The ultimate frazzled parents’ survival guide for getting through a second lockdown

ARE you a parent whose heart sinks at the thought of a second lockdown?

Luckily, this time you won’t need to home-school but you might be running out of ideas to keep the kids entertained now that the days are getting shorter and the weather is getting colder.

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If alarm bells are ringing, you are not alone. More than six out of ten parents say childcare has become more stressful during the pandemic, according to a survey by kids’ sleep app, Moshi.

So now that you are over baking banana bread, and maybe thinking about how to save money in the run-up to Christmas, what are the best ways to keep the children happy – and yourself sane – until restrictions are lifted?

Parenting expert Tanith Carey shares her ultimate survival guide.

  • Tanith Carey is author of What’s My Child Thinking? and What’s My Teenager Thinking? Practical Child Psychology For Modern Parents, both published by DK, priced £16.99.

Let them fight it out

NOT literally, of course, but unless someone is about to get hurt, it is always one-sided or if an older child is constantly bullying a younger one, leave the kids to sort out their disagreements.

You will also stay calmer if you remember that sibling rows are not all bad. Learning to get along with brothers and sisters teaches kids skills such as negotiation and compromise. Remember that if children are still able to have fun together most of the time, you are on the right track, so you can ignore the odd bicker.

If it goes up a gear, and they ask for your help, coach them into how to listen to each other’s point of view. Let each child tell you what happened one at a time, without interruption.

Then ask them if they have ideas about how to resolve it. Every time they come up with a plan, praise them for it.

Tackle financial worries

IF you are a parent already in debt because you have been furloughed, lost your job or been unable to work, speak to an adviser at an agency such as Citizens Advice.

Get in touch with the companies you owe money to and see if they could help out by letting you pay smaller amounts or take a break.

Check Citizens Advice to see if you can claim more benefits because you are earning less than usual, have lost your job or need to self-isolate. Also, contact your local council to see if you qualify for a reduction in your council tax.

Tax expert Tommy McNally, of Tommy’s Tax – a free app that calculates tax refunds  – suggests checking you are on the right tax codes and whether you are owed any money back.

The 12 walks of Christmas

THE daylight hours are now shorter and colder than they were during the first ­lockdown. But playgrounds are staying open this time, so you and the kids can get as much exercise as possible. You can still make an autumn walk a highlight if you remember there is no such thing as bad weather – only unsuitable clothing.

David Scotland, of Outdoor World Direct, says: “Get your family and friends off their sofas by issuing a 12 walks of Christmas challenge and do at least one themed walk a day.

“If you’ve got younger children, you can make it fun for them too by seeing how many robins, Christmas trees and wreaths you spot while on your walks.”

If you have older kids with phones, David suggests installing a tracking app such as Strava so they see how far they have walked and the route. Set challenges and encourage them to beat their record.

Divide and conquer

THERE is one surprising way to keep your relationship strong, and your house tidy at the same time, in lockdown. It’s called “housework”.

Dr Jacqui Gabb, chief relationship officer at relationship app Paired, found that during the last lockdown the happiest couples did domestic chores together.

Five out of ten women and six out of ten men who said they had good relationships revealed they had increased the amount of time spent doing things together around the house and split childcare duties.

Dr Gabb – who is also Professor of Sociology and Intimacy at the Open University – explained: “Spending more time on domestic chores and sharing the childcare responsibilities can result in you feeling more satisfied with your partner and happier with your relationship.”

Play the funky music

AFTER nine months of pandemic stress, high levels of your fight-or-flight hormones, such as cortisol, make you more at risk of mood swings, anxiety and depression, which can make childcare difficult.

That is why it’s important you take small and active steps to calm yourself down and lower these hormone levels to develop the ultimate parental superpower – patience.

A hug from a loved one or a pet is enough to lower stress hormone levels, according to the Journal of Scientific Reports. And scientists at Lyon University found putting on your favourite song floods your brain with happiness chemicals such as dopamine.

Being in a nature setting for 20 minutes will also decrease stress hormone levels, according to Frontiers In Psychology.

Make a snow globe

A WINTER-themed way to help children relax ­during the pressure of lockdown is to create a home-made “calm down snow globe”, suggested by Becky Goddard-Hill, co-author of Create Your Own Happy (WHSmith, £9.99).

Dissolve 3 tbsp of glitter glue and 2 tsp of fine, eco-friendly glitter with a few drops of food colouring and some hand soap in hot water.

Pour it into an old jam jar, almost to the top, and screw the top tight. Next time they act out, ask them to shake it.

Like the “snow”, their emotions will also settle down in the same amount of time.

Get scientific

WITH older children, one of the main challenges for parents can be getting them to stick to social-distancing rules because they want to see their group of friends.

Rather than call them selfish, which makes young people more likely to live up to that label, ask them to talk through why they are making this choice. Tell them you understand their need to see mates, so they feel heard.

Suggest that you look at the science together. When they realise the rules are also to protect people they love, they are more likely to make responsible decisions.

Often, teens do not want to lose face in front of friends. If they need a get-out clause for an illegal gathering, help them come up with a script explaining they don’t want to endanger members of their family.

Enlist a Zoom babysitter

JUST because family cannot be with you in person, they can still help virtually.

Ask them to get involved by doing some virtual babysitting on FaceTime or Zoom, and play visual games with the children that work well from afar, such as charades, Pictionary or 20 questions.

Use swap app for Xmas gifts

IF you are starting your Christmas shopping, use toy swapping apps such as Young Planet.

Younger children do not care whether a toy is new or not, as long as it is something they love and you wrap it up for them.

Another way to keep them busy and save money is to start making home-made goodies, such as cookies or jam, for gifts, says Shiri Atsmon, of parent support organisation Helpful Kids.

Shiri adds: “Enlist kids in preparing home-made baked goods as presents. This will really save you money, especially if you upcycle an old glass jar for your packaging.”

Start a festive jobs jar

ANOTHER frequent complaint from adolescents is that they are bored. But one of the better things about Lockdown 2 is we can use it to begin gearing up for Christmas.

A Christmas job jar can be a start, suggests Becky Goddard-Hill, who also wrote Be Happy, Be You: The Teenage Guide. She says: “Fill a glass container with slips of folded paper with ideas on, which the kids have come up with.

“These can range from reading to making a Christmas card or a decoration. Every time they feel bored, encourage them to dip into the jar without looking. The rule is they have to have a go at whatever idea they pull out.”

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