As I’ve been working from home during this lockdown period I recently noticed a rising sense of unease in myself. Once I stopped to think about this feeling I discovered it was linked to the tidal wave of information in my social media accounts, on the news and in my email box giving me advice about how I should be doing life in lockdown. I’m guessing that I’m not the only one. Parents who are managing work, household tasks and the needs of children as well as young adults who have their own social media accounts may be feeling this pressure too. Even young children may be feeling some pressure about what is the right way to feel or things to do.
While social media, the world wide web and emails are fantastic for keeping in touch with family and friends and keeping informed they can also become a measuring stick against which we grade ourselves. As always people present their best selves on social media and it is wise to think carefully about what you are viewing from other people and make conscious decisions about whether what they are sharing is useful or not. Remember that most social media platforms will allow you to stop seeing posts you are finding bothersome without informing the person that you have done so. Feel free to use this feature liberally as needed.
Each one of us will be managing the lockdown under level 4 and upcoming transition to level 3 in a different way. I’d like to encourage you to take a moment to acknowledge and accept the way that you are feeling. There is no right or wrong way to feel. To help support this you may find it is helpful to try out a breathing exercise. A simple one is box breathing. Exhale deeply then take a breath in for the count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4 and pause for a count of 4 before starting the cycle again. If you would like a visual support check out the link to a Headspace video of a breathing exercise https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEqZthCaMpo .
What feels good to you now? Whether it’s going for a long run or sitting on the couch watching TV then that’s OK.
Many parents will be feeling pressure about parenting during the lock down. It's entirely possible that you are seeing social media and emails from friends and family or acquaintances that talk about how well they are and how in fact they are thriving educationally and socially during this lock down period. Many will be proffering advice about how to do all of this in the best way possible. While this is often well intentioned and helpful advice it may not be what you need in your situation. I’d encourage you to take a moment and think about what works best for you and your family.
Some structure is important to maintain while everyone is at home this should be loosely based on a few key areas such as enjoying at least one meal together as a group and everyone engaging in some form of exercise during the day, basic hygiene like showering and brushing teeth and putting on clothes suitable for the day at least most days (pajama days can be fun as long as it’s not every day).
Young children will benefit from reading and talking with an adult and some basic maths and spelling practice regularly and these things can be managed within a loose routine. Older children may benefit from parents showing an interest in their studies and providing some support for the child developing their own study routine.
For the most part, be kind to yourself and adopt the concept of ‘good enough’, there is no need or desire for you to be the perfect parent. Good enough is good enough. If your child spends more time than usual watching TV or on devices, beyond checking that they are accessing appropriate content (age appropriate) then that is fine and feel free to enjoy the ability to get some work done or spend some time doing something you enjoy.
Robyn Stead, Child Psychologist and Educator, lives and works in central Auckland.