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Finding a new normal in lockdown

One of our Parent Champions writes about her family’s experience of lockdown.

I consider myself a proud parent of two toddlers. I am at my proudest when I wave them off to nursery or see them fast asleep, so the idea of being locked in a small flat with them for an indefinite period of time was vaguely terrifying.  I assume I am not alone in thinking that most parents love their children, but also love their children’s school, nursery, or child minder – and the time it gives you to be you, and not just a parent.

At the start of lockdown, I was overwhelmed with ‘helpful’ resources about all the arts, crafts, exercise classes, teaching tools, child friendly recipes and games that we could now indulge in. Not to mention trying to do something approaching ‘a day’s work’, and all at the same time.  Timetables were prepared. Activities were scheduled. ‘This is boring!’ shouted my daughter. ‘I don’t want to!’, she cried. Timetables were ripped up. Activities were abandoned.

Once I’d finished taking this personally, I gave myself a break and got into a different groove. This involved a) following my children’s lead and b) allowing them to be bored.  There is much to be said for making them entertain themselves, rather than trying to foist entertainment upon them, whatever their age.  I am constantly amazed at how little it can take for them to happily pass an hour or so, such as my three-year-old daughter chasing my one-year-old son around a chair! Or my son watching intently as my daughter points out her different stickers.

We still have blocks of time across the day. My son naps, and that’s when I encourage my older daughter to do quiet activities like drawing, play-doh or, if I’m feeling adventurous, baking. And cartoons. Oh, so many cartoons! The ‘evils of screen time’ have been accepted as something actually rather nice, when we can sit and relax together.  Then, when my son wakes up, it’s back to running from room to room – and our daily allotted time in the sun.

It’s been much better since I accepted this pattern to the day and we found our own groove.  Don’t get me wrong, it can be immensely boring outlining the plot of ‘Frozen’ to my daughter for the tenth time that day, whilst trying to figure out what my son means when he points across the room and says ‘du duh!’ It can also be stressful at times, for them as well as me. My son often bangs on our front door wanting to get out of the flat, or my daughter can deal with boredom by becoming shrill and hyperactive.  Those moments do pass, though.

I try to focus on the good things. By being forced together, my children are getting on much better. I get to see them and their relationship develop, and much more than I otherwise would. My daughter has an amazing imagination, which delights me. My son is developing a mischievous sense of humour which I am enjoying discovering. We also try and build in some good things, for us – as parents – as well as them. Did I already mention cartoons?!

This won’t last for ever and we’re not living in normal times, so why should normal rules apply? We may as well enjoy ourselves as much as we can. Finding out what works for us as a family, and valuing this time with my children, works for me right now.

If you are a parent or carer and looking for mental health support at this time you can visit our website for advice and resources.