For many parents, juggling family and work in the midst of changing Coronavirus rules and restrictions is proving a constant challenge. So, whether going out to work or working and schooling at home, it’s important to make the most of any free time, to check in on our own wellbeing as well as that of our children.
Wellbeing and resilient relationships don’t just happen, they need care and attention.
Self-care isn’t a luxury - it is the essential battery recharge we all need to have the physical and mental energy to make the most of good times, and to keep going during tough times.
Looking after ourselves in this way - through self-care - doesn’t need something extraordinary, but some ‘ordinary magic’ (as described by the psychologist, Ann Masten). Moments of kindness, the offer of a helping hand, showing and receiving care and attention have the power to transform even the darkest moments.
As a parent or carer, you may well be thinking about your own child’s wellbeing while forgetting your own. But like many aspects of parenting, this involves you putting your own oxygen mask on first to look after yourself. That way, you will be best able to offer a helping hand to the children and teenagers in your life.
Everyone’s approach to self-care will look different, but it is helpful to run through a mental checklist of some of the important areas to consider:
Taking care of our physical wellbeing can go a long way to boosting emotional wellbeing. That includes a variety of daily activities, like paying attention to what we eat, taking time to exercise and to relax, and maintaining good quality sleep. Having a healthy and balanced diet improves how you feel physically. It can also lift mood, motivation and energy levels, especially if they are running low after months of daily pressure.
Making sure we have some time away from screens during the day, and ensuring that screen time is limited before going to sleep, are important to enable us to reset and recharge.
Look at what you can replace screen time with, like keeping active through regular exercise and building fun physical activity into your day. As a family, playing games together can be a great way to enjoy each other’s company and invest in everyone’s wellbeing. Catching up with a friend, by phone or in person in the open air, can help create a space for your own self-care too.
Think about how your own routines as a family may have changed (or even disappeared, despite your best intentions) due to the current circumstances.
Teenagers naturally come alive at night and, if they have been spending a lot of time at home, many have turned night into day.
Helping your children, whatever their age, to gradually re-establish a regular routine will be an important way to support them after time off school or periods of self-isolation.
Weekends are usually a time to relax, but things still need to get done. So you need to find a balance.
A little forward planning can help everyone to make the most of this free time. Mix up the day with some ‘must do’s’, and then the fun activities that reward you for doing them.
If what you want to get done seems too big to tackle, perhaps think of it as a ‘pizza plan’ with each slice representing one small part of the whole - then you can work through it one slice at a time.
Once our basic needs are met, the quality of our relationships is by far the most important thing in predicting long-term physical and mental health. These connections got many of us through the challenges of recent months. Remember, physical distancing doesn’t have to mean social distancing.
Exercise is allowed with one person who is not in your household or support bubble, which can be a great opportunity for a physical and social workout, raising your spirits and energy levels.
Over recent months, it has been difficult to look forward with much optimism. Many young people have been facing big disappointments, with cancelled holidays, exams, social gatherings, and some uncertainty around what will happen next. Helping them to reimagine new plans is an important way of supporting them.
Don’t forget yourself, and the value for you too of beginning to have ideas about the future. Getting through these recent months has been a big achievement and the months ahead still hold a lot of uncertainty. It is OK not to be totally OK with that, and to feel a mixture of emotions. When you can, allow yourself and your family a little time to take stock, reflect and recharge.
Looking after ourselves, and each other, continues to be really important at this time.
Further information on looking after your mental health during this time is available, please see some of the below links:
Free, safe and anonymous online service for young people.
MeeTwo MeeTwo wwwmeetwo.co.uk
This is an award winning free fully moderated app for young people, which provides peer support, expert help, inbuilt educational and creative resources as well as in app links to UK charities and helplines.
Childline - www.childline.org.uk or 0800 11 11
Free, private and confidential service where children and young people can talk to a professional about anything.
ELSA Support - www.elsa-support.co.uk
Resources you can download for home education.
Samaritans - www.samaritans.org or 116 123
Mind - www.mind.org.uk
Every Mind Matters has now released expert advice and top tips on how to look after your mental wellbeing if you need to stay at home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It also includes guidance if you’re feeling worried or anxious about the outbreak.
Please visit: www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/