What if lockdown has been a relief for my family?
By Dr Laura Talbot, Clinical Psychologist at the Anna Freud Centre
Coronavirus has had a huge impact on all our lives. What unites us at present is that we have all experienced change, and we are due to experience more change now that lockdown restrictions are easing.
For many families, some aspects of life may have been feeling much tougher during lockdown, but for others they may have found that lockdown life has also brought with it a sense of relief. What is it like to see lockdown easing, if there have been ways in which it has lessened some of the pressures or struggles that your family has faced? What can be learned from this period of time that might be helpful, as the situation changes yet again?
Understand the positive changes of lockdown
What are the positive changes that you’ve noticed? Why might they have happened? Maybe some of this is quite easy to figure out. For children and young people who struggle in school or social settings, the demands they usually faced on a daily basis may have greatly reduced. Their stresses may have reduced too. For families who were not able to spend much time together as a household (due to balancing work and other commitments), perhaps the opportunity to do so during lockdown has been welcomed.
Maybe you have also noticed positive changes in your own wellbeing, or your child’s wellbeing, that have surprised you or which seem a bit harder to work out. If so, talk with someone who knows you and your child well. They might be able to help make sense of these changes with you, so that you can work out how to keep them going in the future.
Try not to judge your own experience
You might have mixed feelings about noticing some positive aspects of your family’s experience during this time. There is much talk (in the media and elsewhere) of lockdown disrupting ‘normal’ life. You might worry what this means about your family if you’ve coped better during lockdown than before.
Remember, although we have all shared in the experience of having big changes thrust upon us very suddenly, exactly how these changes look and feel for each of us will vary. How they have impacted on our own household will have varied according to each family’s unique circumstances, and this is okay. Allow yourself this time to notice what you are experiencing and learning about your own family, without judging what this might mean about you.
Work out what you can hold onto
You might want to work out how you can hold onto any positives of your family’s experiences as lockdown starts to ease. Perhaps even note down some thoughts while they are clear to you in the present time, as you may forget them later.
There will be some changes that are more possible to maintain than others. You might be feeling clearer now about what’s important to you as a family and how these things can continue to exist in your regular routines. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed having more time to talk and do things together, particularly if your usual routines do not overlap much. Other aspects of your current life, which you wish to keep, might include new ways of connecting with others, alternative working arrangements, or new hobbies. Much of this is about capturing any good which has come out of this period for you - and keeping it alive in the future too.
Be clear about what can't stay the same
You may be feeling very aware of what could be lost as lockdown eases. If you have a child who has been coping better away from school, who feels better from socialising less, or who you feel has flourished through having more time at home with family members, the prospect of returning to some of the usual routines might feel daunting.
Try to begin thinking about how your child - and you - will manage the transitions which are approaching. For example, what conversations can you (and your child, depending on their age) have with their school to maintain the positive differences you have noticed? Are there ways in which some of what has worked better for them during lockdown can be translated into the school setting? Has your child found alternative ways to socialise during lockdown that you could continue to support, while perhaps continuing to encourage them to build up their capacity to cope in face-to-face situations? If you’ve noticed they have new strengths or interests, think of ways to make sure they’re not lost or forgotten.
Plan for the future with your child
Talk with your children. Together, think about how this time has been for your family and how things might look in the future. These conversations will be different, depending on their age, but you can still reflect on what you have enjoyed, what can stay the same, and what will be different as lockdown eases. Predictability is important for children and young people, even where continuity is not possible. Knowing what to expect in advance - and talking about what it might look like and feel like - will help children and young people to adjust and cope.
Plan (and perhaps even practise) new routines ahead of them being needed. That way, they can be gradually introduced, rather than expecting children to switch into them straight away. This is especially important if they are moving back into routines that may feel less comfortable for them. Think about ways in which you can encourage and affirm their successes. But also, help them to cope with what they might find difficult as they adjust to a brand new situation. As a parent or carer, reach out to those around you to help you with this task. You need your own successes affirmed and struggles heard - only then can you do this for your children.