Parent wellbeing during COVID-19 and lockdown: why it’s important
As a parent, it’s important to look after your own physical, mental and emotional wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.
When you’re well, you’re better able to stay calm and positive as you manage home learning, work and family commitments, health concerns and uncertainty about the future. And if you’re calm and positive through these challenges, you’re better able to give your child what they need to cope and do well too.
There are several things you can do to stay physically, mentally and emotionally well during the pandemic:
- Use self-compassion.
- Look after yourself.
- Be realistic.
- Use routines.
- Plan your approach to paid work.
- Seek support.
It can help to know that when you follow your state and territory lockdown and physical distancing rules, you’re helping to protect yourself, your family and your community. And by getting vaccinated against COVID-19, you’re helping everyone get back to their usual lives and routines sooner.
Self-compassion for parents during COVID-19
Self-compassion is being kind to yourself and reminding yourself that you’re doing your best, even if things are difficult. It’s a helpful attitude during the COVID-19 pandemic, when things might seem out of control or aren’t going well. When you’re self-compassionate, you’re likely to feel less overwhelmed or hopeless. This means you’re better able to get things done and look after your family.
Here are ways to practise self-compassion during COVID-19:
- Pause, notice your feelings, and label them. This can stop feelings from overwhelming you. For example, if you feel frustrated about not being able to focus on your work, stop and tell yourself that it’s OK to feel this way sometimes.
- Remind yourself that you’re raising your children in a challenging situation. It’s OK to feel many different emotions, to need help or support, or to let things go. For example, ‘Many parents are finding lockdown hard – I’m not alone’, or ‘It’s OK if I do the vacuuming next week rather than today’.
- Make a distinction between the things you can control and the things you can’t. For example, you can’t control when lockdown rules will change, but you can control getting outside and getting some fresh air each day.
All emotions are OK. It’s fine for your child to see you feeling frustrated, disappointed, sad or angry sometimes. The key is also showing your child what you do with these emotions. For example, you could say, ‘I’m feeling sad that we haven’t seen Nan for a long time. I’m going outside for a walk, because that will help me feel better’.
Looking after yourself during COVID-19
It’s important to make time for looking after yourself. It’s also good if this time can include things that help when you feel tired, overwhelmed and down.
Here are ideas:
- Do some physical activity. Even something as simple as going for a walk can lift your mood.
- Choose healthy food whenever you can. This can give you more energy.
- Try to get enough good-quality sleep. You can improve your chances of sleeping well by going to bed and getting up at regular times if you can, keeping electronic devices out of the bedroom, and doing something relaxing in the hour or so before you turn the light out.
- Make time for things that bring you joy and energise you – for example, reading, taking a bath, gardening, singing along to your favourite track or having a spontaneous dance party! Even if it’s only 15 minutes, it’s still time for you.
- Stay connected with others. Even if you can only do it online, spending time with family members and friends is good for your mental health. You can talk about how you’re feeling, and share your ups and downs. Not only will you get support for yourself, but you’ll also be supporting others too.
- Try something new. The challenge of learning a new skill is a great mood booster. You could learn new recipes or card tricks or try a new craft.
- Try some wellbeing exercises like mindfulness, breathing or muscle relaxation. These activities don’t take long, and you might be surprised at the benefits.
- Think about limiting your time on social media and news sites if you feel overwhelmed by bad news. You could also try news sites or accounts that focus on positive news.
When you look after yourself, you show your child that it’s good to put time and energy into your own wellbeing. This sets a healthy example for your child.
Being realistic about what you can achieve during COVID-19
When you’re trying to balance home learning with work and family commitments during lockdown, it can help to be realistic about what you can achieve each day or week.
It’s OK to let things go for a few hours or a few days if you’re tired or stressed. It’s also OK not to do things the way you usually would. Just tell yourself you’ll get back to them when you’re ready.
When you’re thinking about what to let go, it might help to ask yourself what’s most important for your wellbeing and your child’s wellbeing. For example, you might decide that going for a family walk after breakfast is what you and your family need right now and that making the beds can wait.
When you focus on what really matters for you and your family and avoid taking on more than you can handle, it takes the pressure off.
Appreciation, gratitude and positive thinking can get you in the habit of focusing on what has gone well for you and why. You can make these attitudes part of a fun daily activity for your family. For example, get everyone to share their best 2 minutes of the day, something they’re grateful for, or something that has brought them joy. These can be little things like the smell of morning coffee, the warmth of the sun on your skin, or the sight of a beautiful bird outside.
Making routines work for you during COVID-19
Routines are important for your wellbeing and your family’s wellbeing. They help you:
- get through your daily tasks, freeing up time for your children and time for yourself
- share out household chores in a fair way while everyone is at home
- feel like you’re doing a good job as a parent
- feel more organised and in control, which lowers your stress.
But routines might need to change or be flexible during the pandemic and especially during lockdown. Here are tips to help you adjust your routines so that they work for you:
- Involve all family members in planning changes or new routines.
- Talk about everyone’s routine responsibilities and whether these can be adjusted so things are fair. For example, maybe you can take turns cooking dinner, hanging out the washing or unpacking the dishwasher.
- Try to do things at regular times each day, but think about whether these times could be adjusted. For example, if your children are learning from home, perhaps they can get up a bit later on school mornings. This might give you more time for a morning walk or meditation.
- Think about how family and friends might be able to help. For example, maybe a grandparent could read your child a story over Zoom while you’re in a work meeting.
- Make time for looking after yourself in your family’s routine. For example, part of the routine could be that you do an online yoga class while your teenage child cooks dinner.
If you write up your family routine and display it where everyone can see it, it can help you all stick to it. You might need to remind family members about it until they get used to it.
Planning your approach to paid work during COVID-19
If you’re doing paid work during the pandemic and lockdown, it can help to plan how you’ll approach work and caring responsibilities. Your plan will depend both on your work and your family situation, but the ideas below might get you started:
- Check your employer’s flexible work arrangements. All parents with children of school age or younger have the right to request a flexible work arrangement. You might be able to negotiate part-time or reduced hours.
- Talk to your supervisor about your extra responsibilities for child care and home learning. This ensures they understand what’s going on for you at home and have realistic expectations about what you can achieve at work.
- Set boundaries around extra work tasks or responsibilities. For example, if you’re asked to take on something new at work, ask whether you can cut back on other tasks. Or work with your manager to set reasonable deadlines for tasks.
- If you have flexibility, think about how to arrange your work to suit you and your family. For example, if you have a partner, you might be able to take turns during the day doing paid work and caring for children.
- If you’re working from home, have clear start and finish times or block out parts of the day for work, rather than constantly checking in with work.
- Think about ways to leave work behind at the end of the day. For example, review your day in your mind before you finish or have a ritual like walking around the block or doing a five-minute workout or meditation.
Lockdown is a challenging experience for parents and children. But it can also have benefits for your family wellbeing if you can make the most of family time, use routines, stay connected with others, and manage family conflict in positive ways.
Getting support during COVID-19
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed or you’re struggling with your mental health, parenting or relationship, getting professional support is a very good idea. You could start by talking to your GP.
Here are more ways to get support:
- Call a parenting hotline to get free parenting advice.
- Call Lifeline on 131 114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 for mental health support.
- Check Head to Health to find online programs, forums and information on specific mental health topics.
- Call Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277 or Family Relationships Online on 1800 050 321 to talk to government-funded relationship counsellors.
- Call the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) if there are problems in your relationships like family violence, or you feel you might hurt your child.
- Check whether your workplace has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).