Reflecting on Relating with our Children During Lockdown
July 9, 2020
Reflecting on Relating with our Children During Lockdown by Dr Nicola O’ Sulluvan
The coronavirus outbreak has changed many things about our
daily lives as parents. As I begin writing, I am conscious of my own small
children in the other room; lots of chattering and banging, and the odd scuffle
and scream. I have become actively aware of their endless liveliness when I am
As parents, it has been an acutely uncertain time for us.
So much change, including the threat of illness and grief of
those who have lost loved ones. Changes in how we must grieve and in how we
must relate both within and outside our homes. Humans are primed for connection
and so asking us to socially distance might feel innately uncomfortable. Considerable
changes in how some of us must now work can be challenging. Fear of contracting
the virus and bringing it into our family home has been high up in our minds –
and might still be for some of us. The loss of employment increases anxiety about
bills and the future. For some, working from home presents huge challenges.
It is these experiences that we carry with us in our minds
as parents as we try to navigate the task of parenting our children who have
been with us full-time since the outbreak. But even during this uncertain time, one thing
is constant: our children are still growing, developing and learning.
There are ways we can support our children’s growth,
learning and development and this might also offer to us a chance to destress. Responsive
relationships with our children and with other adults – with lots of ‘serve and
return interactions’ (Harvard
Centre for Child Development, 2020) can help to buffer parents and children
against the effects of ongoing stress. The same is true for child to child
But it’s important to take a break with or without your
child if you feel overwhelmed. If it’s not possible or it feels impossible to
leave the house, then take a break in another room. Find a way to give your stress
response system a rest. Try deep breathing, meditation or calling someone. Go
easy on yourself. Remember, you are not alone as a parent during this time; this
is a very challenging time and many of us are taking extra support from our
communities. If we can manage in the day to find a few moments space to reset
ourselves then this will usually impact positively on how we will relate to our
children and they will feel the benefit of this.
As parents, maintaining social
connection is important to protect our emotional well-being. For example, it
can often feel re-energising as a parent to have a chat with a friend or
colleague about something other than Peppa, paint or Playdoh!
As we slowly begin to move away from lockdown and find
something familiar in our lives again, we might bring with us memories and
feelings which are mixed. There will be
new anxieties and new uncertainty. We will be hopeful about some things and less
hopeful about others. It’s important to be kind to yourself, stay connected
and take time out. This will impact positively on your relationship with
your child and it will make a massive difference to them.
If you are a parent and reading this today, well done to you for doing your best and for managing this highly stressful time.
Dr Nicola O’ Sullivan holds a doctorate in Social Care and Emotional Wellbeing from the Tavistock and Portman Trust, London.