Note from Mama Cates : Thank you so much @HeyMummaWolf for sharing her knowledge and give me fantastic advice about how I can help compliment and adjust my mindful parenting tactics during COVID-19. She was wonderful enough to supply all my readers with a Free Printable Affirmations and Routine Chart for you to use as a resource during these times. Please let US know in the comments below what you are doing differently in your everyday routine to self-love your family and how you are having these tough conversations with your children.
Isolating is an incredibly testing thing for any parent. For many of us, our normal strategies for self-care and mental wellness are not accessible, our strategies for keeping kids entertained are also limited; combine this with feelings of frustration, and pressure to educate, find an income and become a home-video-yogi-god(dess) and you have a melting pot of stress!
In positive discipline, one of my core principals is that people need to feel better in order to do better. This is true not only for children but for parents and caregivers too. In this way, self-care has to be the first step to building a more mindful and respectful parenting relationship.
You can use these free printable affirmation cards (Google drive) to help guide you and your child through these times to feel safe, brave and loved.
Now get ready for your mind to be blown. Self-care is about more than just bubble baths and face-masks. There is a wealth of self-care tips available on the internet for your alone time. Whatever hobbies or luxuries you need to fill your self-care cup up are super important. But caring for yourself needs to extend to every moment of your day. When we’re talking about setting boundaries for our children (and loved ones) it’s important to remember you do not have to give all the time. Sometimes you will not feel like playing cars. Sometimes you will not want a private performance of ‘sleeping bunnies’. Sometimes you will not want to be in the same room as your child. This is normal. It is okay to say no. The challenge lies in putting this forward in a respectful way, that is loving to yourself and to your child. Some of my favourite key phrases are: “I love you and the answer is no.”, “I can’t wait to hear about that once I’ve finished my cup of tea.”, “I love you, and I don’t feel like playing right now.”, “I can’t wait to hear what you’re telling me, after my conversation with Mummy.”. When you’re getting started, pinning these phrases up around the house can help. If you have a hard time not feeling guilty, remember that you’re teaching your little one to act with love and to respect their own personal boundaries. Children learn so much from your example, and what could be better to teach than self-respect?
I’ve talked to so many parents who, like myself, have started to feel that days blurring into one. Most children and adults thrive on routine. You may not have noticed the routine that school, work, weekends, and days out actually offered you. But, now that it’s all gone, some days even getting dressed doesn’t happen until after lunchtime. That’s totally fine, we are in an unprecedented time of crisis, however, if it’s starting to get you down then I recommend a ‘routine chart’. Children thrive when they feel they know what’s going on. A predictable day allows them more control over their little world, and so will reduce behaviours which stem from them tussling with you for control. I recommend starting with wake-up and sleep times, meal times and outdoor times being at the same time every day. A family meeting to discuss these changes and a visual routine chart will help with this. If your child is old enough, helping to make this chart or to decorate it will help them to feel ownership over it. I also find that on the days when I have no willpower or energy, a thorough routine chart helps carry me through. It also allows you to maintain boundaries by using routine as the controlling force instead of your own will. For example, you can say things like “I know you don’t want to go to bed now, but if we look at the routine chart we can see it’s time for bed. It’s hard to go to bed before you want to sometimes!” If you want to home-school, putting your lesson times on here can be really helpful. After outdoor time relatively early in the day is generally a good time for focus; though every child is different.
Weekly Family meetings (from the age of around 4) will be another weapon for families against COVID-19. Have some paper or a whiteboard on the fridge throughout the week where you can write the agenda. When you have a disagreement, you can say things like “This is really hard for you. Let’s put that on the family meeting agenda so we can fix it.” In a family meeting, everyone needs to be listened to without judgement and taken seriously. If your kids aren’t used to this or are very young, you may start off with some crazy input, but stick with it! Write down all the suggestions/comments and then discuss with an open mind. For example, “I love that you’d like to take this year’s holiday on the moon. I’d love to see what it would be like to float. You have to spend years learning about science to be allowed up in rockets though.” A talking stick/stone can help in facilitating everyone being heard. Try to include time to talk about positives, compliments and what you’re all thankful for too.
Connect before you correct. This is one of the easiest ways to implement that ‘feel better to do better’ mentality. So hold their shoulder, get down on their level and hold eye contact before offering up any corrections on behaviour.
No matter how calm you try to be, you are going to slip out. No human being is perfect. So learning to make an effective apology to your child is a skill worth mastering. Connect with your child physically, a hand on the shoulder for example. Get down to their level, and hold eye contact. Apologise, explain what you were feeling, and very importantly explain what you’re going to change in the future. For example: “I’m sorry that I yelled. I’m feeling tired and grumpy. From now on, I’m going to go into the bathroom and calm down if I feel cross.” A cuddle always helps bring it home!
Finally, this is a scary time for everyone. Things will feel out of control, things will feel different: we all resist change in our own ways. You don’t have to shelter your children from your feelings. Acknowledging their feelings and your own is the best way you can help them process their feelings and emotions. For example, “I see you’re upset that you can’t go for a playdate, I really miss seeing my friends too.” Or “I’m feeling a little overwhelmed right now, I’m going to have a cup of tea and sit quietly for a little while.” Or, “I see you’re angry because your screen-time for today is over”. It’s really important not to shy away from uncomfortable feeling and emotions. Don’t try to fix them. When tears, tantrums or meltdowns come, avoid trying to tell them “it’s okay!”, but rather sit with those emotions providing quiet support and empathy. Most times this can be done with your expression and silence.
Removing all pressure to achieve during this time is your biggest gift to yourself and your family. Online it may seem like everyone is a perfect teacher, a home gym bunny, a creative, patient and perfect parent. However, this is the perfect time to accept whatever your reality is. To slow down, and to focus on a mindful existence with your family.
Follow @heymummawolf for more mindfulness and wonderful inspiration for everyday life!