Parents and children
Parenting in a Pandemic
Mindfulness to help parents find resilience and peace
As a parent of two sons, I’ve experienced both the stresses and joys of bringing up a family. As you'll see from my teaching history, I've a very good understanding of the difficulties faced by young people today - if you'd like to know more my mindfulness in schools, take a look at my Schools page.
One of the major benefits from my mindfulness practice is that it helps me navigate the choppy waters of living with teenagers! I wouldn't say that our house is a peaceful idyll, (at least not all the time) but mindfulness definitely helps. I'm able to recover quicker from the stormy moments of family life, and to savour the special moments too.
Parenting has always been stressful, but nothing has prepared us for what we are living through now. It's affecting us all: children are facing disruption to their education, and none of us are able to go out and socialise in the same ways we once could. There's also the question of what this means for our future lives. We might think we should be able to manage this, but it’s new territory: we’re coming to terms with a new reality.
Mindfulness is all about compassion, so the first thing you can do is to give yourself a pat on the back. Whatever you’re doing, it’s your best - even if it might not seem that way right now. This isn't an easy time. Give yourself a break and accept that you can't be a perfect parent all of the time.
Having said that, there are some things that can help. Do you remember the instruction on airplanes? In an emergency, parents must put on their own oxygen mask before attending to their children. If we can steady ourselves in this chaotic and uncertain time, we’ll be better able to help our children.
Regular meditation can be a fantastic resource to manage stress - and you don't need to sit and meditate for a long period of time, either. In my blog posts you'll find mindfulness exercises for parents, teenagers and younger children. You can also look at the bottom of this page to find links to other resources. So if you’re too busy to read, you might want to head straight there!
In some ways we’re getting used to living with the pandemic. We're getting used to the almost daily shocks that come with terrible news, living with deep uncertainty and mixed messages from our leaders. But we’re also becoming more exhausted with it all. I’m in awe of how resilient people are when faced with such a change to the ways we live.
I have immense respect for parents, many of whom are helping with their children’s schooling on top of everything else. They're continuing their paid jobs, trying to find childcare, struggling to make ends meet financially, and many are in extremely difficult circumstances. Time to ourselves has become a thing of the past!
How mindfulness can help
Mindfulness means paying attention to what’s happening in the moment and accepting those experiences and feelings without judgment. In these unusually difficult times, incorporating mindful practices into our daily routine can help calm anxiety and build resilience.
Making peace with uncertainty
While we're facing extreme uncertainty, worrying about it won’t change the outcome. Learning how to tolerate uncertainty is an important part of building healthy coping skills for ourselves, which we can then model for our children. Practising mindfulness helps anchor us to the present, and offers a calm way to be with emotions such as despair and a sense of being out of control.
At the current time, it’s hard to stop our minds spiralling downwards. Our thoughts can rapidly (and repeatedly) lead us to worry about the future for our children. Learning to manage difficult thoughts and emotions is one of the things people most appreciate from doing mindfulness training.
Making yourself a priority
We've lost time to ourselves that used to be part of our daily routine — commutes, time alone at home, going shopping. So it’s particularly important to make time to recharge our batteries, including quiet time alone. Setting time aside each day to practise mindful activities is a great place to start, even if you don’t always stick to it.
Could you set your alarm a little earlier? Getting up before everyone else is awake might be the best time for you to ground yourself. Morning mindfulness can help set the tone for the day. This could be deep breathing, meditation, exercise - whichever mindfulness activity works for you. You can even try mindful eating or drinking with a hot drink. All you need to do is:
- Sit, turn off your devices, take a breath and be in the moment, as best you can.
- Notice colours and tastes. This is mindfulness.
- Notice any thoughts that pop up, and see if you can let them go and come back to savouring your food or what you’re drinking. Explore it with curiosity.
Being with your children 24/7
Being at home all day with your children is a full-time job. If you’re working from home at the same time as home schooling, you’ll have even less time to do anything just for yourself. My approach to mindfulness practice has always been that 'little and often' is better than not at all. Take just five or ten minutes in the middle of the day and it'll make a big difference to your afternoon - and to your children too. Pandemic parenting will never be stress free, but there are things you can do to ease your stress. Get in touch if you’d like more mindfulness techniques for stress management.
Practise mindfulness as a family
Setting time to practise mindful activities as a family can help everyone feel less anxious. It could be a daily family yoga session, or a walk, taking time to focus on the way the air feels, the sounds and smells. Such activities are often harder to initiate with older children, so I recommend starting any of these while your children are young. I have included more specific suggestions, including a guided meditation script you can read to your child, in my blog.
Links to extra resources
Child Mind – resources for parents of children and teenagers, and excellent ones to help with parenting during the pandemic and home schooling.
For 4-10 year-olds
Cosmic Kids Yoga has lots of delightful short videos on YouTube.
Guided meditations to help with sleep:
For 11-18 year-olds
To help with sleep:
An introduction to mindfulness and meditation to help with stress:
Easter holiday - online course for parents and children together
We're devising a short, online course for children aged between 7 and 12, and their parents. (Dates and times to be confirmed). There'll be three sessions a few days apart (dates and times to be confirmed). The course will include simple activities that children can do at home to help if they're feeling stressed or having trouble sleeping. The sessions can help everyone relax and learn more about how our minds work. Visit the blog to read more about glitter jars - it's a fun and cheap activity, and a great way to calm busy minds.
Catherine has been teaching mindfulness to children online since April 2020 and is aware of all safeguarding issues. Let us know if you'd like to read our Safeguarding policy. The course can be helpful for adults too, especially in the midst of a school holiday!
Summer holiday - Drama and Mindfulness
As a drama teacher, Catherine has combined her two areas of expertise to create holiday courses for 9-16 year-olds. We use a variety of drama, music and movement activities to explore mindfulness, as well as teaching the students simple mindfulness techniques. The aim is to help them cope with strong emotions and stressful situations, whilst having fun and developing confidence. It can be great for any child about to start a new school or waiting for exam results. The course ends with an informal performance to families where students share what they have learned.
August dates to be confirmed, but probable times as follows:
10.00am-12.00pm: 9-12 year-olds.
Brockham, Betchworth or Dorking, Surrey
£29 (three sessions)
Discounts available for siblings and those on low incomes