Welcome to part 2 of our series looking at ways for parents and families to maintain their mental health during Coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown and social distancing measures.
In the final part of this series, counsellor Shirley Meade looks at the importance of creating family routines, exploring new interests and staying connected during lockdown. Catch up on part 1 of coping with Coronavirus lockdown.
Routine and activities are good for mental health during Coronavirus lockdown
We all know how vital routine is for children in normal circumstances so in these uncertain times it is especially important to offer some structure to their day. Structure instills feelings of familiarity and control, which combats uncertainty and boredom.
If families have to stay at home, try to start the daily routine by getting up and getting dressed at the same time. Make sure the family all eat at regular times and schedule in periods for exercise, school work and working from home.
Pre-planned schedules work best as this can stop us feeling overwhelmed by having too many options and no plan. Set up a routine that the whole family can manage and try to stick to it as much as possible. There will be days it does not work out as planned and it is important to know that is OK. Keeping up the effort is enough to help reduce spikes in anxiety and lessen feelings of uncertainty.
Reframe the loss of lockdown with the positives of opportunity
Children may experience a sense of loss much more acutely than adults during the Coronavirus lockdown. In not going to school, not going out to play and not seeing family and friends, the very fabric of their life has changed dramatically. Parents therefore need to reframe this time as one of opportunity rather than a time of loss.
For example, they could make their own time capsule. Let children think about the fact that while things are difficult at the moment, they are living through an historical time. One that children in the future will learn about at school. Therefore, this is an opportunity for them to give their views on what it is like to live through such a major event.
Alternatively, the current lockdown measures provide an opportunity to help children learn new skills around the home. Cooking, baking, cleaning or gardening (where possible) are all practical life skills that are often neglected due to a lack of time.
When a child learns a new skill it not only equips them for the future, it also builds confidence and self-esteem. These are characteristics that can when encouraged, support good mental health. Plus, they can be included as part of the family’s daily routine adding more of the structure and familiarity mentioned earlier.
Draw, paint, knit or build Lego
Engaging activities are important to include in a daily routine aimed at supporting mental health during Coronavirus lockdown. Doing even one or two of the following activities can make all ages feel more useful and productive:
- Get creative: draw, paint, build, knit, craft or crochet something new
- De-clutter and organise: tackle the kids’ toy cupboard or do that clear out of the garage you have been putting off for months
- Get outside: take advantage of the time we can use to take a long walk (while making sure you practice good social distancing). Being outdoors has long been proven to help low moods
- Meditate or practice breathing techniques: in general, the practice of being grounded in the present has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. There are plenty of free mediation guides online and many are specifically designed for parents to do with their children.
Boost mental health during Coronavirus lockdown by staying connected
We are social creatures by nature and social distancing – though absolutely necessary at this time – can have a detrimental impact upon our mental health. Maintaining contact with friends and family is therefore essential.
Stay as connected as possible to friends and family via the phone and video calling. Software and apps like Zoom, WhatsApp, FaceTime and Skype can bring whole families together and offer a fun way to arrange virtual get-togethers. Alternatively, adopt a slower pace and start writing letters to loved ones. Most of us only get bills and junk mail through the post so imagine how much of a surprise, and a treat, a letter would be.
Finally, it is very important to remember that this is a temporary situation and life for adults and children alike will not be like this forever. Though times are incredibly tough, and families are losing loved ones, we have seen community spirit, generosity, kindness and selflessness make the headlines too.
We will get through this, nothing lasts forever and while we are in a difficult time, try to look for the good bits, however small.
Counselling services from The Spark
The Spark provides telephone and online video counselling services for adults, couples, children and young people. These services continue to operate – and with more counsellors than ever before – during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Shirley Meade (MBACP)
Counsellor - Children and Young People at The Spark
Shirley is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and a Children and Young People Counsellor with The Spark. She also works with adults and couples, with a particular focus on addictions. Shirley’s research interests include attachment, anxiety, neuroscience and working with both children and adults with neurobiological diversity.