Dear Janine,

I feel really anxious and ill-prepared for the Coronavirus situation. What can I do to get through the lockdown as easily as possible with two children aged 7 and 9? Thanks in advance.

Regards, Anne

Dear Anne

 I hear you and believe me you are definitely not alone in this. When we entered 2020 full of hope and good intentions, none of us anticipated worldwide lockdowns and quarantines by March.

When faced with a situation that feels overwhelming, I would recommend breaking it down into smaller, manageable components. You didn’t mention which country you’re in and whether or not you’ll be working remotely during your lockdown, so I’m going to give you some practical steps that I’ve implemented.

1) Supplies: You’ll feel reassured once you’ve planned out what supplies you and your household will need over the next 2-3 weeks. I know a lot of people have gone into panic mode and gone completely overboard (nobody needs ten bales of toilet paper for 2-3 weeks).  See what’s available and get creative. If you have fresh produce that needs to be used by a certain date and you’re stumped with what to cook, I recommend checking out, as this site has an ingredient search function that will allow you to look for recipes using the ingredients you have available.

Batch cook if you can as that will save you time later on, especially on days where you don’t feel like cooking. What I’ve been doing recently is crock pot meals as I can add everything in the morning and go about my day.

2) Routines: These are king right now. We all thrive, especially children, when we know what to expect. Having family members at home 24/7 takes some getting used to, so having blocks of time planned out will give purpose to your days and ensure that you’re getting important tasks done, planning enough rest, physical exercise and the all-important self-care.

I have drawn up a basic timetable with my 10-year-old so she knows that between 8:00-9:00 am she is to have breakfast, brush her teeth and hair, wash her face and get dressed.  The order she does it in is up to her (she likes the feeling of freedom to choose the order herself), as long as she’s ready for the day by 9:00 am.

She knows that her school work is a priority and we have our internet set up so that she can’t go online on any of her devices before noon. That way she isn’t rushing through the tasks carelessly just to get it done, but if she’s finished before then she knows she has to entertain herself with drawing, crafts or other non-digital tasks. As this is now set, there is no nagging as she knows if she finishes her tasks, she can connect with her friends virtually. This helps us as both my husband and I are working from home and have quite full schedules.

3) Exercise: We’ve taken our old Wii console out of storage so our very energetic daughter can do some Wii Sports as a physical outlet. If you have a garden you could put together an age- appropriate obstacle course that your children can complete when they feel the need to be active. If you don’t have either, a skipping rope or some workouts for children on YouTube are good alternatives.

4) Rewards: A star chart is very motivational for younger children to earn rewards like treats, screen time or special activities they want to do. For instance, if they clean their bedrooms or help with a chore, they earn a star. After they’ve collected five for example, they get to choose a reward. I would recommend having a different number of stars for different rewards so children can learn the art of perseverance and have a choice in their rewards.

5) Nutrition: To counteract the all-day grazing of snacks, I’ve decided to cook a big lunch so the children are satisfied and not constantly raiding the fridge. A fruit bowl is available for between lunch and dinner. Controlling their sugar consumption is always important, but even more so now when children can’t go out to parks or take part in their regular extramural sports.

6) A set bath time and bedtime: Our daughter thought she would be allowed to change her normal evening routine and we’re insisting that she is still in bed at the regular time. She’s not on holiday and we don’t want her staying up till 10:00 pm and sleeping in till 9:00 am as if she were. Soon the May half term holidays will be upon us and I’ll allow it during that week, so she can then notice a difference and actually feel like she’s on holiday, even though we had to cancel our trip due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

7) Quiet time: This is essential so everyone, including the children, can relax. This could be reading, watching a special movie, colouring while listening to soothing music, doing a guided meditation or doing some yoga together.

8) Open communication: I ask my children every day how they’re feeling as everyone is bound to have a wobbly day at some point. Allowing each other to talk and just express any worries or emotions will not only strengthen your bond as a family, but also prevent emotions from building up and exploding in the form of tantrums later on.

I hope this helps. Remember we’re all in this together and this will end eventually.

Much love, stay safe and healthy xx