Practical Tips for Parents with Kids at Home

Parents are quite likely spending more one-on-one time with their kids than they ever have before, due to New Zealand’s Covid-19 lockdown. As a result, we’re all trying to be extra creative to keep our kids amused, while continuing to juggle our own work or home requirements.

It has its challenges but like me, you may have noticed that there are poignant moments of calm and stillness that in some ways, feel somewhat foreign – but in a good way. A silver lining on the COVID-19 lockdown cloud seems to be the opportunity for complete presence, less rushing, more outside-the-box entertainment occuring and no social engagements to fill up every spare moment of our lives. 

The slower schedules mean there is some calm in the face of the pandemic-related chaos swirling around outside of our bubbles. However, there are also new issues to navigate, as we try to switch between parent/teach/work/play/relax modes, all in the one bubble/home. Let’s face it, with a crisis of this magnitude, tensions are inevitably present & simmering for all of us. It may not just be losing money in yet another game of monopoly that we’re likely worried about! Below I share 5 simple and practical home-based tips to help keep your family healthy and happy over this unique time.

1. Stay Active: Our kids are used to being really active, be it during the week at school, with weekend sports, or just racing about socialising with friends. They’re generally hard to keep still! It is therefore super important to keep kids active at this time, wherever possible to avoid cabin fever. This is vital for both their mental and physical health. Why not crank the music and have a dance party with your kids (yes, that’s you included!)? Perhaps get them to choose 10 songs to dance to, and you should have about 40 minutes of non-stop exercise for you all. Take it outside on the lawn – now is not the time to be shy! Your neighbours are probably just as bored and would love the free entertainment! Maybe put on some free kid’s yoga YouTube videos for them. And of course, you are allowed to hit the pavements and walking tracks in your local area for family walks, bike rides or treasure hunts. For younger kids, you can combine exercise with some gentle schooling by creating an easy treasure hunt for them. You could write them a list of things they may like to find on their walk. Ie. they tick things like teddy bears, pavement art, flowers, white fences or insects off their list as they find them. Or perhaps you could do an alphabetical list for them to work from, to bring an alphabetical/spelling focus to your walk. Either way, movement is absolutely vital to keep kids happy and healthy during this lockdown… so get creative!

2. Up The Nutrient Intake: Now is a great time to focus on implementing even more healthy food into your family diet. We often get stuck in routine when it comes to mealtimes, as we know what works, what our kids will actually eat, and what we can do on auto-pilot while juggling homework, tired kids and working commute times. Now could be a good time to focus on trying to implement some new healthy family dishes into your repertoire. Pinterest has some fabulous vegetable-filled family meals and it can be a fun searching and saving recipes (and a nice distraction!). Focus on increasing your family’s intake of immune-enhancing and stress reducing nutrients such as; vitamin C, zinc, selenium and magnesium. Vitamin C can be found in most fruit and vegetables (especially citrus fruits, kiwifruit and seasonal feijoas) zinc is found in seafood, nuts and seeds, egg yolk, brown rice chickpeas (hummus is easy to make and popular… especially when sweetened with a little kumura!) New Zealand soil is generally quite deficient in selenium, but a great food source is Brazil nuts. Not a firm fave out of the nut family for most kids, but 1 grated brazil nut on top of cereal, porridge or mixed into a smoothie can be a sneaky way to get in their daily needs! Magnesium can be found in leafy greens (hello green smoothies), whole grains (in particular brown rice) and again, nuts and seeds.

3. Manage Kid’s Anxiety: This is a very unsettling time for all. Despite kids not having to bear the stresses us adults do, they are acutely aware that they are there. It’s important that while kids need to be appropriately aware and informed about what is going on so they don’t feel left-in-the-dark or confused about what is happening, explanations need to be age-appropriate. Try not to let them overhear adult’s conversations outlining serious concerns (financial or health or otherwise) at this time. It’s easy to casually read a shocking COVID-19 related headline out loud to a partner while the kids are “busy playing in the other room” but remember, they’re often tuned in to what we are saying, despite seeming distracted… if only this ability to tune into our words was put to use on busy school mornings!! Try and keep the mood light and fun for the kids and save any heavier conversations for after-hours. Make sure you listen to your kids concerns, and also remember that while they may not be voicing them, these could be displayed as behavioural changes. Be calm, be patient – with both the kids and yourself. You’re not always going to respond in the perfect-parent way. Just try to be aware of your general vibe and tone where you can. If you’re looking for ways to help reduce anxiety in kids, it may help to keep their social connections up; by way of play dates over video conferencing tools such as Zoom or Skype. Picture sharing and book reading sessions with teachers, grandparents, family or friends are also great options. Social connection is vital for a kid’s mental health, and doesn’t have to stop abruptly because of physical social isolation. There are a lot of free apps that can help children practice mindfulness, meditation and yoga too. Consider implementing the use of these into your daily routine and perhaps this practice will be one you continue as a family when this is all over.  Remember, our kids take the lead from us, and never more so than in times of uncertainty.

Here are some websites you may want to look into…
Sparklers
Headspace
Cosmic Kids Yoga

4. Look after yourself It is vitally important to look after yourself at this time. It’s much like the oxygen mask metaphor. Despite your parental instincts, it’s important to put on your own oxygen mask first – otherwise you may not be able to help your kids and that doesn’t help anyone! Make sure you focus on looking after yourself, so are you best able to look after your family’s emotional and physical needs right now. Here are some of my top tips for this:

  • Perhaps wake a little earlier than the kids to try and squeeze in some yoga and set some intentions for the day to help alleviate and manage your own anxiety in these times.
  • Try to get some daily exercise for yourself too.
  • Ensure you stay connected, where possible.
  • Perhaps limit time scrolling social media and the news, to give yourself more “you” time.
  • Try to limit alcohol consumption, where possible.
  • Avoid scrolling depressing headlines right before bed. This isn’t likely going to result in a calm and deep sleep.
  • Enjoy your isolation snacks and treats if they bring you happiness, but don’t forget to balance these with healthy food choices and practice moderation.
  • Focus on things that fill you up. Retaining your own sense of calm should be a priority (but also, it is natural to feel uneasy or stressed in turbulent times so don’t beat yourself up if you do….just be mindful of taking steps to reduce anxiety, where possible)
  • Remember that there are helplines to help you cope if you need to talk to someone outside of your bubble. A list of services will be at the end of this article.

Making sure you look after yourself and put on your oxygen mask on first will ensure you are in the best health possible to support your family through these times. Our children’s wellbeing is intimately connected with our own wellbeing.

5. Have some schedule: Children generally feel more comfortable when they follow some sort of routine. I emphasise the word some though. While I am not an expert in children’s education or psychology, as a Mum, I don’t feel that this is a time for a strict routine for my kids. It’s about balance in my view – some general structure to each day can really help to make kid’s feel secure in times of change and uncertainty. There are a lot of routines that you can use as a guide online, to suit your view on education at this time etc, but even some gentle routines such as starting the day with a walk, tidying up together after breakfast, having quiet time or time for mindfulness after lunch, cooking dinner together as a family can help to give kids a sense of routine.

We’re all new to these uncertain times and navigating as best we can. More than ever, I believe we need to focus on kindness. In our homes, in our online interactions, towards ourselves and in our socially-distanced encounters on our daily walks. Stay home, stay safe and be kind.

For Kids

Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat

thelowdown.co.nz – or email team@thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626

What’s Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, 12noon–11pm and weekends, 3pm–11pm. Online chat is available from 3pm–10pm 7 days a week, including all public holidays.

Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) for young people up to 18 years of age. Open 24/7.

For Adults

Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Samaritans – 0800 726 666

Alcohol and Drug Helpline – 0800 787 797 or online chat

Are You OK – 0800 456 450  family violence helpline

Gambling Helpline – 0800 654 655

Anxiety phone line – 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY)

Seniorline – 0800 725 463 A free information service for older people

0508MUSICHELP – The Wellbeing Service is a 24/7 online, on the phone and in-person counselling service fully funded by the NZ Music Foundation and provided free of charge to those in the Kiwi music community who can’t access the help they need due to hardship and other circumstances. Call 0508 MUSICHELP.

Shine –  0508 744 633 confidential domestic abuse helpline

Quit Line – 0800 778 778 smoking cessation help

Vagus Line – 0800 56 76 666 (Mon, Wed, Fri 12 noon – 2pm). Promote family harmony among Chinese, enhance parenting skills, decrease conflict among family members (couple, parent-child, in-laws) and stop family violence

Women’s Refuge Crisisline – 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE) (for women living with violence, or in fear, in their relationship or family)

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