Many of you, like me, are in week 3 or 4 of self-isolation, home schooling and more. Depending on the ages of your kids and your personal circumstances (both financial and emotional), you will have already been through a maelstrom of dynamic change.
So I thought I would jump on a Zoom seminar set up earlier in the week by Inner West Mayor, Darcy Byrne along with the founder of Inner West mums, Anita Vitanova and psychologist, Jacqui Manning.
We have 2 kids aged 8 and 12. We’ve been okay so far in making the adjustment although, like many parents, I have an even bigger sense of gratitude for all teachers. I’ve also struggled to maintain work productivity in between science projects, story narratives and navigating Google Classroom. I was keen to learn from the seminar especially around keeping our kids and family emotionally strong through these tricky times.
There was a general discussion around home schooling, structuring the day, routines and the new family dynamic. So, I thought it might be helpful to summarise some of the key themes and takeaways.
Key themes & tips
Jacqui delved into the topic of anxiety in kids. She explained the role of the frontal cortex and the importance of breathing as a technique to alleviate anxiety.
She explained the signs to look for including:
Sleeping and eating patterns being disturbed
Other changes in emotional and physical behaviour
She said that occasional emotional outbursts can be good – a release for kids – but if this is sustained then this is a warning sign.
As parents, we need to reassure our kids. This is less about unhelpful statements like ‘everything is just fine’ but could include optimism about the future or a discussion about the activity you will do once the pandemic is over. Parents need to be balanced, constructive and progressive.
PARENTS WHO ARE FRONT-LINE WORKERS
There was an interesting discussion about the challenge for parents who are front line staff. Parents in this situation have a clear health and hygiene routine when they get home. All parents need to balance the level of news media consumption. This will vary depending on the age of the child. Either way, too much Covid19 news isn’t healthy for any of us. Limit exposure for kids and keep it strict for adults. Perhaps just twice a day. This is especially key with parents who are front line workers where the risk of anxiety could be higher.
THE IRONY OF TECHNOLOGY
There was an interesting discussion around the irony of technology. Whilst we have spent many years as parents, keeping our kids off screens, we are now seeing that key games like Fortnite or Minecraft may be a helpful form of social connection. It gets kids talking with their mates through the game. So we may want to nudge our kids on to tech every now and then. Time should be structured and agreed upfront.
Some parents shared the fact that they have daily social Zoom sessions for their kids and their friends. This allows kids to feel some social connection. There are also families using social video gaming services like Houseparty to play games remotely with multiple groups.
I asked a question around building resilience. Jacqui suggested the power of projects especially with the holidays coming up. Something for the child to focus or for the family to do together. A new pastime or project is both a distraction and an opportunity to learn.
THE OPPORTUNITY FOR A STRONGER FAMILY DYNAMIC
This time of self-isolation is a great opportunity for families to build more powerful bonds as we spend more time together and in many ways, truly get to learn who we really are in a way you never see when you are at work and your child is at school.
MANAGING YOUR OWN ANXIETY WITH YOUR KIDS
I also asked about parental anxiety and how and when to share this with your children. We all know that kids often model their parents’ behaviour, so you need to manage your own anxiety levels and choose your moments carefully. Again, this will vary with the age of the child and your personal set-up but it is ok to share how you are feeling. There is value in being balanced and forward thinking. When and how you share your feelings needs careful consideration. Do it in a calm mood and environment.
Either way, self-care for parents is important.
STAY CONFIDENT, INFORMED AND CONNECTED
Finally, Jacqui mentioned a book that is worth looking at: ‘Hey Warrior’ by Karen Young. Anita was optimistic about the future. Her daughter and her are already planning a post-Covid party. Inner West Mums has seen a huge increase in engagement and a sense of the community coming together. Is this an opportunity to make us better humans? Anita and Inner West Mums are playing their part. They have organised a kids’ virtual disco and have also set up video cooking classes.
Darcy Byrne talked through the actions that the council is taking and the value of the community connecting like this on video platforms.
I’m sure we’ll see more sessions like this. It’s good to Zoom (& explore other platforms too).
BECAUSE, it’s so important to keep moving forward, keep living our lives and most of all, stay connected.
Balmain dad, innovation consultant and co-founder of ParentalEQ – emotionally strong kids; oh and founder of Balmain Rozelle (un)choir – now virtual
We are ParentalEQ – a parenting platform to raise emotionally strong kids. To learn more, download our app in the App Store or Google Play here.