Coping with Coronavirus lockdown is the new normal for the vast majority of us. Combined with social distancing, it is inevitable that our mental health will be tested in the coming weeks. For parents, the challenge of keeping themselves and their children mentally healthy has become significantly harder.
It can be overwhelming to think of the many roles parents now have to take on within their own homes. However, there are ways to help ground ourselves and our children in these unprecedented times. In the first part of a two-part series by The Spark Counsellor Shirley Meade, we will look at simple but effective coping strategies for day to day life in lockdown.
Coping with Coronavirus lockdown: acknowledge thoughts and feelings
Parents should start by considering their own thoughts and feelings. Much like the safety briefing on an aircraft, parents must first deal with their own mental health in order to then support their children properly.
Worry, catastrophising and fear are appropriate responses to the Coronavirus pandemic and the prospect of family life under lockdown. These are natural human responses to scary and uncertain times. However, staying with these feelings and allowing our minds to drift too far into the future will exacerbate this and cause more anxiety.
Being mindful and staying in the present can help in coping with Coronavirus lockdown. If your mind starts to race with the ‘what ifs’ and asking yourself ‘how can I cope with family life in lockdown?’ focus on the here and now by using coping strategies such as the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. This coping technique encourages you to acknowledge 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. It is particularly helpful for engaging our senses and dispelling the sense of everything being surreal.
Coping with grumpier and more frustrated children during a lockdown
Younger children can sometimes not fully understand or process world-sized events like the current Coronavirus lockdown. They may be more disappointed, angry or upset than normal at seemingly trivial things.
Allow them to have these feelings, even if it seems silly to you in the grand scheme of things. Help them express these feelings, let them talk, shout, complain. Then make plans of the things they would like to do when this is over, make a list of fun things they can do, draw or paint pictures for family and friends. These can be given when they are able to see others again or shared on FaceTime or Zoom.
This will uphold a sense of connection with loved ones even when the physical element does not exist. It is important for both parents and children to acknowledge that life in lockdown is temporary and it will end. Coping with Coronavirus lockdown is not permanent and we will all in time be back at school and work, and able to see friends and family again. In the months to come, we will be able to walk around the streets and parks freely, go to restaurants, go swimming, go on holidays and do all the things we did before.
Reframe and rethink the current Coronavirus lockdown
Acknowledging the temporary nature of circumstances can be helpful in reframing and re-thinking. When we are told we are ‘not allowed’ to do something this can trigger a mixture of feelings: disappointment, sadness and anger. Sometimes this can even bring out a rebellious side we did not know we had.
Given the huge changes we are all making to our day to day lives during the Coronavirus lockdown, these feelings can be intense. It is very easy and tempting to focus entirely on the loss. Yes, our daily lives have changed drastically but what we have gained is time. We can step back, look at our lives and take the opportunity to reflect and reassess.
Now is the perfect opportunity to do some of the things we often feel we do not have the time or headspace to do. For example, the current lockdown can be a great opportunity to spend more time with our children. Especially if we have to work long hours normally. Similarly, the odd jobs and fixes around the house that we have been putting off are there to be done.
Online counselling and telephone counselling services from The Spark
Are you struggling with the Coronavirus lockdown or worried about family, finances or the future? The Spark provides expert telephone counselling and online video counselling services for adults, children and young people.
Our services are completely confidential and provided by professionally-accredited online and telephone counsellors To find out more, visit The Spark online or freephone our team on 0808 802 0050 during our opening hours.
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.