Iso with under-fives: In real life

Parenting Place surviving iso

Without a doubt, long lockdowns followed by rolling home isolation requirements have been tough on families. Over the last couple of years (still crazy to think we’re talking about the pandemic in terms of years!), Parenting Place has shared tips, insights and ideas to try and ease the struggle and celebrate the silver linings. While sharing inspiration around things to do when stuck at home with young children can surely help, sometimes it’s just as helpful to reflect back and acknowledge that, boy, that was hard! And in a lot of ways, it’s still hard!

We asked Auckland couple Neihana and Elena Reihana to share the things that worked and the things they learnt through long lockdowns and self-isolation with their three-year-old and one-year-old. With thoughtful honesty, they offered some deeply moving reflections. The following summarises three of their keys to surviving life in iso. You can also watch the full interview below.

1. Stay connected to your wider whānau

“My whānau, they live in Tauranga. I remember one night, my daughter was just crying and crying. I asked her ‘What’s wrong?’ She said to me, ‘I want Nan!’ But the way she said “I want Nan!” – it was like from her puku, it was a yearning that came from her gut, that was screaming ‘I need someone’s attention but that someone is my Nan!’

So I called Nan, on the spot, and I let Nan listen to my daughter crying. And I said to Mum, ‘You know I’m not like this and I don’t like doing things like this, but you need to hear the realities of my house.’

‘Kōrero darling, speak to your nan,' I said.

And Nan just got to talk to her moko one-on-one. The conversation was great, but my mum quickly hung the phone up. I texted her, ‘Are you all good?’

‘Yep, I’m just wiping my tears.’

The true reality for our whānau was that my daughter was struggling, but so was our wider whānau too.”

2. Get the big feelings out

“Our daughter is the most extroverted in our family. She had big feelings. One day she was crying and said ‘I have big feelings in my little body’. She knew that she craved people. She wanted a variety of people, not just Māmā and Pāpā. It was about acknowledging her feelings and actually saying “I miss my mum and dad too’ and Neihana talked about missing his parents. And that was okay, it was okay to say that we missed things.”

3. Create space to support each other

“We both got to a place where we agreed we needed time for one-on-one with each other. Our marriage needed time and investment. Considering this was the whare that our children would flourish under, and if there was going to be a mutual flourishing of our full whanau, this union here needed to work first.”

“One way we practically did that, we went out for daily walks – but the specific angle that I’ll hit this at is that we walked mostly in the morning. Your spouse in the morning is a whole lot different to your spouse late at night! First of all they’ve got great ideas. Like, I’m rested, I’m energised, I’ve got stuff to talk about. So when we’re out in the morning walking the streets of our neighbourhood, man, we’re talking about life-giving things! And I’m getting a response!”

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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