Feeling like a caged animal yet? Better yet – a caged mama bear with some crazy cubs you’re trying to keep under control?
Trying to stay sane at home and find your rhythm is no easy challenge. So many of us are trying to deal with irritable, stir-crazy kids while also worrying about our own stresses related to money, the health of loved ones and everything in between.
I think we can all agree, that while there is no easy button through this historic experience, there are some practices that can help to nurture some semblance of sanity in all of this.
1. Structure & Routine:
If you haven’t already tried a routine of some sort – consider it. This is especially true if you find you are struggling with having everyone at home, all the time.
I’m a big believer in the idea that everyone has to do what is right for their family, but creating some sort of structure will help to create a sense of safety for your kids and even yourself.
As much as we love novelty, humans thrive on that being balanced with predictability. Structure and routine of some sort helps to create a sense of safety which is more important than ever during such uncertain times.
Your role as mama is to be the container for your child’s emotions and fears and structure is the key. Structure and routine doesn’t have to be regimented. It simply means there are predicable aspects to your child’s day. For example, maybe every day you go for a walk in nature.
2. Morning Routines:
I am a big fan of morning routines especially right now when every day feels the same. These morning routines can make the day feel purposeful or meaningful and even create motivation to keep going. It also can help to quiet that feeling that life is on ‘pause’.
This feeling of everything being on pause can be frustrating for adults. For children, this can be terrifying – and many kids won’t even realise they are feeling that way. They instead might act out, act more clingy or be more sensitive – among so many other things.
Getting dressed, eating breakfast rather than living in our pyjamas can also help to create a sense of normalcy and rhythm to the day. By having our children stay in their pyjamas all day, we are confirming to them that there is an unending pause and that this time is of little value.
If your child is doing homeschooling or e-learning mornings can be a great time to get the more tedious tasks out of the way.
Boundaries are more important than ever. While connecting and nurturing our children is crucial to protecting them from trauma, boundaries actually make it possible for us to be able to provide them with that healthy connection.
If we are burnt out and resentful because of their increased neediness, then we are not going to be able to be present in the way we need to be for them.
Boundaries help us ‘fill our cup’ so we as moms can remain sane. My first suggestion is to be serious about bedtime. You need time to yourself in the evening to recharge more than ever. If your children are older, simply ask that you have some space in the evening. It might be as simple as asking your thirteen-year-old to go read or spend time in their evening if they are not quite ready to go to sleep.
Part of creating boundaries involves creating space in your home and your life. Quiet time during the day has become a popular practice among many families. Several moms have told me in the last few weeks, they have a rule that everyone has to go to their room at a certain time during the day so that everyone has space.
In times of stress we tend to gravitate towards our loved ones. I have noticed I was doing so little of my work in my office and preferred to spend time with my family. If this is working for you then keep doing it. However, creating spaces away from one another can give us time to think, process and recharge. I’ve also found that going into my office or meditation room for an hour helps to reduce some of the boredom that comes with feeling stuck in the same room all day.
The other way to create space is through the routines that get you out and away from the house. Going for walks, having a relaxing salt bath or even sending the kids outside for ‘recess’ (I do it daily) is a great way to recharge yourself and step away from everything temporarily.
5. Activity & Challenge:
You know that quote that seems so antiquated, “idle hands are the devil’s playground”? I think a lot of moms are feeling that. Of course, your children should have time for free play and downtime, but if the entire day consists of that for months then it’s liable to drive you and the kids crazy and result in them getting into more trouble than usual.
So balance free play with activity. I mentioned in a previous article the importance of real-world, hands-on-learning. This or additional chores can be a way to keep kids busy and ensure they do not get bored of playtime. Giving your children extra tasks might seem unnecessary and some might consider it ‘mean’ but bare with me.
I gave my own daughter extra chores in the beginning and my thinking was that she is going to be home all day, ‘playing’. Playing will probably get boring after while if there’s no challenge to counter it. I found that once we got into the rhythm of homeschool in the morning, followed by some chores then play later, it created structure and balance to the day. Even my daughter said the morning tasks made the free-time more fun.
6. Understanding Behaviour
If the kids are driving you more crazy than usual with their behaviour the first aspect to investigate is their emotional well-being or even trauma. Sudden increases in aggression, defiance, being babyish or tantrums could be indications your child is experiencing anxiety. The first step is to check in with them.
Keep in mind they might say they are feeling fine but they might not know how they are feeling. Many children do not have the emotional vocabulary or intelligence to share how they are feeling – let alone process properly.
This is a great time to build or develop emotional intelligence in your child. Explain to them that sometimes we feel our emotions in our bodies. When their tummy hurts or if they have a headache, it might actually be ‘bad feelings’.
Explain how holding this in can make them feel and act in ways that they don’t want to. Encourage them to journal, play or make art which can be immensely beneficial in emotional processing even if they don’t realise it’s happening. (Stay tuned for a Facebook Live on ‘Art Therapy for Kids’).
If you know your children are adjusting relatively well and you’re just tired of dealing with the typical run-of-the-mill behaviour and sibling rivalry then go back to boundaries. Remind your children of your expectations and what the outcomes will be if they can’t follow those expectations.
If like many parents you’re struggling with motivating kids to do their homeschooling or work for e-learning then consider the ‘First, Then’ approach. This involves requiring a child to first do a task they are not crazy about like a chore or task and then they get to do their preferred activity after.
Ie. First you do your school work, then you get to play/ use the iPad/ have your iPhone.
7. Health & Wellness:
The first step to sanity starts with health. No joke. If you or the kids are not sleeping, exercising and nourishing your bodies with healthy foods during these intense and stressful times then you don’t have a fighting chance. Physical health is the first pillar of mental health.
The next pillar is human connection. You might feel like you are overloaded on connection with the same family members, which is why Zoom and Skype are such blessings. The other day I had a great Zoom chat with a girlfriend while we had tea and coffee.
… and please don’t underestimate the power of meditating, dancing, singing and doing hobbies that bring you joy.
To learn more about how to improve optimal behaviour, emotional resilience, learning and reading check out my programs or schedule a free twenty-minute Better Brains consult.