The coronavirus has thrown us all into some difficult and uncertain times.
In just a few short weeks the way we live and work has completely changed. Not least for parents, who are now wearing several hats — breadwinners, teachers, and childminders — all at the same time, and in many cases without setting foot outside the front door.
It’s also a tough time for kids. Routines have been upended, schools are closed, many children don’t understand why they can’t play outside or see their friends anymore.
In these testing times, mental wellbeing is more important than ever, both for parents and children. If you’re struggling, you’re not alone.
Thankfully, there are lots of resources out there to help you.
Parent Cloud is one of them. It offers on-demand remote coaching and support to help families thrive. From child behaviour experts to therapists and relationship counsellors, it provides tailored support for those in need.
As you might imagine, Parent Cloud has been an invaluable resource to many in the last few weeks.
We spoke to Parent Cloud founder, and former Octopus employee, Karen Taylor for her tips on how to help your children (and yourself) stay happy and healthy in the coming weeks ahead.
Be open and honest
“Talk about what’s happening,” Karen states. “Depending on what age your child is, they will have a different grasp on the reality of the situation. It’s important to encourage them to talk to you about their anxieties so you can do your best to ease their concerns.”
For young children, it can be particularly hard to express how they’re really feeling.
Colette Etheridge, one of the child behaviour specialists at Parent Cloud, provided some valuable insights on this in a recent blog.
‘In very young children, anxiety might show itself in prolonged episodes of crying, aggressive behaviours, disturbed sleep patterns and/or not wanting to be separated from the primary carer.’
For older kids, it might be difficulty concentrating, or wanting more alone time. As Karen points out, “You’ll know your child best and whether their behaviour is out of sorts.”
Remember to share your own feelings too. “Being a good role model means being open about how you’re feeling yourself. It’s ok to be worried and concerned. And to reassure your child that these are completely normal feelings given the circumstance,” Karen says.
Keep a routine
Small, consistent routines throughout the day will help keep a degree of normality. Getting up and going to bed at the same time, for example, is a good idea and avoids holiday mode creeping in prematurely.
“Structuring your day might include creating a weekly schedule together and setting out what activities and school work you’ll be doing each day. Make it a shared planner, so your children can see when you’re busy too.”
One of your routines could include catching-up with family and friends.
“While nothing is going to be able to replace the valuable, in-person play and socialising time that children thrive on,” Karen says, “you can still help to ensure your child remains sociable and in touch with friends and family to mitigate some of the stress that comes with being away from friends.”
There are several free video calling platforms out there like FaceTime and Zoom that will allow you to feel more connected to loved ones. Building this into your weekly routine can provide a huge amount of comfort and reassurance.
Think beyond the textbooks
“Try not to fret about home-schooling,” Karen suggests.
“No one’s expecting you to teach your kids a whole new syllabus. It’s better that you manage just one or two home-schooling activities per day (or even none!) and remain even-tempered. Minimising stress in times like this is absolutely vital for everyone’s mental health – yours and your children’s.”
There are lots of creative ways to incorporate learning into daily activities, too.
“Teach your kids about ratios, proportions and measures through cooking. Or why not set your older kids a challenge like researching a project of their choice and presenting back to you.”
If it’s learning new skills, The Scouts have launched The Great Indoors programme designed to keep kids engaged and entertained at home.
And for physical exercise, there’s a plethora of online resources aimed at getting kids moving. Joe Wicks is proving to be a popular favourite with his live P.E. classes each morning at 9am. The classes are streamed Monday to Friday on his YouTube channel.
“Being outside can help bring a sense of calmness,” says Karen. “If you’re fortunate enough to have your own garden, there are lots of activities you can do together, like building a bug hotel, bird watching or growing some veg.”
And for those without a garden, just getting outside for a 30 minute walk can do wonders for restoring harmony.
Look after your own mental health
Juggling parenting and working during these challenging times can feel overwhelming.
“Accepting that you might be struggling is ok. No one is going to finish the day and think they’ve achieved everything they wanted to. Take the pressure off yourself and realise that just coping is enough at the moment.”
During the last month, Parent Cloud has seen a big increase in the amount of parents reaching out for their own mental health needs.
“Around 30% of our February appointments were for parents seeking mental health advice. In March, it jumped to 77%,” Karen explained. “It’s vital that parents carve out some time for themselves in the midst of all this to take care of their own mental well being.”
Whether it’s baking more banana bread, redecorating, spending time in the garden, or picking up that dusty guitar, anything that gives you a little break is going to be beneficial for your own headspace.
Above all, try to remain positive
“As someone with two young children who’s also running a business from home, the best advice I can give is to try and accept the situation. Take this time to make memories with your children and really enjoy the time you spend with them,” Karen concludes.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel. And we’ll get there.”
Karen worked as a Recruitment Partner and Career Coach at Octopus for nearly ten years.
She left to set up Parent Cloud in August 2019 as part of the Octopus Springboard programme — an initiative that encourages budding entrepreneurs to leave the company and set up their own business with backing from Octopus.
In the last nine months, as well as helping individuals up and down the country, Parent Cloud has formed partnerships with several businesses and has many more in the pipeline.
To help parents during this time, Parent Cloud is offering 40% off any of their sessions. Simply go to the Online Portal section of its website and use the code PARENTCLOUD40 when booking an appointment.