10 Apr Veteran Mentors Guide For Parents
You love your kids with all your heart. However, for you, like for so many parents, life with the kids at home all day every day might seem like a nightmare for which you feel unprepared. Short of binding and gagging them, what can you do to survive and even enjoy the next few months.
The Keys to no-regrets parenting
1. Affirm to yourself the certainties in your life
- Time passes and all things will pass.
- At any time, I am doing the best I can, given the resources (eg. time, knowledge, experience) I can bring to that moment.
- I am always learning and getting better.
- When I know better, I can do better.
- Whatever happens, I will handle it.
- I am brave and I am strong.
2. Reassure your child of the certainties in their life
- I love you and I will always love you, no matter what.
- It is always safe to talk to me.
- Everything I do (and don’t let you do) is out of love and is my best effort to keep you safe.
- I will always try to be a good role model in your life.
3. Do the best you can
Parenting is hard. There are no easy answers. No-one can tell you how to raise your child.
For example, no-one knows for sure how many hours are best for them to spend playing games online. For every expert with advice, there is another expert with the opposite advice.
But one thing is clear. You are the parent, and as such, your job is not to always be popular. You have a clear responsibility to keep your child safe and healthy.
Beware of the weapon your child (like most children and adults!) will use against you when they don’t get their own way.
That weapon is shaming. You child thinks that if they:
- Just act badly enough – argue, yell, swear, threaten – you will eventually back down.
- Can make you feel ashamed you are out of touch with the ‘’real world’’ as your child perceives it, you will back down.
- Make you feel ashamed that you are a failure as a parent in some sense, you will back down … and hope you win their approval.
When they want to do something you are uncomfortable with or do not want to follow instruction, follow these steps, knowing you are doing your best as a parent.
1. Assure them of the main certainties in their life. You:
- Are coming from a position of love and care towards them
- Take your responsibility to keep them safe and healthy very seriously
- Are doing the best you can to keep them safe and healthy
2. Tell them what you have decided.
3. Tell them why … again assuring them you take your responsibility as their parent to keep them safe and healthy very seriously.
4. Listen to them, and empathise, using terms of endearment.
5. Then say, NEVERTHELESS and stick to your decision.
6. Listen to their next power play (usually trying to make you feel shame – eg. you don’t understand; you’re a hopeless parent; I wish I had a different mother etc), and empathise, using terms of endearment (eg. I understand darling, you are feeling angry and frustrated).
7. Then say, NEVERTHELESS and stick to your decision. (Nevertheless, I’ve decided that…)
8. Expect them to try every trick in the book to get you to defend your decision. DON’T fall into this trap. The minute you start arguing, the more likely they are to find a chink in your armour and start leading you off the topic. Let them learn they need a different approach.
4. Be guided by the no-regrets test
The only test you need to pass is the no-regrets test.
In the end, you only have to live with yourself – knowing you did the best you could at the time with the resources you could bring to that moment.
For example, assume you think your child should only have two hours of screen time per night. How many hours should they have? The answer is the number of hours you are comfortable with. After all, it’s your decision and you have to be able to live with your decisions.
Be kind to yourself. As a parent, it is so important to lighten up on yourself. Know that you are good and worthwhile.
Nurture yourself so you are less open to being manipulated by those who would try to shame you to get their own way.
Note that this advice also applies to protect you against the shaming that other adults in your life might try.
In the end, although your child will not be happy with all the decisions you make, they will always know that you love them and are doing your best. As they approach you with greater respect as they grow older, rather than casting shame, they will discover you are far more open to negotiating with them and gradually providing them with more and more freedom.
As a more extreme example, let me tell you of the father trying to manage his 14-year old daughter who keeps running off and spending the weekend over at her friend’s house. In sheer frustration, after going around to collect her so many times, he expressed that he should probably not bother collecting her next time.
I asked him if he could live comfortably with that decision if she ended up raped or got into drugs at that friend’s house. He said he would not be comfortable, and so the answer becomes clear to him. In order to live with himself, he would have to continue chasing her until she reached an age when he was willing to let her be independent.
For now, not going to retrieve her would not pass the no-regrets parenting test.
- You are the parent.
- There are no simple answers as to what is best.
- Just parent to the best of your ability.
- Make decisions that you can live with as best you can.
- We are all smarter in hindsight.
- In the end, you only have to live with yourself – knowing you did the best you could
- at the time with the resources, you could bring to that moment.
The following advice provides some suggestions you might want to share with your children to help your family get through the next difficult months if you are all required to lockdown at home.
Look for the good
Our wellbeing depends on what we choose to focus on. We could choose to be consumed by fear and anxiety about the current health crisis, or we could direct our thinking towards the upsides of this in the long term.
Think about how the world will change and what good might come out of this crisis.
Do you think people will become kinder?
Do you appreciate more now than you ever have how connected we are to each other, and how we have a responsibility to care for others as well as for ourselves?
Are you learning more about your family and friends now that you have more time to connect?
What things are you grateful for that you used to take for granted?
Are you seeing your teachers in a different light?
Now that you are at home through the day, you might have more free time to yourself, but you might also find you achieve less unless you add some structure into your days.
You can use the Weekly Planner we provide to set out the main activities of each day. That way, you can stay organised, satisfy the adults at home that you are doing your schoolwork, and map out some free time for yourself each day when you know you will not be hassled and can work on your own goals.
It is important to stay up-to-date with your schoolwork, and it’s a good thing that you have the opportunity now to learn online. You probably prefer it to sit in class all day. You just have to come up with online ways to stay connected to your friends.
Make sure you set up a study space at home, so you can concentrate when you are working, and not become distracted by others or the TV.
Manage your stress
If you are feeling really stressed by the uncertain future, remind yourself that the best you can do is control the things that are within your control, and accept the rest. You can control what you do on a daily basis within the confines of the rules.
You can control the goals you set, the exercise you engage in, the new hobbies you take up, and how you treat the rest of your family. Now is a time for you to show yourself at your best. Be kind, be patient, be helpful, be brave, be creative, and be open.
As well, be kind to yourself. If you find yourself watching news reports endlessly about coronavirus, deliberately limit yourself to the nightly news, so you don’t become overwhelmed.
Effective techniques to help you manage stress include:
- Physical exercise
- Reading or listening to audiobooks
- Listening to music
- Setting new goals for yourself
Mindful activities let you stay in the present moment so that just for a short while, you can set aside your worries about the future, and just fully be in the moment. Try these three free activities from HeadSpace.
While isolated at home, your mental health and concentration will be improved if you can stay physically active. Try some free home workouts thanks to Body Coach TV you can access on YouTube.
Listen to audiobooks
With spare time, think about relaxing while listening to free audiobooks. They are divided into age categories, and there are even options in different languages.
Teach yourself something new
Being forced to spend time locked down at home isn’t all bad. One good thing is that you have the opportunity to set a new goal to teach yourself something new or spend more time delving into a topic that really interests you.
You know you will time each day every day for a while to work towards this goal, so you could make it a fairly big one. You don’t even need anyone else at home to help you much because you can learn anything with the help of the internet, and especially through YouTube videos.
Here are some learning suggestions:
- Cooking – and then cook for the family
- Playing chess
- Speaking another language
- Drawing portraits in pencil
- Playing the guitar
We all get better at something the more we practice. For example, if you can do 5 push-ups now, with daily repetition, it won’t be long at all before you could do 100 non-stop.
Think about a challenge to set yourself and go for it. Depending on the gear you have at home, this might be a ball challenge (eg. 25 baskets in a row in basketball), or a bat-and-ball challenge (eg. bounce a tennis ball on a cricket wicket 50 times).
If you are feeling competitive, ask your brother or sister to record it your efforts on your phone camera, and share with your friends who have accepted the same challenge.
Use your creativity to connect with others
Now is a great opportunity for you to tune into your creative side and find new ways to connect with others.
- Post online an original song, poem, or meme?
- Set up an online network for your extended family to connect?
- Invite your friends to a virtual party?