These past few weeks have been unimaginable and challenging in so many ways. I feel like we are in a sci-fi movie and unsure of when it will end.
Many parents worldwide are facing the same challenges. Children are now at home schooling, whilst most parents are working from home and unfortunately others may have lost their job. On top of all that, there are restrictions enforcing us to stay home and not leave the house.
I love and adore my children Frankie and Harvey very much. Every parent I know loves their kids more than anything in the world. This doesn’t mean that having them at home all day, every day, for weeks and months at a time, is easy.
I think we can all agree that these are extraordinarily uncertain times. Some extraordinary measures to keep everyone sane and functional are required. For some of us, this can mean some big adjustments and changes to our normal routine.
During this crazy uncertain time, I’d like to offer a few tips and suggestions to help your children feel secure and continue to get the sleep they need.
Make time for you
Experts say self-care is a mental health must. I say even more so during this time of crisis. Setting some time aside each day for self-care, aka a little “me” time is essential. You may like to go for a walk by yourself, read a book, meditate, watch a movie, listen to music, have a bath or go to bed early. Sleep can have a huge effect on how you feel both emotionally and physically. It’s important to make sure you take good care of your body, mind and soul every day.
Stick to the script
During these uncertain times, it’s easy to forget about your normal routine. Keeping to your normal routine as much as possible is important. Children thrive on structure and routine. Have you ever wondered why babies enjoy playing peek-a-boo and toddlers like to play hide & seek? Because they know what’s to come and their expectations are being met. When baby sees your hands going up to cover your face, or your toddler hears you start to count, they know what happens next. They know your hands will drop and your face will be there with a smile “peek-a-boo” or that you will stick your head around the corner and say “boo, I found you”.
Routines give children a sense of security by putting their minds at ease. Although your routine may have changed slightly due to working from home with no school drop offs you are still providing your family with a predictable and consistent routine for the day.
Screen time – Let’s embrace it
I am sure most households have slightly upped device screen time for all, not only children. With the current situation working from home, parents too are on devices during the day and children are online with home schooling. Allowing extra screen time for children might just be the difference between a peaceful day and getting the work done that you need. You may want to use the extra screen time given as a reward for your child, then it’s not an expectation. Keep a healthy balance between screen time, fresh air and exercise. Sunshine, fresh air and exercise will help you all sleep better at night.
One thing to remember is that screens emit a lot of blue light which can interfere with the body’s natural circadian rhythm and melatonin production. If you let your children indulge in extra screen time make sure they are turned off two hours before bedtime.
Stick to your regular mealtimes
When it comes to mealtimes, again, stay as consistent as possible. The timing of our meals affects our bodies’ internal sense of timing. Be cautious of sugary snacks in the evening, you don’t want a sugar rush before bed.
Enjoy the outdoors and sunshine
With everyone being housebound all day, not only children but you too are likely going to have a ton of excess energy or a need to get out of the house. With no playground to play in and no friends to chase around, you’re going to need to get creative with ideas. Getting outside is a good idea. Sunlight will help maintain the circadian rhythm, a bike ride or even a brisk walk can help reduce feelings of confinement and keep a sense of calmness in the house. Build a temporary indoor/outdoor play area out of furniture and cushions. Turn up that music and have your own dance party in the backyard. Make an obstacle course. Play musical chairs or skip to music. I’m sure you will come up with some great ideas.
Early to bed, early to rise…
Working and schooling from home has cut out that dreaded travel time in turn giving extra time to our day. Some parents have started thinking it might be a good opportunity to catch up on some sleep. Well to be honest, I don’t’ agree. Sticking to the usual bedtime and wake up time is really important for our circadian rhythm. Again, this provides predictability and structure for our children. Once things eventually go back to normal, trying to get back into a normal routine will be a challenge.
Deep breath in, deep breath out
For older kids, some deep breathing exercises during their bedtime routine can help them to settle down at the end of the day. I’m not suggesting they start meditation classes or anything (well they can if they like), but deep breathing games can actually be a lot of fun and helpful. Even for adults, times when we are feeling anxious or uncertain a few deep breaths in and out can be really helpful.
Stay calm and carry on
Children are perceptive little beings. They learn so much just by watching us and they probably know that there’s something serious happening at the moment. Some children may remember how their family environment felt during the Covid 19 crisis, more than the specifics of the virus. Our children are watching and learning how to respond to stress and uncertainty from us. Stay in a calm state, don’t panic and let’s wire our children for resilience. If they have questions, of course let them talk about their worries. Be open and invite them to discuss what they have heard or how they feel. Talk to them about it, with age appropriate language and understanding.
Focus on the good
Enjoy this time together and reconnect online or a phone call with family and friends you miss. In our house we have recently enjoyed having zoom calls and catching up with friends we have not seen in a while. Use this isolation time to slow down, read a book, get some chores done, play games with the children or find a new hobby. Some days will be harder than others but find something positive in each day and share it with each other. At dinner time we go around the table and ask each other ‘what are you grateful for today?’ Until the restrictions are lifted by kind to yourself, kind to other and stay safe.