Behaviour & Emotions

Term 4, but not how we know it

Term 4

Is it just me or does anyone else in Auckland have that Groundhog Day vibe? I’m never quite sure of what day it is, which has meant that my kids have missed more Zoom dance classes than I’d like to admit.

Navigating life in a lockdown that seems endless is so exhausting. You can imagine my joy when I found myself up a little earlier than normal last week, and uttering those long-forgotten words to my teen – “See you after school!”

You can imagine my joy when I found myself up a little earlier than normal last week, and uttering those long-forgotten words to my teen – “See you after school!”

I stopped and marvelled at that most simple of phrases – once so embedded in my daily vocabulary but shelved and redundant in lockdown. I’m not going to lie, saying those four words felt so great! Finally my son was heading out the door to engage in face-to-face learning and to reconnect with friends and people other than his family!

There is no doubt that lockdown has been tough on teenagers and the parents who care for them. With two of my four kids returning to school for term 4, I have been struck by how both kids have managed so differently.

One of my teens has attended every Zoom class and remained focussed on study, while the other has really struggled to engage due to needing a teacher and friends physically around him to be able to focus and learn. For my son, the motivation to study hit at an all-time low, to the point where a job as a labourer won over opening his computer for another class Zoom.

I have been battling with my own feelings about the struggles of home learning, especially for teens approaching NCEA. And to add to this tension, three of my four children are navigating end-of-era countdowns: one finishing high school; one about to finish intermediate, and the baby of the family is in her final term of primary school. These milestone moments tend to come with celebration and rituals, like prize-givings and formal dinners. Contemplating how this may all play out via Zoom has left me with a deep sadness.

But what can we do about it?

When your house is full of adults, teens and children all dealing with the waves of disappointment, it can be easy to feel a little lost at sea. So how can we help our kids navigate this season when our own emotions are so stirred?

Good question! As a parent, it’s important to take some time to sort through your own feelings first. Try to name them and just accept that that is how you’re feeling. Try not to judge yourself or reprimand yourself (eg I’m an adult, surely I shouldn’t feel this disappointment about….; or I’m not a crier so this is absolute nonsense that I should be this sad and teary).

Instead, cut yourself some slack and just accept that this is a pretty tough situation and all feelings, no matter how uncomfortable, are warranted and okay.

Cut yourself some slack and just accept that this is a pretty tough situation and all feelings, no matter how uncomfortable, are warranted and okay.

Why is this important? Because the more we fight our feelings or try to avoid them, the more elevated our emotional brain will get and the less likely it is that our problem-solving, thinking brain will get a look in. This means that we’re more likely to feel overwhelmed, like we have no control over things, and that we will be more likely to speak before we think – which can be disastrous for the connection and support we want to offer our kids.

If we can sort our own feelings first, we’ll be so much more equipped to help our kids sort theirs.

Curious and connected

So now we’re ready to help our kids with their big feelings. But we have to be curious rather than just assume that they’re feeling what we’re feeling.

Helpful phrases for teens include:

Hey, I’ve had a bit of a think about how all this is making me feel, and to be honest, I’m feeling like …. I’m wondering how it’s going for you? How are you feeling about all of this?

And for primary kids:

It’s been a long time since you’ve been able to do fun things with your friends. How are you doing with this?

I’ve noticed you’ve been really grumpy – a bit like me! Lockdown is hard, eh. How are you doing with not being able to do fun things?

Calm and practical

Once you’ve listened and validated your child's feelings (and calmed their amygdala in favour of their prefrontal cortex), you can come up with some practical solutions together.

For NCEA it might be:

So, things aren’t ideal but what is it that you might need from me and the rest of the family so we can make sure that we give you the best shot at it all?

Okay, so let me have a look at your timetable so I can know when to have the rest of the household quiet.

Let’s decide on where the best place might be for you to study and then let’s get it ready.

Let’s look at the list of chores you have to do and see if the rest of us can help you out of with those while you study and sit exams.

Let’s see if I can help you with a study plan if you think that is what you might need.

There is no sugar-coating it – term four looks different than ‘normal’ for all New Zealanders but especially for our whānau in Auckland, and that is challenging for kids and parents alike. What we also know is that our young people are resilient, and supporting them through the difficulties and disappointments of Covid – with grace and connection – will help grow that resilience even more. Study and exams may look different, prize-givings and graduations will surely look different, but they will still be memorable. Maybe they’ll even be more memorable - this pandemic is a moment in history after all! And one day, our grandchildren might even study it as a topic for one of their exams!


Sheridan Eketone

Sheridan Eketone is passionate about shaping the hearts of the next generation through parenting. Mum of four, Sheridan is grateful to her own tamariki for teaching her the importance of connection when it comes to raising confident and resilient kids.

Sheridan works as a presenter and facilitator trainer for Parenting Place. A warm, relatable and enthusiastic communicator, Sheridan draws on ideas from the Circle of Security – an attachment-based relational concept that has deeply impacted her own parenting – to empower parents to be the best they can be.

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