Tom, dad of three and Partnership Coordinator at Kids Matter, talks about life in lockdown – the importance of parental well-being and how getting alongside families facing disadvantage in in your community can strengthen relationships between parents and children…
In CPAG’s latest survey on the toll of lockdown on low-income families, dad Graham said the following:
“I’ll break down and cry some days, I’ll go to my bedroom and cry, because I can’t give her £20 to go and buy something. It’s been easier since they provided the school vouchers and the college vouchers, while they’ve not been at college… So you put that on one side and say, ‘Right, there’s £30 for this week and £30 for next week, so we’ll keep that on one side and we can do some shopping.’ So at least that gave us a little bit of extra money to buy food with”.
Poverty has a direct effect on parenting. If mums and dads are overwhelmed by the stress of not being able to feed their families or paying bills to keep the heating on (exacerbated by the pressure of home-school and the inability to escape outside in lockdown for a breath of fresh air) how can they be their best selves for their children? And many parents are doing this on their own. It’s implausible.
I find it tough enough as a dad of three with a wife, job and a support system but I have learnt some things over the course of three national lockdowns…
Role play and kids songs are not my favourite part of parenting. If it’s not my daughter wanting to play doctors, it’s my son wanting to play dinosaurs. If we’re not dancing to Trolls the movie, we’re role-playing Elsa and Anna from Frozen. Truth is, I hate it.
Yet lockdown has only increased the amount of role play and kids songs in our home. I even found myself having to sing ‘London’s Burning’ with my daughter for a school project. Safe to say, I encouraged her so much that she didn’t require me to sing along on the video that was to be sent in to her teacher.
Whilst I haven’t enjoyed these consequences of having kids home full time, the truth is that these moments have helped us to grow closer. In the discomfort of engaging with ridiculous role play, I’ve grown as a father.
This leads me to consider some questions that can reframe my thinking about the challenging circumstances we find ourselves.
1) What does this make possible in my role as father?
In times of challenge and difficulty, it can often be helpful to ask, “What does this make possible?”. This question helps turn chaos into opportunity. It helps us to make the most of what we have available to us, even if it’s limited.
- Lockdown makes it possible for me to proactively spend more quality time with my kids. We’ve loved exploring fields and forests nearby. Chasing each other through the trees, climbing trees and at least one of us has fallen out of trees.
- Lockdown makes it possible for me to take life a little slower. This means that the usual checklist of shoes, coats and trousers as we leave the house, is less argumentative and instead, much calmer.
- Lockdown makes it possible for my kids to learn and grow, as we teach them new skills and engage them in new experiences.
2) What can I do to make life a little easier, right now?
Whether we admit it or not, life is hard right now. Nothing is simple, everything is complicated and every decision feels stressful. We have to take hold of the little things that make life easier.
You don’t need to attend every family quiz on zoom, or develop a six pack, or even be the perfect home school teacher. You just need to get through, with yourself, and your family in tact!
3) How can I protect my wellbeing?
Scientists have warned of a deterioration in mental health across all age groups, whilst the Princes Trust stated that one in four young people feel ‘unable to cope with life’ since the start of Covid. It’s important that we proactively take care of our own well-being.
Consider what this might mean for you.
Truth is, for me, it’s heading to the ‘drive through’ and picking up a latte (ahh)
- It’s getting up a few minutes earlier just so I can have some time on my own.
- It’s finding a Joe Wicks video on YouTube and engaging in some HIIT training to benefit my own mental and physical health. In fact, my 3-year-old son also enjoys it, but likes to unhelpfully crawl under me during the press ups!
Whatever it is for you, do whatever you are able to look after your own wellbeing. Your family will benefit, too. And if you, like me, have the privilege of a drive-through latte and a home routine to work through the challenge of lockdown, perhaps think how you can do a #LittleGoodDeed for a dad like Graham – a parent in need; a family that could do with a meal, a chat or some groceries.
At Kids Matter, we believe that when the wellbeing of parents is catered for, the whole family is strengthened. It’s for this reason that alongside confidence and competence, community is one of our essentials.
In community with others, (in person or virtually), we see new opportunities.
In community with others, life can be shared and made easier.
In community with others, our personal wellbeing is nurtured.
Right, I best get back to the role play. My ugly sisters are calling…
#LittleGoodDeed is a campaign supported by many of the nation’s most loved children’s charities. We want to encourage people to do a #LittleGoodDeed for a parent or carer having a tricky time – to reach out, check in and ask what they need. And we will celebrate those good deed doers that are making a difference in small ways, every day. Find out more at Littlegooddeed.org.uk
Kids Matter is a programme that engages with families and young children before crisis point – it strengthens families by giving mums and dads the tools to be competent, confident parents or caregivers. To get involved, as a volunteer or by financially supporting our programme, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org