Caring for our emotional well-being when living under stress or constant pressure – which is what lockdown resembles from a mental perspective – can be very significant to our overall health and wellbeing. Having the children at home is very tiring and having to home school them is exhausting and a trial for many.
Am I doing enough for them?
Am I doing it right?
I don’t understand this myself - Maths…. Arrrgh!!
How can I stay calm and not lose my temper?
How can I be a teacher? - I have never had to do it before!
What are my children missing out on?
These are the sorts of things every parent is saying, whilst trying their best to home school their children. If your children are being provided with online learning then that’s great, as some of the pressure is taken off you. If not, then you will probably feel it is down to you. And it can affect your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Some children will be keen to learn, but equally some children still do not want to get the work done. Some don’t like the online classroom environment as this is a change and not something they are used to. Do your best to encourage and reward where you can.
But be realistic.
Remember you are not a teacher!
Don’t beat yourself up!
As primary school teacher for almost 20 years I believe children are very adaptable and I do not think they are missing out, educationally on as much as many people fear. You don’t have to reach for the stars and give your child the best grounding in Maths or Literacy! They will get back to that when schools return, but that is not your job. Obviously if there is work set by school then do the best you can. But most schools will be understanding in these current circumstances, and will, I’m sure, know that you are doing the best you can in an unprecedented situation.
And there really are so many other things children can learn, that you don’t have to be a trained teacher to teach. Help them to learn some much more important things. Life skills. Social Skills. Emotional Skills. Bake together, help them to cook, play board games, sing, dance, play read together, be creative, do a topic on something that interests them, find out about it, make a scrapbook, present it in any way you or your child sees fit. Get out and about. It IS all learning! And it will probably be more fun, less stress and much more relevant to them in later life than knowing what a fronted adverbial is or being able to work on differential equations.
Make it easy on yourself and don’t feel guilty
Don’t worry too much about screen time
Use what’s available - it’s not the end of the world if they have 6 hours instead of the 2 you usually allow! And there are some great things to learn both on TV and online. But more importantly you need your time and space too - so when you need a break - don’t fret about the wrongs of sitting them in front of the TV. Be realistic. Be forgiving. Give yourself that break.
Take yourself away when you need. Create your own space. Tell the children when it is your time and which is your space and make sure they know they can’t enter that time or space when you need it. Nothing is so important that it should impact on your own emotional or mental health, or your child’s, unless it is an emergency.
Don’t worry about things that aren’t in your control
There are things we can control in life, there are things we have some control over and there are some things that we cannot control at all. So, don’t waste precious time and energy on the things you can’t control. Take control of what you can, do the best to influence the things you have some control over and leave the things out of your control to sort themselves out. Worrying about them never helped and it only uses up your energy reserves.
Create a timetable - a routine
Children feel safer when there are rules and boundaries in place and we all feel better when we know the routine. But be realistic about your expectations. Don’t compare yourself to others. We are all coping with this in different ways and there is no right or wrong way, just your way.
When and where you can, get some all-important physical activity. Either as a family or alone, a long walk or doing some online exercise programme gets rid of some energy and some stress. This is especially true for children and will tire them out. Get some fresh air, go for a nature walk, take photos or look for unusual things on the way. Play eye-spy, or other games. Walks are great with children, when you keep them amused and entertained.
Allow children to connect virtually with peers. Chatting on Facetime or other video platforms is essential. Remember the kids are feeling this stress too, and just like us they need to connect. Sometimes a video call with friends can help them, in the same way it helps us too.
If you are not well, emotionally healthy and well balanced, then you cannot help your children, your family or others. Do what it takes to give yourself what you need to be strong, resilient and in the right frame of mind before you try to help others.
Put your own oxygen mask on first.