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Hitting the pause button is something we all often long for and yet here we are, with no option but to pause. As great as this may sound in theory, in practice the reality is a much greater challenge than just a ‘breather’.

Before our children fall into the trap of thinking school closures are equal to a long and jolly holiday it’s worth setting some boundaries. Learn four ways to set healthy habits in this season:

1. It’s all in the routine…

  • Get up and get dressed!

It sounds simple but the act of dressing for your day is as important for home working as it is for going to the office. Psychologically it sets the tone for the day and promotes self-esteem. Whilst we don’t expect our children to hang around the house in school uniform, it is equally as important for them to show up for the day too.

TIP: Agree a time that everyone should be dressed on weekdays and stick to it!

  • Gather for breakfast

As with any mealtime at home, sitting together whilst eating is a great communal event. Take the opportunity at breakfast time to talk through your day; it is an integral part of setting expectations. Children thrive on predictability, and whilst everything may be uncertain around them if everybody’s day is planned then expectations can be managed. Being task-orientated and acknowledging the days' accomplishments gives us a sense of self-worth, even children like to know their day has been worthwhile.

TIP: Work out what needs to be achieved and schedule in break times that you can all take together. If you can display your schedule – like pinning it to the fridge, even better!

2. Be realistic about productivity

  • Divide up your day

Let’s face it, when our children are at home it is disruptive to any daily goals, we set ourselves as parents, let alone when we are working from home. Depending on your children’s ages it’s a good idea to set some limits. Knowing when to stop is as important as knowing when to start. Plan for realistic chunks of time during which you can reasonably achieve.

TIP: Children respond to timeframes as readily as adults do. 30-minute tasks are manageable for everyone to stay engaged and productive.

  • Keep regular hours

We can probably all remember those early days with our children when we were learning to adjust to our time being ruled by a tiny bundle of joy - it was all about routine, routine, routine. Whatever your children’s age currently, it’s just as important now. Adjust your expectations, know that you are going to suffer interruptions to your time and productivity.

TIP: Keep to a pattern of regular hours.

3. Work, rest and play

  • Forgive everyone for the extra screen time

Yes, I did just say that. Whilst as parents it is our job to negotiate the minefield that is excessive screen time, we must know by now that it is something we are all guilty of. Despite this, there is value in it. It’s going to be the place we connect, and somewhere we can find mindless relief during a time fraught with anxiety and uncertainty. Set some limits, and have other activities lined up ready as alternatives. It’s time to open the board game cupboard!

TIP: Introduce DEAR time; Drop Everything And Read. You could do this by ringing a bell, sounding a claxon, or shouting a code word at which time all family members have to stop and read for 20 mins. It’s a great fun way to incorporate a productive break.

  • Encourage creativity

Whether it’s in in the plan from your children’s education provider or not, getting those creative juices flowing for everyone is a great way to interact and hugely therapeutic. Junk modelling, painting, drawing, writing, play-doh, wool craft, karaoke, dancing… the list is endless. Head to YouTube or Pinterest for inspiration. Just make sure you hide all pots of glitter first!

  • Move!

Depending on how much freedom of movement we will have in the coming weeks will depend on what sort of exercise you can take of course. Do what you can as often as you can. Get into the garden and throw a ball around. Jump on the trampoline! Five minutes of laughing and bouncing on the trampoline with your kids will instantly boost your wellbeing. 

TIP: You can still exercise from the comfort of your home. There is a whole range of video workouts available online. Try Joe Wicks’ short workouts for kids, but don't sit back on the sofa - join in too! Joe is hosting live PE lessons for kids every weekday at 9am on his YouTube channel. Want something a little gentler? Try a yoga video or chair exercises.

4. Take care of your mental wellbeing

  • Share how you feel with others

During times of uncertainty, it’s often the case that we have days that test our mental resolve. There are days we cope admirably and can see the bright side and yet there are others where it all feels too much and we can’t see a way ahead. There may well be a mix of feeling in your household; if it is at all possible try not to all panic at once!

TIP: Take turns to be the one who needs or gives support. A problem shared is a problem halved. We’re in this together.

  • Connect with friend groups

Staying connected and maintaining relationships is paramount to our mental wellbeing. We can’t simply slip out for a coffee or grab a sandwich together. But we can schedule in times for reaching out virtually. Friend groups are there for leaning on, and everyone will need that companionship even if it is remote.

TIP: Plan a coffee break with a friend via a video call, you can still share that time for drinking a coffee ‘together’ and find solace in being in the same situation!

  • Download a meditation app

There are some great ways to practice mindfulness available. Try stilling your thoughts through a 10-minute daily meditation using apps such as Headspace, Calm or Insight Timer. You can also find meditations on YouTube. Get the family to practice this together, it’s something of great value especially whilst we are all under each other’s feet!

TIP: Try keeping a journal and set aside 5-10 minutes a day to note your feelings.

Join the Five Ways Challenge

The five ways to wellbeing are important now more than ever. Join us and others around the county as we take steps to take care of our wellbeing through the Five Ways Challenge.

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