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Dear Parents – an open letter during Covid-19

Photo by Arren Mills on Unsplash

 

Dear Parents,

My wonderful daughter Stella broke yesterday. We had been so impressed with how she was coping but yesterday reminded me that all might not be well under the fun.

I am not an expert, just a mum who knows a fair bit about mental health. I have seen so many stressed mums worrying about homeschooling the hell out of their kids when actually should we be looking at what really matters. How they are feeling and how to help them cope with this massive head fuck of a crisis.

Kids can’t always tell us they are feeling anxious or why. For Stella, she had a meltdown trying to take off a nightie and then later had what was very close to a panic attack because of the dark. These might have been the triggers, but this is not normal for her, and I am pretty sure it was Covid induced panic. Other kids might just act like little shits. Bad or strange behaviour at the moment may not be what it seems.

She has become clingy, and we have reverted on quite a few things. We are sharing a bed again, and letting her fall asleep on the sofa with us, as bedtimes are a battleground. Kids need routine, but they also need so many more cuddles and love right now.

She understands more than I think; but still needs to be protected. I was guilty of leaving the news on 24-7, which is not good for anyone’s mental health. However, we have sat and watched a couple of Newsround shows and docs made by kids about the crisis. She is working through it in her way, she produced a (very informative!) Coronavirus radio show the other day, complete with catchy jingle and has set up a Corona clinic for her teddies. It is tempting to try and hide the news but instead might be best to stick to the facts and let them deal with it however they want to.

I have asked her every day how she is doing, what she is thinking, how she is feeling. Sounds obvious but we do forget this, especially when our focus in on keeping them busy and educated.

Uncertainty raises anxiety in kids, and they may need a routine but also be prepared to let it all go out of the window. We have been eating strange things at strange times, focusing on nature far more than maths and letting her dress in whatever she wants. I hope she will look back at this at a special time, a bit like an extended holiday where she got to be the centre of her parent’s universe again, amongst all the worry.

Screens are lifesavers right now. I am usually a screen nazi and annoy all my friends by telling off children when they sit mindlessly scrolling, making endless Tik-Toks or messaging while we are together. But for Stella right now an old iPhone is her window to the world. She can talk to friends, learn or just sit and watch stupid cat videos. I have seen communication with her friends develop from them sitting and making faces with each other to actually playing together. In some ways, it has made her ba more confident communicator.

Most of us have constant parent guilt, but right now this is hugely multiplied as we worry about keeping our children safe and fed, ensuring they keep up with school work and for many of us also trying to work. We cannot be successful parents, teachers and workers at once. Something has to give. We are lucky we live in an age with ready access to technology, and there are thousands of people out there who want to teach our kids things. Sure it might not be the curriculum and what the school sent home, but it is knowledge. Give yourself a break. They will hopefully all be screaming for actual human contact instead of screens when we are through this.

Learning with kids is actually quite fun. I am learning stuff that I never thought would interest me. I have been forced out into the garden explore rather than just sitting with a glass of wine on a warm evening. Don’t worry about trying to learn a new language or starting a new hobby; just hang out with your kid and learn what they learn.

Playing IS learning. As a parent, you can facilitate this by offering up themes and resources, but it is also OK to let your child go off and do their thing. We had a Goldilocks theme yesterday in an attempt to at least dip into the school plan, but Stella did her own thing. Free play allows children to do what interests them and can provide a sense of control and independence, which is needed more than ever when the world outside can’t be controlled. Boredom fuels creativity; kids do not need to be entertained every minute of the day but give them the tools and structure to do this even if it is a few empty egg boxes.

Playing without restrictions also allows kids to make sense of the world; however, they choose. If they have a packed schedule every day, then they may not get the chance to just be.

At the end of the day you are parents, you know your child best, so don’t feel like you have to follow any advice. But also don’t presume you have to be superheroes. This is ridiculously difficult for all of us and the worst thing is for all of us to stress about what we should or shouldn’t be doing. We are finding our feet and now realise this could be a long term situation—a marathon, not a sprint.

I am obsessed with social media at the moment and have come across some brilliant ideas and resources, but I know that many will be feeling like they are failing their kids by not filling the day with enjoyable, creative and enrichening activities. We are all just trying to get through this.

Just today, Stella looked up and said to me.

It is just like normal now isn’t it Mummy?

And I have to agree that it does feel that way at times. We have all settled into this so quickly, but that doesn’t mean we are not all secretly terrified, exhausted and stressed. Especially the kids.

Love Jenni x

 

I am by no means qualified, but these people are!

https://www.place2be.org.uk/about-us/news-and-blogs/2020/march/coronavirus-information-for-children/

https://www.annafreud.org/media/11245/option-3-covid-advice-parents.pdf

https://youngminds.org.uk/

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