In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, families across the nation have been required to stay at home during intermittent phases of lockdown. For many, this has entailed working from home or keeping children at home from school.
Parenting after a brain injury can be challenging at times, and perhaps never more so than during these circumstances.
We asked our online community what their top tips for coping with parenting through lockdown are, as well as speaking to expert Dr Alex Goody on how lockdown has affected parents with brain injury.
Try to stick to some sort of routine. This kind of structure to the day can be especially helpful after brain injury when remembering activities or lacking in motivation may otherwise make it difficult to know or remember what to do each day. Children also find having a routine to be helpful, too. Create a daily chart/planner and stick it somewhere for everyone in the family to see.
While having a routine can be useful, there will be days or moments when you may need to be flexible. Remember that even children and teenagers can have ‘off’ days. In addition, there may well be moments when fatigue or difficulties with concentration or information processing may make it difficult for you to stick to an original plan. Be willing to be flexible and take each day as it comes.
Try to spend some time each day practicing relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, or gentle exercises. Your children can also join in with these if they are old enough. This can be good for everyone’s mental health and can also help your child to learn how to relax.
We have a routine of school work in the morning, games in the afternoon. If I wake up not feeling right we switch it round. If I need 5 mins I tell the kids and they go play and we start again later.
- Ktmckinstry from Instagram
Get groceries delivered to your home or shop for things online to save you from needing to go to the shops, which can sometimes be difficult with children and energy consuming. If you cannot get supermarket delivery slots, try to find local suppliers or smaller businesses to ask if they are doing home deliveries.
Little things like having a regular milk man delivery which helps when you have memory problems and having a weekly food delivery scheduled are huge helps!
- lydiasolman from Instagram
Spending some quality time in bed with your children can be comforting for them (depending on their age) and may also allow you to get some physical rest. Do a gentle activity together, such as listening to an audio book or watching something that will keep your children occupied in the event you close your eyes ‘for a moment’!
While home schooling, allow your child to have frequent breaks. This can be helpful for them but also gives you some time to rest in between their lessons. Remember that it is still important for you to rest and look after yourself.
Take lots of breaks during home schooling, this helps us all. And I try not to get too frustrated if it doesn't all get done.
- wee_curly_emma from Instagram
If you run out of ideas of activities to do indoors, consider going on a walk together within the national lockdown restrictions, or if you have a garden allow the children to play outside for a while. Spending time outdoors can help to break up the day. Everyone feels better by getting some fresh air.
Weekends can be a time where things could be done a bit differently. It can help break the boredom and monotony of a lockdown that is going on for a long time. Maybe it is time to try new hobbies or try out new foods? Everyone in the family could have a turn at doing something a bit differently to how they normally would during the week. Your children might surprise you with their suggestions of what they might like to do to – for themselves or for you.
If you are living with another adult such as a partner or relative, share responsibilities with them such as childminding and house chores. It may be that one of you did these things more than the other before lockdown and that this arrangement worked for you at the time, but there may be a need to adjust to the new circumstances. Older children can help with some chores too.
Lockdown has been difficult for children too. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and ask them frequently how they are. Remind them that life will return back to normal at some point and praise them for coping with how different things are. In turn, talk to your children, in age appropriate language, about how you are feeling. Even very young children have some level of understanding that life is different to ‘normal’ and will understand to a degree if you are having ‘a bad day’.
Talking to my son, realising he has been through trauma too, letting him have time to process things as they are.
- Aidan Dorrian from Facebook
Allow your children to have leisure time playing video games, watching TV, reading a book or drawing without you feeling guilty about this, even if they are doing it more than they may have done prior to lockdown. Letting your children have some time to engage in activities independently can allow you to have some time to yourself as well.
If things are getting you down, or you feel yourself struggling to cope, then reach out for help. A phone call to a friend or relative might help you to regain a perspective, give you a much needed laugh, or make you feel really supported.
Remember that above all it is important for you to be kind to yourself through this challenging time. You are parents, not teachers and anything you do to support your children is worthwhile.
Dr Alex Goody, Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist at Walkergate Park, Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust
"Lockdown has been stressful and difficult for many parents for a multitude of reasons.
"Having a brain injury in addition just adds to the stress and complications.
"When I have talked to people about their experiences some common themes are coming up. There is the sense of being in a pressure-cooker environment where there is no ‘escape valve’. Then there is the frequent comment about the monotony of the situation, with every day seeming just like all the others, with no sense of the ordinary routine of life and no events in the calendar to look forward to. Just missing people - friends and family and chatting to people in the street, or other parents in the school yard, also comes up a lot.
"We hope you find these tips helpful. My best advice is also this:
What seems impossible today will be a memory tomorrow, and one day at a time, you and your family will get through this.
Explore the links below for further information on parenting and coping during the Covid-19 pandemic.