Lockdown is back, prepare for the onslaught of inbox emails with Covid updates from every company you have ever dealt with!
I don't know about you, but while I have been feeling incredibly grateful for a long summer of relative freedom in New Zealand, the threat of another lockdown has felt a little closer each day lately. And today Auckland wakes to lockdown level 3 with many businesses closed, schools shut and the rest of New Zealand in level 2.
Your experience in the last lockdown will probably be guiding the flood of emotions you might be feeling today.
Depending on their age and whether they see or hear the news, waking up to a lockdown today could come as a surprise to your kids. It's helpful to remember that anxiety is a natural response to something that creates uncertainty and has the potential to cause us harm, so it makes sense if you or your tamariki are feeling anxious about community cases of Covid-19.
Children don't have the experience or emotional maturity adults have to process difficult or scary news, or to make sense of things. But while we can put steps into place to drill in the message of hand-sanitising, social distancing and disinfecting our groceries (I know I'm not the only one that did this during that first lockdown we went into), we can also arm ourselves with the right tools in our kete to help keep the whānau calm and combat anxiety with wisdom and connection.
PUT YOUR OXYGEN MASK ON FIRST
Our children are like sponges; they absorb our feelings and emotions and can pick up on our moods and worries. If we are talking about how fun it is to be home in our bubble, and saying everything is fine but we're constantly scrolling the news and bulk buying toilet paper online, it's going to be pretty obvious things aren't fine and they aren't safe. It's important to look after your own mental health so you can offer them the calm presence that they need. Read more tips on this here and reach out for help if your usual methods aren't enough.
SHARING VS OVER-SHARING
It's important to keep the lines of communication open with our kids, and answering their questions honestly. But it's also okay to keep adult problems with the adults, and keeping a bit of a rein on how much information you give them about your adult concerns and worries. You have been through this before and are better equipped to know what works and what doesn't, so back yourself.
DON'T SCROLL YOUR LIFE AWAY
It's easy in these moments to get consumed with news updates, exciting and scary headlines and social media. Being informed is really important, but when too much time is spent scrolling we can actually develop unhelpful levels of anxiety. Create a culture in the home that you believe will help to set the tone. If it means asking someone to hide your iPhone for a few hours, so be it!
CONNECTION IS KEY
Our tamariki need connection with us and sometimes it's hard to prioritise it when we have a lot going on. For many parents being at home in lockdown doesn't mean a holiday, it can actually be really stressful. My whānau find it helpful to know what to expect so while, I'd like to hide in my room and watch endless episodes of Homeland Season 8, instead we write a schedule for the day ahead together so everyone has a general plan of attack. This way I schedule allocated time to hang with them and connect which they can look forward to, where I am undistracted from work. For younger kids like my 5-year-old, I include a picture for each planned session on the daily plan so she can check in herself with what we are up to.
IT WON'T GO PERFECTLY
Life isn't always a box of chocolates, and when we are under pressure sometimes our less attractive sides of our personalities have a party. There might be some big feelings in your house this week, your own and your kids. From teenagers slamming doors to 5-year-olds raging over the "wrong type of bread", it's a real ride sometimes but practising kindness and compassion goes a long way in helping provide a home our kids feel safe and loved in.
I love the strategy of Pause, Hold, Engage endorsed by Parenting Place Child and Family Psychologist Linda-Marie Amersfoort; a helpful technique I'll have written on a post-it note on the fridge during lockdown. This simple strategy can help reduce the brain's threat level, enabling our pre-frontal cortex do the work it was designed to do. It's particularly helpful for those struggling with mental health issues too.
Holly Jean Brooker is one of the team of presenters at Parenting Place. She is a mum, works in PR and freelance writing and has a background in high school education in Health and Social Sciences. Parenting Place is the charity with a heart for supporting New Zealand families on their parenting journey.