It’s a stressful time for many of us, but lockdown is also providing new opportunities for families to connect.
Lockdown has been hard for many parents. Even as lockdown eases, many mums and dads remain justifiably anxious about the disease and its implications for their children. This is true across their schooling, friendships and future prospects.
At the same time, experts have warned that stresses within families are magnified because of the extra time parents and children are spending together. Dr Justin Williams, a clinical psychiatrist at the University of Aberdeen, argues that “you have a lot of sources of anxiety caused by the lockdown,” while adding that “many of our normal coping mechanisms are being undermined at this period of time leaving little room for manoeuvre.”
The closure of schools and businesses, and the introduction of furlough schemes and remote working, mean that one potential pressure valve – taking time away from each other – is unavailable for many families. The result, Dr Williams says, is that lockdown has put significant pressure on parents who may be dealing with heightened levels of stress.
Lockdown helping families bond
But that isn’t the whole story. Some families have thrived during lockdown, despite nagging fears about the virus itself. In fact, according to one recent poll, 80% of parents think lockdown has brought their families closer together.
The poll of 2,000 parents for ChannelMum.com found that four in five parents thought lockdown had helped their family to bond.
Siobhan Freegard, founder of ChannelMum.com, said: “Being forced to halt our busy lives and spend time together in quarantine has made many of us consider what’s really important, like children, parents and the community they are part of. Despite the dreadful toll the pandemic is taking, people are becoming more thankful for the small pleasures in life.”
Predictably, the study found that more families are playing together, but it also revealed that more of us are:
- reading books with our children
- gardening together
- enjoying traditional puzzles and board games
Nearly two-thirds of respondents also thought the pandemic had made their children more community-minded, with more than half doing more – such as picking up shopping – to help their friends and neighbours.
“being forced to halt our busy lives and spend time together in quarantine has made many of us consider what’s really important”
The upside of lockdown
In fact, experts agree that the time families have spent together during lockdown could be one upside to the Covid-19 pandemic. Psychologist and founder of the Good Play Guide Amanda Gummer argues that newborns and very young children in particular “will benefit enormously from having both parents available during so many months of their formative years.”
She also thinks that it will benefit dads. Because being at home will increase their confidence and let them get to know their child’s day-to-day routines, making them more involved and more equal as parents.
And many experts believe that the good parenting habits picked up during lockdown will continue long after the threat from Covid-19 has eased or disappeared entirely. Families that have been through lockdown together may be better at communicating, working through problems and finding delight in each other’s company thanks to their Covid experience.
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Using lockdown to be better parents
Of course, not every dad will feel that family life has benefitted from lockdown. But one way to bond with children is simply to spend more time with them in ways that create shared experiences. Needless to day, this works at any time, whether locked down together or not.
It’s interesting to note that in the ChannelMum.com poll:
- only a third of parents were allowing kids more TV time
- just a quarter were letting them spend more time on phones or game consoles.
Bonds have been strengthened not just by spending more time in the same house, but by spending more meaningful time as a family.
According to Dr Williams, what exactly you do will be different from one family to the next. But the main thing is to think of things that you can do together in a shared way “that will help you have a stronger sense of cohesion as a family group.”
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions:
- Read a good book together. Share the reading if your children are old enough, or read to younger children.
- Workout. Download an exercise app and do it as a family, every day.
- Talk. Talking is important during the pandemic. Encourage your children to discuss their fears and anxieties, about the virus, missing friends or returning to school.
- Be present. The great thing about lockdown, furlough or remote working is that it lets dads be present at milestone moments, so make the most of it. Take a full part in birthday celebrations, or be there for that first step, smile or word.