Health & Well-being

Go home, stay home: Self-isolation survival tips

Self Iso Survival

My family and I are yet to experience the need to close our doors to the world and retreat into self-isolation. It seems to be all the rage these days, and I’m sure that like many families across the country, our turn will come. My good friend Lisa (a solo mum, teacher and all-round superhero) recently finished a 10-day stretch at home with her three kids, so I asked her for some insights, including pitfalls to avoid and problem-solving to get prepared for. (I’m not sure if alliteration is a sign of stress, I presume it’s potentially a possibility.)

So, in the words of Lisa...

The pitfalls

Self-isolation is way harder than lockdown. The small differences are actually really big. It feels like everyone else is carrying on as normal all around you. It's a bit surreal and lives up to it's name – it's isolating!

My son called me while I was at the testing station getting my day-5 test to say, “Mum, we’re out of milk.” I said “Okay, I’ll pick some up on the way home... oh wait, I can’t.” I found the whole time in isolation quite emotional. You need to have coping strategies to keep things in perspective because it would be easy to let little things become big things – like a friend not texting back, messy bedrooms or running out of milk.

We also found the school work really challenging. In lockdown everyone’s in the same boat but now we are trying to keep up with classes of students who are attending school as normal. I can only imagine how tricky it would be for parents needing to work as well, remembering that their work places are business as usual.

The things we found helpful

First on my kids’ list of helpful things is WiFi, closely followed by chocolate.

I would say your first priority is looking after yourself – it’s absolutely key. If I wasn’t careful I would end up spending the whole day doing dishes, laundry, tidying up and helping the kids through their frustrations. Day after day that’s not good. I made a point to continue waking up before the kids each morning, even though there was no rush to get out the door, just so I had time to myself to read and pray.

Reduce the chores! Use drink bottles instead of every cup in the house being left on the bench, wear that shirt for two days, get everyone to help with a quick tidy up before dinner – and resist the urge to tidy around kids all day.

When people offer help, take them up on it. We had groceries picked up and delivered, and takeaways dropped off one night for a special treat.

Keep in contact with friends and family. Even better if you’re connecting regularly with someone else who is in isolation too.

Don’t do schoolwork all day. If the work provided is too much for a parent’s sanity, I’d encourage parents to talk to their child’s teacher about priorities. Ask teachers, “If we only get through two things a day, what would you like to see complete?”

I made a point to continue waking up before the kids each morning, even though there was no rush to get out the door, just so I had time to myself.

Keeping the vibe as sweet as possible

Relationships are the second most important thing I think, after a parent’s mental well-being. We found it so helpful to play games, eat three meals a day together at the table and spend some time each day just hanging out together. That said, we would also spend plenty of time apart.

When one of my kids was throwing out some challenging behaviour, I tried to stay curious and ask them questions about what was going on for them, and then listen. Calm is the word of the day.

Also very important – everyone needs to be getting enough sleep! And there's no shame in resting during the day – especially if you're reading a book (this is good role modelling for kids too). Losing myself in a good book was actually my doctor's orders when our family was recovering after the Kaikōura earthquake. Her reasoning was that it is good to escape for a little bit.

One of the biggest things I read when I first became a solo parent was “You’re only as lonely as you want to be.” This kinda resonates with self-isolation too. I found just doing something outside in my garden really helped me to feel part of my community and less isolated.

Ellie Gwilliam

Ellie Gwilliam

Ellie Gwilliam is a passionate communicator, especially on topics relating to families. After 20 years in Auckland working mainly in publishing, Ellie now lives in Northland, with her husband and their three daughters, where she works from home as content editor for Parenting Place. Ellie writes with hope and humour, inspired by the goal of encouraging parents everywhere in the vital work they are doing raising our precious tamariki.

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