A leading psychologist and mother has revealed the six practical tips that will help parents struggling with home schooling and looking after their children during lockdown.
Renee Cachia, from Melbourne, said ‘lockdown fatigue’ is a real thing that millions of Australians are battling with right now, with lockdowns extended in New South Wales and Victoria and seemingly no end in sight.
The psychologist has been inundated with messages from parents asking for advice on how to best cope.
Renee shared the six practical strategies she shares with mums and dads, and how they should best manage the ‘stress, exhaustion and depletion’ they feel on a day-to-day basis.
A leading psychologist and mum revealed the six tips that will help parents struggling with home schooling and looking after their children during lockdown (Renee Cachia pictured)
Renee said it’s important you focus on what you can control instead of what you can’t; you might want to tune out of the news and stop ‘doom-scrolling’ (stock image)
1. Turn towards your emotions
First of all, Renee told fellow psychologist Chris Cheers that it’s important to lean in and ‘turn towards’ any emotion you might be feeling.
‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ she told him.
‘But right now, it might feel like you are cut off from your village. You were never meant to juggle home-schooling, household demands and your own life all at once, with minimal support.’
The psychologist explained that often any kind of ‘resistance’ to our emotions can incite a struggle.
Instead, she recommends that you ‘turn towards your emotions and honour them as a normal response to this immense challenge’.
Sometimes, simply recognising something can mean it’s easier to process and deal with it or dismiss it.
2. Stop ‘doom-scrolling’ and tune out of the news
Secondly, Renee said it’s vitally important that you focus on what you can control, instead of what you can’t.
‘In response to threat and uncertainty, your nervous system enters its own state of emergency,’ she said.
‘It prepares to fight, flight or freeze. This is why you feel “wound up”, lose your patience easily or escalate parent-child interactions.’
While you can’t control all of the things that are stressing you out right now, Renee said you can focus on the ones you can.
‘Tune out of the news and tune into something calming,’ she explained.
The act of ‘doom-scrolling’ – whereby you spend an excessive amount of screen time devoted to the absorption of negative news – is never helpful for feeling calm or relaxed, she added.
3. Sit down and try deep breathing
‘Your brain in lockdown is more sensitive to parenting triggers: those buttons our families push that lead to intense emotions and unhelpful reactions,’ Renee said.
‘In these moments, try dropping anchor: Take a seat or notice your feet grounded to the floor.
‘Put your hand on your heart and take five slow, deep breaths.’
During a particularly stressful time, Renee said it’s a good idea to remind yourself that this feeling will pass, as all feelings do.
‘Notice how your body changes. When you feel grounded, you can continue the day,’ she said.
‘In moments when you feel stressed, try dropping anchor: Take a seat or notice your feet grounded to the floor,’ Renee said (stock image)
4. Get rid of all the other voices
When it comes to parenting, many say that the best thing you can do is block out all the other voices trying to give you advice.
This is something Renee hugely agrees with:
‘The only parent you should be is the one your child needs,’ she said.
‘And no one is that expert in that but you. Parents are often surrounded by expectation and advice that can feel like judgement.
‘These expectations often become internalised, becoming stories we tell ourselves about what a “good parent” should be.’
When you find yourself slipping into negative thoughts, Renee said you need to be conscious of it, notice these thoughts and active ‘move your attention to your own values’.
‘Ask yourself: “What sort of parent do I want my children to experience right now?”,’ she said. Then, simply let that be your guide.
Renee was in conversation with fellow Melbourne psychologist Chris Cheers (pictured)
5. Imagine you are one of your friends
When you feel down and uncertain, you can often blame yourself for things that are outside your control.
If you ever find yourself thinking ‘if I were a better parent’,’ Renee said you need to immediately stop, recognise that it’s normal to struggle and challenge any self-critical thoughts.
‘Imagine what you would say to a friend going through this and say this to yourself instead,’ she said.
‘As a parent, we are naturally so attuned to supporting others. What would it look like to show this support to yourself?’
6. Prioritise self-care
Finally, while it might feel as though you have no time for anything right now, the psychologist said it’s extremely important you make time for some self-care.
‘At times of stress, parents focus on the needs of their children,’ she said.
‘There are only so many hours in the day, it can feel impossible to find time for ourselves.’
Instead, she said you need to make time for at least one act of self-care each day, even if this feels like you are putting your needs above theirs.
‘Your needs are their needs,’ she concluded.
‘The parenting challenges of COVID are unprecedented, so our self-care response might need to be unprecedented too.’
To find out more about Renee Cachia, you can visit her Instagram page here.
You can also reach out for support to Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Health Support here on 1800 512 348.