Normality Matters: Helping Children to Adapt Post Lockdown
Managing change is something we have always needed to prepare our children for in the past. Living through a pandemic has demonstrated that as human beings, we are incredibly adaptable. Almost overnight adults had to adjust to working from home and children had to adjust to schooling at home. This period of limited social interaction and essentially having our lives on hold, has been an incredibly challenging time for a whole host of reasons.
However, particularly for families, there have been many benefits.
As the world starts to open up, the next big change is supporting families on the road back to some sense of normality. Young children especially are used to having their parents physically present at home and may not remember anything different pre-covid. Older children have got into the habit of seeing us around before and after school (even if we were locked away in a room).
So: how can we help our children to adapt as we transition back to a more familiar life and change in general, irrespective of their age?
Be proactive, not reactive
Focus much more on pre-empting problems and planning so things go right, rather than reacting after they have gone wrong. Our job as parents is to try and set things up from the start so our children can succeed, rather than just crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. Particularly when it comes to managing change.
Be very clear about your rules and expectations
You know your child better than anyone else and you can probably anticipate some of the tricky areas that cause either you or your child to get upset. It could be the morning routine, separating from you, completing homework if you are at work, use of screens, bedtime, table manners, social life etc.
When something is bothering you about your child’s behavior and they are being uncooperative, it could be due to a lack of consistency and even you as the parent may not be clear what the rules or routines are. Sit down with you child and make sure they know what changes are on the horizon and your expectations. Establish rules, boundaries or a routine for any problem areas. Involve your child in creating these and then follow through consistently. For young children in particular, it’s helpful to have visual reminders of what they need to do independently so you are not repeating yourself.
Talk through any situations, events or changes to the usual routine in advance so your child understands what is happening and what to expect. This shouldn’t be a lecture but just a short chat where your child does most of the talking. Telling you in detail what’s going to happen, what they need to do and anticipating how they might feel. This is also really useful if you have introduced a new rule or routine, keep talking it through as a reminder of what the expectation is before it happens. For example, “In 2 weeks time, I will go back to travelling into work 3 days a week. Who will be picking you up from school? How will you feel about that?”
This is a fabulous strategy, for all ages who learn more by doing. Role play things like getting ready for bed, walking into a new after school club where you don’t know anyone, getting dressed quickly, turning off the Ipad the first time you are asked etc.
Break tasks down into manageable chunks
This helps situations feel less overwhelming. You also need to be realistic about your child’s tempo which is probably vastly different to yours.
Solution time/ Family meetings
If there is change on the horizon, (like the transition to nursery, school or university) an ongoing problem or area of conflict in your family, set some time to sit down together to discuss it and find solutions. Don’t spend too long explaining or arguing about what the problem is. The focus should be on engaging the children in compromising and coming up with ideas to solve it. Get the children to do the thinking (my 4 are certainly more creative than I am), show respect for their thinking and write their ideas down. For example if you are really fed up with arguing and nagging them to do their homework once you are back at work, call a meeting and explain to the kids you want to start the new school year off in a positive way. Ask them how they can ensure their homework gets done, so they still have time to have fun and do what they want to do.
The key to all of this is ‘preparing them for success’, empowering them and involving them as much as possible in finding solutions to potential and repeated problems.
Rachel Vecht founded ‘Educating Matters’ 20 years ago to engage and support employees (with a special focus on parents & carers). She draws on her experiences as a school teacher but also the real, every day experience of being a mother to 4 children (aged between 20 and 11).
In addition to her work in the corporate setting, she provides talks in schools and delivers a remote ‘Positive Parenting and Family Skills’ course and 1:1 consultations for parents globally.