Rising COVID in Europe, UK lockdown that looks set to last and the US attempted coup. Stressful times that will sap your patience, suck you into social media, make you stay up later than is good, sleep worse, and take your attention away from your children. That’s what’s happened to me at the beginning of this week. I felt bloody awful.
After catching myself, I returned to what I call my oxygen mask routine — all the things that I know help me get back on a better track. Went for a run, had a bath and thought about what I’m grateful for, did a work review and to do list, thought about what the next few days with the family needed to include and what would make them better, turned my phone off at 8pm, did a go-to-sleep wind down. All the stops. It’s helped a lot.
Oxygen mask because it reminds me I need to sort myself out before I can sort my kids out.
We used to rely on our environment and routines to do a lot of this stuff for us. Going out to work, regular classes and sports teams meant we got exercise. This made sleep easier. Being at work gave us time away from our kids, which made being with them sweeter, and gave us more social contact which helped our sanity.
Changing the environment is one of the most powerful ways of changing behaviour. Speed bumps and cameras work far better than slow signs to reduce traffic speed.
This doesn’t just go for us, but our kids too. Why else do parents of older kids only give out the wifi code once homework’s been done?
Consciously considering the environment you create for your kids is an unusual thing for parents to do. I’m not talking interior design here. I mean things like leaving out craft things and drawing up lists of activities for your kids to do when they’re bored and you’re on a work call. Fade up alarm clocks that wake kids up naturally, so you don’t have to have that battle first thing. Agreeing a schedule together where they set the regular go-outside-for-a-walk time and it becomes their decision, not yours.
All this is a bit of work, but as I have said before, everything is a struggle. The trick is choosing, consciously, what to struggle at. Doing the work to change the environment is all about avoiding the work of getting them to do something later. Right now, doing the work today seems so monumentally hard because everything that’s going on in the world means even just living in the moment…