We are a homeschooling, remote working family with a garden. We have a dedicated office space. We’ve even managed to arrange more than one online food shop in our area since we entered lockdown. Our children aren’t used to seeing extended family members on a daily basis, as they live at least an hour away.
We are set up as well as any one family can be, to spend a lot of time at home with very little notice. Quarantine is still weird. There’s a lot of familiar in our children’s life during lockdown, but their world is very small right now and it is not their normal.
By demonstrating how our children are coping, what they are finding difficult and what extra support they need, perhaps you will be able to see similarities in your own children. It might help you separate what is a lack of school routine and what is more likely a result of the particulars of self-isolating in lock-down. Or maybe it won’t do any of that and you can just see how it’s working for another family, and what isn’t working, as we all trudge through lockdown together.
We talked about how Coronavirus was unlikely to affect them because they are young and healthy. We said that in fact, if either of our daughters did get the virus they probably would not even know. My husband and I have both explained that many children don’t have any symptoms, or it just seems like a normal cold if they do catch the virus, which is why everyone has to be careful and stay at home more. We have said that everyone is staying at home to help keep those who are older or not as healthy from catching the virus, as it can cause a lot more problems for them and make some people very ill. Our eldest daughter understands that older or more vulnerable people can die as a result of Coronavirus. We have had relatives who have had the virus, self-isolated and recovered so they are also familiar with the symptoms.
Our younger daughter had her birthday a couple of days before we began our efforts to stay at home and stay safe. She is wonderfully articulate for her age but this situation has given her doubts and concerns that she’s not easily able to describe or explain. She needs a lot more processing time than normal, as well as more hugs.
As a newly three-year-old, our daughter’s concept of time is limited. Her future is tomorrow or forever.
By now she knows that tomorrow is going to look very similar to today. She’s frustrated that tomorrow we’ll still not be able to go swimming or to go and visit Nana. These are her two biggest concerns and she’d like us to be able to answer them in a concrete way, with a date circled on the calendar.
We are of course resisting this and focusing on the small positives in daily life for her. We are being very specific when we talk about tomorrow; “When you wake up tomorrow the swimming pool will still be shut, but when it is open again we will take you swimming.” This does seem to help a little.
She did really appreciate a one-on-one phone call with her Nana. It was less hectic than the family chat where several people were involved and she was far more relaxed afterwards.
Our local park is close enough that we’ve been for a walk past it and our three-year-old can see that it is closed. But the volume of people out in our street is actually higher than average. There’s more people traffic than ever before and you can see that she distrusts this. She’ll regularly ask “have we still got this cold.”
For our youngest daughter in particular, less fresh fruit and vegetables has been bothersome. Both of our daughters are asking for fresh food snacks as treats. They want more fruit and less store cupboard options. We have started growing cucumbers from some seeds we bought last year and it has certainly improved their moods around less fresh food than normal.
Our almost five-year-old
Our eldest will turn five next month. She is big into celebrating and her main focus now is understanding how that celebration will look. She’s asked if we can have a big family party to celebrate when everything is more back to normal and we will of course be doing our best to make the day itself special at home.
Our school days are usually punctuated with activities and outings. Our daughter has actually been very understanding about the cancellation of these, but she does like to be reassured that this is a temporary hiatus and not a permanent arrangement.
We had a very hard time persuading her to go for a daily walk. She would just calmly state, “we’ll get germs,” and not get ready to head out. We tried the scavenger hunts, posting letters, or asking if she wanted to get dressed up. All of this didn’t change the fundamental truth for her that if everything was cancelled because of Coronavirus, so too should a walk around the neighbourhood. For her, it was not worth the risk.
We have now successfully started going for daily exercise outside. We talked about the social distancing measures people were taking and how we could wash our hands when we got home, and keep them off our face. We also talked about how the germs are less able to survive on things outside of a human body.
Honestly, I’m not sure any of that really made a difference to her. The weather got nice enough to take her bike outside. She loves her bike and she was keen to try it again after winter - I think she felt safe on her bike too. On that first outing, a house down the road had left some sports equipment out for people to take home. Some roller-skates looked her size and so we took them back with us. She asked us to leave them in the garage for the germs to disappear and 72 hours later she was rolling about in the garden one very happy little girl. She’ll alternate between her bike and skates now and has not walked anywhere on our one walk a day, only rolled. I will forever be grateful to the lovely family who left that equipment outside!
We entered quarantine with a baby. We will leave with a toddler.
The baby of the family is not yet one year old. He took his first steps this week. He’s suddenly confident and going for a few extra steps every day. He’ll soon be walking more than he’s crawling.
He’s outgrowing his clothes quicker than quarantine deliveries can be arranged. So he’ll be walking around in his sisters’ hand-me-downs and that’s okay.
He thinks the outside is wonderful. If he could he would be in the garden all day long. The optimist in me thinks that when we can help him explore the wider world again, he will do so with bare feet and a smile on his face because that is what he knows in his own garden.
Lockdown is difficult for children to negotiate, no matter their circumstances. Emotions are heightened and day-to-day life is far removed from anyone’s normal, even when so much is the same as in our case. This Pandemic will affect entire generations and you are not alone. Children amplify all the feelings in the air but they are resilient. They will be okay.