By Madeline Sibbing (Psychologist)
A few short weeks ago, my family took off for a holiday to New Zealand, something we’d been looking forward to for ages. Little did we know that, in the ten days that we were away, the world would completely change under our feet!
Thus, we returned home (with a few cheeky toilet rolls stashed in our luggage) to two weeks’ mandatory home isolation imposed by the government for all Australians re-entering the country – followed pretty much immediately by stage 3 restrictions. For those who are feeling a little lost and overwhelmed at the prospect of weeks or months of isolation, here are my tips. As the government has just announced that Term 2 is likely to be taught remotely for most children in Australia, some of these tips might be handy if you’ll be trying to work from home AND home-school your kids…
Madeline’s sanity-saving strategies for home isolation with kids:
- LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. It’s just simple maths. Having kids to entertain plus paid work to complete plus school work to get through plus social connections to maintain plus bills to pay plus jobs to try and keep in the current economic situation plus worry and uncertainty………EQUALS STRESS!!!!!! We can’t do everything. Trust me, I tried and it doesn’t work. As I discussed with a lovely client of mine today, what will our children remember in the future from this unique time in their lives? The times tables that they learned? The adjectives they used appropriately in sentences? OR, the connection and closeness they felt with their families? The bedroom fort they made and played in with their siblings each day? The ritual of sitting together for dinner each night with no rush and nowhere to be, whilst Dad tells bad jokes?
- Try and stick to regular sleep-wake times and meal times. I mean regular and NOT regimented. Keeping our body clocks and ‘tummy clocks’ ticking along nicely means our bodies are well regulated, thus reducing the chances of emotional outbursts due to tiredness and hunger. Further, when it’s time to return to our normal working/school lives, our bodies are already in an appropriate routine.
- For parents who are working from home: “Do not disturb” signs for the study door work a treat. Get your kids involved in helping to create a sign so they know when parents are in meetings and cannot be disturbed. Make sure you get up and take the sign down when meetings are finished (even if you are still in there working) and put them back up when you really can’t be disturbed. This allows the child to exercise patience and wait for your attention until you are available (not a bad thing to learn) AND it gets you up and your legs moving briefly in between online meetings.
- On that note, a little list of activities to get through each day can be helpful for kids whose parents are unavailable due to work for many hours of the day. Once again, I do not mean you should make a daily schedule mapping out each hour of the day! Just sit together as a family and make some agreements about what needs to be completed each day and who is response. Eg. we all get dressed and tidy our rooms. Each day we do a bit of exercise, some reading and our nightly dance party before dinner. (Of course the day can involve a lot more than that, but these are the basic things we want to try and get through each day).
- Self-care is key. No doubt you will have been flooded with suggestions of free exercise programs, meditations and yoga poses you can do at home. Find what works for you. For me, after a long day of telehealth sessions my muscles really need to move, so doing my dance classes online has been a saving grace! Sure, my kids think it’s hilarious when I jump around doing hip-hop in the backyard but frankly, who cares? I’m modelling self-care and showing them the importance of taking time for myself to nurture my body and mind in a way that works for me.
- Reflect on how you want your life to be. I love the quote currently doing the rounds on social media that states “In the rush to return, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to”. Personally, this time of isolation seems to have given me something I’ve needed for a long time: slow paced days and connection with my family. It seems crazy to me now that I’ve been desperately trying to find ways to achieve these things for years now and it took a worldwide health crisis for me to finally do it! I definitely think this will help me to re-prioritise my responsibilities going forward, and hopefully bring a bit more balance into my world.
I hope this helps and gives you all a bit of permission to slow down, connect with each other more and get through this crazy time buffered by the laughter and love of your families.
Madeline Sibbing is a Paediatric Psychologist with a Master of Educational and Developmental Psychology from Monash University. Her fifteen years of professional experience has been attained within government and independent schools in assessment, therapeutic interventions and consultation with children, adolescents, parents and teachers. She also developed primary prevention programs, mental health awareness activities and teacher training in a secondary college. Madeline spent several years working as an Educational Psychologist in London, UK, as a Chartered member of the British Psychological Society. She is a registered supervisor with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, supervising Masters of Psychology candidates and newly-registered Psychologists.
Consistently described as an engaging, down-to-earth and knowledgeable therapist, Madeline obtains enormous joy from working with children and young people… as often evidenced by the sounds of laughter and silliness emanating from her therapy room.
Have you seen our founder Amanda Abel’s new online school for parents? It’s called The Psychology Room and her first course has been lauched – The Good Night Toolbox – with tools for parents to help their child get to sleep at night. Check it out here!