more of a game or a roleplay scenario – like we are existing in a surreal half real/half fantasy world for a large proportion of each day. It also creates a bit of separation between school life and home life, which breaks up the day.
The familiarity of all these small actions is settling in such weird times. I am hoping it will also help them transition successfully back into school when the time comes.
Family and friends matter.
Most of the time the children are fine on their own or with us. In fact, they are loving the fact that they are getting so much time with mummy and daddy, to do activities and playing. However, we cannot replace their friends. Mainly the sort of imaginative, silly play and talk that only six and three year olds do with each other – adults, try as they may, just do not cut the mustard here. My three year old, constantly regales tales of his friend ‘Tommy’ – the fantastical, embellished and sometimes real adventures they have been on. It is his way of letting us know that he misses those relationships.
When it comes to family, they have been satisfied with regular Skype calls to grandparents, but both boys became very emotional over Easter following a call to their cousins in Surrey. My eldest was in tears after the call, and the youngest felt the change in emotion in the room and wanted cuddles – my eldest divulged, ‘We were with them last Easter – will we ever get to have Easter fun with them again?’. It is in these small moments, you realise just how affected they are by this situation.
Children are becoming very aware of technology.
I’ve always been scared to introduce my children to too much technology – the internet, social media, phones etc. But now, suddenly, so much revolves around these things. They now know about You Tube, thanks to Joe Wicks and many other resources we have discovered to aid learning. They are very aware of the power of phones to talk to friends, communicate, research, entertain. I am not sure how I am going to manage this going forward after lockdown. It has been hard for me to let go a little – through work I am so aware of online threats, abuse, grooming, content, bullying – I want my children to stay as innocent as possible for as long as possible. But now they know these things exist and I need to manage this exposure. I’ve accepted that a little is better than none at all, and to highlight the positives of these tools and will try to introduce them to the negative aspects as carefully as possible. There are so many online resources offering parents advice in this area.
But despite the trials and tribulations of lockdown, our mental and physical wellbeing has improved. We are stronger as a family unit. And we have time for one another.
I am now trying to block those anxious feelings that are creeping in, slowly but surely, about what happens next when things begin to return to normal. But that’s another story…