Toddler being comforted by her pregnant mum.
dads & mums

top tips for parents on coping with new changes in routine.

4 minutes

The coronavirus pandemic has changed life for all of us. We know that by staying home we are doing the right thing by our doctors, nurses and care workers, but there is no denying that this ‘new normal’ has thrown up its fair share of challenges. While some new mums and dads might feel that parenthood has prepared them well for life in lockdown, others may feel isolated and alone – especially as visits from family and friends have stopped and antenatal classes have been put on hold. Those with older children might also be struggling to cope with fulltime childcare and a fulltime job – waking up each morning concerned that they’re not doing either particularly well.

If there’s one thing we can say with certainty in this time of deep uncertainty, it’s that ‘whatever’ you’re feeling is natural and valid. This is a new situation for all parents, and there is no ‘right’ way to navigate it. The key thing is to keep going and to establish some normalcy if you can. Here are some stay-at-home tips to help you cope with the changes in routine – and hopefully alleviate a few of your worries along the way.

Stay-at-home tip 1: take advantage of online resources

The coronavirus pandemic has seen people really pulling together, with celebrities and organisations going out of their way to make life in lockdown that little bit easier. Go online and you’ll find prominent names offering everything from maths classes to music lessons, while museums and zoos are opening their doors daily for virtual visits and expert talks. Parents of very young children can also read our articles on sensory play and baby playtime for tips and suggestions on how to keep newborns entertained.

“I was finding home schooling really hard,” says Andrea, mum to Kelly, 7, and Charlie, 5, “but then a friend of mine sent me a list of all the amazing things going on online, from live zoo and museum webcams to dance, cooking and science tutorials and even downloadable suggestions for crafts. “I do a quick Google the night before and put a timetable in place for the next day. I find having a set routine makes the day go quicker for us all. Not only that but it’s fun.”

Stay-at-home tip 2: don’t feel too guilty about screen time

With nurseries and schools closed, many parents are having to juggle fulltime childcare with a fulltime job. If this applies to you, try not to worry too much about using the household telly or iPad as a babysitter when you desperately need to get a piece of work finished or send an important email. These exceptional circumstances are only temporary, and you don’t have to worry about your kids falling behind because all of their peers are in the same boat too. For balance, try to make sure they – and you – have some fresh air every day, from an hour in the garden to a walk (guidelines permitting).

“The kids are definitely having more screen time than they did before the pandemic, but I’m choosing not to beat myself up about it,” says Alan, dad to Tommy, 4, and Eleanor, 8. “Their education is important, of course, but we also need to keep a roof over our heads. When we do spend time together, we make sure it’s quality time.”

Stay-at-home tip 3: stay in touch virtually

For some parents of little ones, life in lockdown might not feel too different to how things used to be, as you naturally spend more time at home with your family when you have a baby. One thing that definitely has changed, though, is the lack of physical callers, from well-wishers and loved ones to even perhaps your regular health visitor (who may have been redeployed to support other NHS services). Feeling isolated and alone can affect your mental wellbeing so make sure your reach out to others virtually. Chatting with someone over apps like Zoom or FaceTime is never going to be as good as sharing a cup of tea with them in real life, but it will still help relieve your stress levels, as well as breaking up your day. As the BT advert used to tell us, it’s good to talk.

“It breaks my heart that my parents can’t cuddle their granddaughter, so we have a Zoom call every day. It’s not the same obviously, but at least they’re not completely missing out, and we get to have a nice chat as well,” says Anika, mum to baby Nisha. “I also speak every other day to some other mums I know with babies. We have a giggle and a moan and try to talk about anything but the virus. It’s a huge help to me as I can get any concerns I have off my chest and have a bit of a gossip too.”

Stay-at-home tip 4: reach out if you need to

If you are struggling in any way with these changes in routine (and we all are to some extent), make sure you reach out to your health visitor or GP who will be able to offer invaluable support. Most services are still running, and the NHS is encouraging people to make use of them.

You could also try watching our selfcare during self-isolation video, in which midwife Marie Louise shares many helpful tips. Our stay at home exercise article, meanwhile, looks at how keeping fit and mental wellbeing go hand in hand.

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