Well, here we all are, either just out of isolation, currently in isolation or awaiting what feels inevitable – our turn to have a household member test positive or receive the honour ourselves.

A sense of dread is understandable when it comes to self-isolation. We remember lockdowns and picture ourselves getting reacquainted with the four walls of our houses, trying to muster up some sort of activity plan to fill the days.

For some parents, there may be some relief in finding out it’s their turn to self-isolate. At least it will bring a moment or two of certainty in these unpredictable times. But for others it will also be a huge disruption and truth be told, lots of us don’t have much bandwidth left to navigate this.

I’m regularly seeing families in my coaching sessions who are struggling to balance their workloads and personal anxieties with their desire for a calm and happy home. Understandably parents are asking questions like how do we make our homes a safe and fun place for our kids, despite the challenges around us? How can we show up for our kids when we’re going through our own struggles? Is it possible or even realistic to turn another disappointment into something palatable – and if so, how?

Here are a few ideas to help enhance the atmosphere at home while you juggle family life from the confines of self-isolation.

Be the big person

If you’re doing okay – your kids are going to do okay.

We have to look after ourselves if we are to be any use to our whānau. Put your own oxygen mask on first. That might look like phoning a friend just to have a debrief/offload, or closing your bedroom door and lying on your bed with a book for 30 minutes. It is probably going to be take more than a bubble bath to make everything okay, but attending to your own needs gives you the goods to be there for your nearest and dearest. If you’re doing okay – your kids are going to do okay.

Recognise this is uncharted territory

We have never been this way before – and it makes sense that it feels daunting, scary and bewildering. All the big feelings have clustered and instead of just experiencing one of them, we may be feeling them all and all at once. Recognise that this is unprecedented – that in itself is worthy of acknowledgement. Recognition then helps us build up those muscles of acceptance and resilience.

A wonderful gift to give your kids is a grounded sense of ‘problems are for solving’ and ‘we are a family of problem solvers’. A friend of mine was in home isolation with her daughter. Her girl wanted to go for a run but knew that probably wasn’t the best idea so she used the driveway to do ‘time laps’ and the yoga mat outside to do some exercises and stretches. Kids are learning to adapt and they are learning that there is more than one way to tackle a problem.

A wonderful gift to give your kids is a grounded sense of ‘problems are for solving’ and ‘we are a family of problem solvers'.

Simply listen

We might not be able to solve all the problems in our bubbles, but we can listen. To kids (and grown-ups!), listening feels like love and can be wonderfully enough all on its own. Your child may express their feelings in ways that are hard or even mean, but if you can keep your cool and hear them out, they can be on their way to feeling better simply by feeling heard and cared about.

Remember, it’s tempting to try and fix what’s wrong and upsetting for your child, but one thing we know for sure about Covid is that it brings with it a truckload of disappointment. Listen to the sadness about being away from friends, the boredom of having to be at home again, the unfairness of missing a birthday party and all the other feelings in between. If ever there was a time to practise acceptance of what just is – now might be the time.

Have a plan

Kids feel supported by structure and routine and love to see a plan on paper. Jot down ideas together for what the next seven days might look like. Break each day into three sections so kids can see what to expect from each morning, afternoon and evening. Keep it light. Draw some pictures and let the scaffolding give your kids some sense of purpose and normality.

Some predictability is good. It tells kids that although much of their normal day-to-day stuff has wobbled, there are some things to be counted on. Things like regular meals at the table, consistent bedtimes and rituals that go along with that, the new chapter book to read each evening, the regular contact via phone or FaceTime with other family members or friends. Life keeps ticking along, and routine highlights that there are some things we can still control.

Prioritise fun – as hard as that may seem!

Fun tells its own story and communicates 'We are not overwhelmed'

Plan to have some fun when you and the crew feel well enough. Fun tells its own story and communicates 'We are not overwhelmed – we know this is not ideal, but at the end of the day we can still tell jokes, play the odd prank, turn the lounge into a family sleep-out zone, toast marshmallows on the BBQ, put on puppet shows, play hide and seek or watch movies together during the day'.

Be careful what they hear

Keep some of the heavy duty conversations that need to be had for adult ears only. Finances can be a burden for everyone but kids can’t sift through what they hear with the same logic we have, and they can land at some overly concerning conclusions that may not reflect reality.

That said, allow plenty of time for regular conversations with your kids. Let them know that you're aware that they might have worries – and you may just have some ideas to help. Sometimes our kids forget that we are available and that they are welcome to talk whenever they need to.

No news is good news?

Whatever source you are tuning into, too much bad news sucks the life out of us and breeds fear. Keep what your children are seeing and hearing in balance. There is life outside of this pandemic and we need to listen to music, spend time in nature and fill our minds with things that refresh us rather than depress us.

The atmosphere in our homes has a profound impact on our kids. They might not remember much about what they did during home isolation, but they will remember how they felt. We know we’re not in control of this pandemic, but there are things we can front foot.

Atmosphere is so important, so prioritise the things that make home feel better, and let go of the stuff that doesn’t. Do what you can to support yourself to feel okay, and chances are your kids will feel okay too.

Jenny Hale

Jenny Hale

Jenny Hale is our Senior Family Coach and we’ve been lucky enough to have her on our team for over 20 years. She’d love to raise free-range chickens, write children’s books and perhaps even take up horse-riding again.


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