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In Children’s Mental Health Week, Han Son Lee shares his tips for looking after your kids’ mental health and your own during lockdown
Let’s face it – this is not an easy time for any of us and particularly not for parents of school age children. For many, including me, the reality of working full time and home schooling is proving to be an almost impossible task. With this lockdown in particular I’ve felt the strain mentally trying to navigate a delicate balance of home schooling, work, and still maintaining a sense of sanity. On many occasions I’ve thought about how my primary school aged son is handling all of this too. Mental health is something not always visible, so I’ve put together some ideas that have helped me and my son to navigate lockdown without too many melt downs.
If you think your child is worrying about something, encourage them to talk about it however it comes out, and that it doesn’t have to make sense. This is all about being present and trying to understand what they are going through so that will continue to come to you with their worries as time goes on. Make sure they know that you are there to support them and take action if you need to.
If your child comes to you and wants to talk, make sure you listen. Don’t check your phone or your emails while they are telling you something and take what they say seriously. Small children may not understand exactly what is going on but they do pick up on adult worry and concern so make sure they know you are there if they are feeling upset.
Sometimes worries and fears manifest themselves as tantrums and tears as your child finds it hard to express the worry that they may be feeling over not being at school and not seeing their friends. Be understanding and don’t brush away their concerns too quickly. Again, it comes back to taking time to listen and talk.
Children feel safer when they know what to expect day by day so make sure you stick to a regular routine as you would if they were going to school. Make sure they get up in good time, eat mealtimes when they expect to and go to bed at the correct time. When they are sat at home all day, it’s very easy to let these routines slip but it’s important you all stick to them.
Being a good dad during lockdown is also about protecting your own mental health as well as your child’s. So make sure you make time for yourself and have some downtime amid the parenting chaos.
As a father you want to do what’s best for your child and during lockdown it’s easy to compare yourself unfavourably with other dads who appear to be doing very well thank you very much. It might be because they seem to be on top of school work or finding the balancing act easier than you are.
As a dad, the pressure from employers to be “always available” is often higher. As a dad who wants to play an active part in parenting, the strains of doing that while sharing home schooling duties and childcare are very real. Do what feels right for you and for the sake of your own mental health.
Make sure you and your partner have a plan for home schooling and childcare. That will take some of the stress out of the situation. Let your employer know that there may be certain times when you are not available to take calls or attend meetings. Most employers will be understanding during this difficult time as so many people are in the same boat.
Dads need people to talk to as much as children. Make sure you keep in touch with friends and family remotely. It’s good to have time to talk to people outside of work and immediate family bubbles to get some perspective on life.
Han-Son Lee is the founder of the DaddiLife website a parenting website covering a range of areas for modern day dads; from modern lifestyle and things to do, through to product reviews and research on what life is really like for fathers.