Living in lockdown is challenging for everyone. But the challenges of parenting in lockdown are unique. So, we've got some lockdown tips for parents. We've previously shared five lockdown tips from a behavioural scientist.
While people without children may find hours of extra time to fill, parents find their time becomes even more scarce. And time was already a precious commodity for parents.
During lockdown, parents' time needs to accommodate round-the-clock childcare, as well as guiding and directing learning from home. This is on top of usual household commitments. And managing working from home. It's a lot.
Every family is different and face their own particular challenges. You could be sole parenting, or parenting young children, or parenting children with unique health and special care needs during lockdown. Add to this the modern aspects of our need to get it right all the time, and the comparison invited by Instagram parenting, and the pressures of lockdown parenting seem insurmountable.
Lockdown tips for parents
We spoke with our Behavioural Scientist, Dr Jillian Ryan, and Post-Doctoral Fellow in Nutrition, Dr Chelsea Mauch, to get some evidence-based lockdown tips for parents.
Here are five tips to help you navigate the extra challenges that life in lockdown presents for parents.
1. First and foremost – be kind to yourself!
Remember, you're not a professional teacher. It is not possible to fit eight hours of work from home, six hours of schooling support, 12+ hours of parenting, and eight hours of sleep into a 24-hour day.
Be realistic about what you can achieve in one day, and your child’s behaviour. They may not be able to sit still for the whole school day. But they might be able to stay busy for an important 15-minute phone call.
If you are working from home, have a direct and open conversation with your manager. Make sure they know your current situation and what other priorities you are managing at home. Ask if there can be some flexibility in your work hours – can you shift your work hours slightly so that you have a break mid to late morning when your child might be most likely to engage in learning activities? While this doesn’t always result in positive changes, it does mean that you’ve done your part to actively engage your employer.
Finally, it might reassure you to know that kids’ minds are considered ‘plastic’. Their brains are growing rapidly throughout childhood. So, if they miss out on a few lessons or some social interactions over a year, they can compensate the next year.
2. Kids thrive on structure and routine, so bring it back.
This one ties in well with food and nutrition. Structuring the day around three main meals and three or four snacks mimics the routines children are often accustomed to at preschool/school. This can prevent ‘grazing' which can impact on their appetite for main meals. And main meals are often where they get most of the ‘good stuff’ like vegetables, grains, and protein.
A useful way to set-up this routine is to prepare a ‘lunchbox’ much the same as you might for school. Although this might take more effort in the morning, it will make snacks and lunch time easier - particularly if you are trying to work!
You don’t quite need to stick to rigid routines for meal and snack timing. But aim to have a meal or snack every two or three hours, depending on the children's age group. Also remember meals and snacks need not be complex, Instagram-able, or contain the latest ‘superfoods’!
Aim for simple foods from the five main food groups – wholegrain breads and cereal products, vegetables, fruit, dairy and meat and meat alternatives. Here are some quick ideas:
- Wholegrain or wholemeal sandwich with egg, cheese, vegemite or avocado (or a combo)
- Fresh fruit
- Apple slices with cheese
- Handful of nuts and cranberries
- Boiled egg
- Glass of milk
- Popcorn or dry roasted chickpeas
- Celery sticks filled with peanut butter
- Raw veggies such as snow peas and cherry tomatoes
Check out these websites for more lunch box and kid’s food ideas:
3. Use physical activity to improve kids’ sleep and concentration.
Getting enough activity between busy school and work schedules is tough at the best of times, but even more so during a lockdown.
However, making sure your kids get some activity in everyday will help them to sleep better and improve their concentration, along with all the other health benefits that go along with it.
Activity doesn’t have to be done in large chunks of time either – try short, active breaks throughout the day. It all adds up!
Here are ideas for simple active games that can work both inside and outside:
- Online yoga
- Hide and seek
- Obstacle courses
- Balloon volleyball
- Star jumps
- Simon says
4. Embrace a different kind of learning.
It is very unlikely that you will achieve a full/solid day of lockdown schooling like they would at school. But keep in mind that learning activities may need to look quite different than at school. Even seemingly mundane activities, such as housework and cooking, can provide important life skills and learning.
Activities like getting a pre-schooler to hand you pegs as you hang washing or find matching socks in the wash basket. An older child might be able to help with simple meal preparation tasks while leaning about numbers, fractions, measurements and following instructions.
Games, even online ones, are educational and can be a helpful tool to entertain kids while offering benefits. Games can involve a range of important skills (we've included some examples):
- Strategy (Finding Nemo: Escape to the Big Blue Special Edition)
- Mathematics (the card game, Skip-Bo)
- Spelling (Scrabble)
- Storytelling, imagination and socialisations (sandbox games that allow users to wonder complex virtual worlds freely like Animal Crossing and Minecraft)
- Motor skills (Jenga, puzzles)
- Physical fitness (Nickelodeon Fit, Just Dance 4)
Kids can use games to add novelty, social interaction, and challenge to their daily routine. But they are not to be used without caution. Always stay involved with your child’s gaming, know what they are playing, and practice online safety.
For more information, see resources from Australian Council on Children and the Media and eSafety.
5. Bring on the boredom!
As painful as the statement ‘I’m boooored’ might be, it is normal and even healthy for children to experience boredom! It helps them to be more creative, imaginative and promotes resilience.
In the short-term it might be tough for kids (and for you!), but it can be fantastic for improving their concentration and attention in the long run.
So, if your kids are complaining of boredom, try not to always feel responsible for entertaining them, or feel the need to reach for the screen to keep them entertained. It may help to set an alarm for periods of screen time so that there is time in between for free play / choose your own adventure.
To all our parents out there – good luck! You are doing a great job. Comment below with your own tips.