It was a great privilege for our Lambrook community to listen to parenting expert, Alicia Drummond, speaking on the topic of ‘Parenting through COVID-19’ last week. The current pandemic has provided pressures from all angles for us as adults – the combined pressures of work, home schooling, juggling home life, living together 24/7 with our families, the worries about illness and infection for us and family members, alongside guiding and steering our children, have increased for many of us. It was therefore extremely helpful to have some allocated time to think about parenting, and how best we can support our children during the pandemic.

During the session, Alicia addressed lots of extremely topical questions, as well as hosting a question and answer session:

How do we manage our own anxiety and emotions?

As well sharing a need for healthy coping strategies for all of us, such as exercise, eating well and prioritising sleep, Alicia spoke to us about how we can manage our own anxiety as adults at the moment, as well as offering suggestions of how we can practically protect our children’s mental health at this time. Alicia encouraged parents to start with us as adults, and to ‘put our own face masks on first’ thinking about our own needs, before addressing the needs of others. Once these needs are met, we will be in a better place to support those around us. Alicia also stressed the importance of having our own adult support network to help us deal better with any worries and concerns from our own children.

 

When is the best time to talk to our children?

Alicia reminded us that children need us to be genuinely calm when we are speaking to them – faking calm does not work, as children can see through this, and then focus on us and our feelings, rather than their own thoughts and emotions. She stressed the importance of engaging in good conversations with our children, but not when we are anxious in any way; when we do speak to our children, they need to know that we are properly there for them. It can be toxic when we are only half there and distracted by things like our phones, other children or household chores.

 

How can we ensure that our communication with our children is effective?

The practical bit of advice given, was to listen more than you speak. It is good for parents to stay in communication with our children, and that means making sure that every day we put a little bit of time aside just to be there. We won’t always have fantastic conversations and deep and meaningful chats, but it is just talking about the everyday stuff, because if we do that, then children are more than likely going to talk to us when something isn’t quite right or going according to plan.

How do we protect our children from the news?

It is important not to shield our children from the news, and Alicia encouraged parents to instead, check on what they are seeing and hearing as it is much easier to move away from the issues that COVID-19 provides. This time can be a great opportunity for helping our children to use their critical thinking skills as they navigate these issues.

How can we help our children with disappointment at this time?

Our children are currently having to deal with a different way of life, which includes lots of cancellations and disappointments. Although we are unable to control this happening, we can show empathy, showing our children that we understand their frustrations. Alicia gave the example of families thinking of ways in which they can look forward to things in the future – perhaps the end of a week, a birthday or anniversary, or a small celebration to mark each change during the ease of lockdown.

How can we minimise the chance of conflict at this time?

With everyone spending much more time together at home, it is inevitable that there will be conflict. Alicia encouraged parents not to ‘sweat the small stuff’ and to ‘pick your battles’ with those around us.

Sibling rivalry is often present and exaggerated even more during an intense and pressured period. Children will often fight with their siblings because they are keen for parent attention, and that is certainly one way to get it! Often this fighting is a cry for a different need, and a response to being particularly worried or anxious.

Technology

It is inevitable that our children are going to be having more screen time, especially with a need for home learning. In addition to this, screen addiction is currently the fastest rising addiction in the UK. It is therefore important to be developing good digital habits for our children, right now.

There are so many brilliant things that technology can enable us to do, and Alicia encouraged us to allow our children to do all of the good things with technology. Children thrive when given responsibility and will more often than not, rise to the challenge. During the session, Alicia addressed the issue of social media ‘influencers’ and recommended that if our children are on social media, then we should encourage them to follow truly inspirational people, such as an academic or a scientist or sports personality, rather than the standard teenager social media ‘influencers’.

Nick Thrower, Assistant Head (Pastoral) and Chaplain 

Alicia runs ‘Teen Tips’ a programme providing talks and training for both parents and schools. Alicia started her career as an event manager but after several years, Alicia started looking around at different careers and at the same time, ended up having therapy. She found it immensely helpful and as a result, she then went and trained as a therapist herself. Alicia began working in schools supporting teenagers with communication and listening, and after enjoying this opportunity in the education sector, Alicia’s career grew from there and she moved into parent training as well.

The ‘Teen Tips’ website is a fantastic resource and has a wealth of information including podcasts, Q&A Library, Digital Safety Insurance, Audio courses and a Parents Forum.

www.teentips.co.uk/club

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