Pandemic Christmas Parenting Tips
Pandemic Parenting Tips for a Happier and Calmer Christmas
COVID-19 has changed so many family’s plan’s this festive period.
I just wanted to write a short blog to offer you some tips to help Christmas run a bit smoother, but also to say it's ok if you are feeling totally and utterly overwhelmed, tired, angry, frustrated, tearful, lonely; whatever it is, you’re not the only one. Everyone has their own stories, with varying degrees of challenges, stress, and anxiety. This year has been a tough one for most of us.
It is common that under stress we all regress. Have you noticed feeling more tense? toleration levels are more limited, you're tearful or are feeling you cannot focus on things for long? Our emotional stamina has well and truly been put to the test this year and its running quite low for many. Many of us can definitely say it is not quite what it was before COVID-19 struck!!
With the latest changes from the government, one mum said to me ‘this has well and truly broken the camel’s back in our house’ however in the next breath also said ‘but its better to be safe than sorry’.
Christmas in ‘normal’ years is challenging enough for many, without the added pressures of the tier system. The last-minute changes have completely overwhelmed many. With some people panic buying as they thought they were having Christmas dinner with their parents, but now find themselves having to do shopping for Christmas dinner themselves, others are cancelling meetups or rearranging to make sure everyone gets seen, whether its on a digital platform or in person.
Change for us at short notice is hard enough; however, let’s remember at the centre of all this are our children. Remember they are picking up on everything that is going on. Regression in children’s behaviour when the world feels a little overwhelming and out of control is to be expected. Challenges with sleep, toileting, a rise in anxiety and arguments are all too common, so please take this into account if they are having a bad day too.
Here are some tips to help support you and your children and teenagers through this challenging period for calmer and happier Christmas period:
· Big Emotions and Feelings - Validate difficult feelings and give your children time to chat. Sometimes children cannot express their emotions that well (us too!!), this is where you can help them… ‘from what you are saying you sound as if you are frustrated with the last-minute changes, is that right?’ Remember when we name it, we can start to tame it!
· Time to Chill - Let them take some time out for themselves to recharge and self-regulate. This is a great way to help them manage emotions. Kicking a ball about outside, wrapping themselves up tightly in a blanket while watching a movie, having a soak in the bath (if old enough), bouncing on the trampoline, chilling out in their rooms reading/listening to music etc. They will feel so much more in control for taking this time out.
· Rule Change - Reassure your children and explain to them that it's your job to keep them safe. Realising it is government restrictions being placed on all families in the UK not just them. This way they stop blaming you and start looking at the bigger picture. Minimise the amount of information they are being exposed too, keep it simple. You following the new guidelines simply and positively will help them feel less anxious and confused too.
· Routines –Let’s lower our children’s anxiety and stress levels with their predictable daily routine. This is key to helping them feel safe and secure too. All too often as adults we get on and arrange things, forgetting to tell the kids until the day. This often causes unnecessary meltdowns. If you are changing things (which many of us have had too) let the kids know, sit them down, chat and draw it out so they know the new plan. This will lower anxiety and any confusion, and they know what to expect.
· Problem Solving – Avoid just reassuring your children, encourage problem solving as it helps reduce stress in daily life.
‘I know you’re sad we can’t spend Christmas day with nanny and gramps, but what can we do instead to see/hear from them?.....’ come up with ideas, this helps to break down any overwhelming problems into smaller more positive manageable steps.
· High Energy - If energy is feeling high in the home, get the kids out to burn some energy off. Build it into your daily routine over the festive period. We all know that fresh air is essential to help rebalance and ground us all. A time to leave gadgets at home and spend some quality time together. If they are younger do a scavenger hunt looking for certain things (a pinecone, oak leaf, acorn, feather etc), or go on a beach comb, teach them different types of trees, foot prints or birds or get them to learn how to train the dog, set them a HITT workout challenge etc. If you make it interesting, they will enjoy being out with you.
· Christmas Breathing - Ask you children to breathe in through their nose a favourite Christmas smell (from one hand), and blow out slowly through their mouth a beautiful candle (in the other hand). Continue this breathing cycle for a few minutes, it will help the stress leave their body, while calming the mind too.
· Melting – another great relaxing activity. Get them to curl up into a tight snowball and then slowly get them to relax and melt – this is a lovely way for children to become aware of their bodies. Ask them afterwards how their body feels now its thawed out.
· Gratitude’s - As a family, ask in turn what you are all grateful for and why. This could include kind friends, warm clothes, a pet, hugs with immediate family, the ‘why’ bit is the most important part as it validates the individuals appreciation and makes everyone stop and think.
· Strengths and Future Goals – Yes at the moment it feels like we are all a little stuck, but remind them that in time this will all pass. Explore what new skills they might have developed since we went in to the first initial lockdown (you’ll be surprised what they come out with) and build in some positivity achievable goals for the family to look forward too in 2021.
As parents we often forget to look after ourselves. Christmas is not just about just pleasing others, it is also a time for you to create memories and enjoy some down time too.
Here's some things to keep you feeling more in control and energised:
· Label your own feelings – just like the kids, we sometimes need to stop and notice exactly how we are actually feeling. Close your eyes and notice how your mind and body are feeling. Once you know the feeling then you can put a plan in place to help support it.
· Put things in perspective - The Christmas period is only a few days, its temporary, it will pass – life moves on. Be realistic with what you can do in such short time frame and be kind to yourself.
· Take FIVE if you need to manage those big emotions - This is a great way to calm yourself and teaches our children how to deal with big emotions in the future too.
· Energy Breaks - Don’t forget about yourself - remember what keeps you ticking along and lowers your stress levels? Reboot and lower your stress levels by going for a walk with a friend, lowering caffeine levels, do some deep breathing, have a daily routine/schedule, have a relaxing bath (when kids are in bed), distract yourself with music or a mindful activity (shape eyebrows, knit, read, doodle, run, clean, listen to a guided meditation etc ) or exercise.
· You can’t control everything and everyone around you - but you can focus on what you can control and how you respond to things.
· Do something kind or/and fun!! – release some happy hormones.
These are just a few ideas that I hope might be useful to you and your family during this period of uncertainty.
Merry Christmas, stay safe and well as we move into 2021.
If you are feel you are needing additional support please reach out to your local GP or Health Visitor and other services such as Mind, Samaritans, Refuge, It's your choice, I Talk etc.
If you would like more information on private bespoke support for you or your children and teens please do contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or for more information please visit my website www.barefoot-coach.com