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How to Maintain Healthy Boundaries Within the Family During Lockdown | Helen Burke - Essential Living

How to Maintain Healthy Boundaries Within the Family During Lockdown | Helen Burke

Blog London Lifestyle
18.05.20

Essential Living a private rental property company based in London who are essentially the landlord to a portfolio of buildings. All of their buildings have a range of apartments, from studios – 3 bed apartments and have communal spaces for all the residents to use including; gyms, living areas, kitchens and dining spaces, libraries, roof terraces. All the buildings are also pet-friendly and have a 24-7 team to help with any needs. Given we are all spending so much more time at home, I have written a blog post that I hope supports you in finding ways for you and your family to stay mentally well, healthy and happy during these unprecedented times.

The Daily Juggle

Whether you are juggling a young baby with older kids that need home-schooling, whether it’s trying to be as present as possible with your family whilst working from home, spending more time with your partner than ever before, or feeling cooped up and trapped in a house where finding your own space and time seems almost impossible, many of us are feeling the strain of the daily juggle. Add to this the uncertainty of when this will all over or whether things will ever return to normal, it’s difficult to hold on to “keep calm and carry on.”

But there are things we can do to help us maintain a sense of balance and healthy boundaries, both within ourselves and with our families during this unprecedented time in our lives.

Maintain / Instigate Routine

Routine creates a feeling of safety in the subconscious mind. Repetitive motions and expected outcomes actually impact our mood. Psychologist Robert Thayer, a professor of psychology at California State University, (1997), suggests that moods are created by habitualness: how much we sleep, how frequently we move, what we think, how often we think it, and so on. Knowing what to expect brings about feelings of security. A routine, especially at this unsettled time, is paramount for you and your family.

In the case of children, so much of their world is already uncertain; not knowing which way is left or right, not having a clear understanding on time, what is dangerous what is not etc. so simple and habitual daily routine gives them some notion of what to expect and therefore a certain level of security. Furthermore, children take their emotional cues from us. When we feel safe, they do too. As adults, engaging in routine gives us comfort with the simple idea of “I know how to do this, I’ve done it before.”

Whether you’re working or not working alongside caregiving, it’s tempting to avoid unnecessary nagging or subsequent tantrums by either personally, or allowing others in the home, to not get dressed properly, to sleep in or go to bed later, to eat at odd times and so on. Having a routine, especially around meal times, working hours, exercise and bedtime will ensure your days don’t start to merge into one. Find ways to ensure your weekend feels different and refreshing by creating more structure throughout the week.

Working from home whilst home-schooling

If you are working from home, it may feel like there’s just too much to do, too many demands being placed upon you in keeping the kids occupied whilst also meeting work commitments so keep the mantra “I’m doing the best I can and its OK not to be able to do it all” in mind at all times!

If you are sharing the parenting / working from home load with a partner, split your time dependent on the needs of your own work and the needs of your children. That may mean your partner does morning as teacher and you do afternoon, or you do one day, your partner does the next

Establish a routine that is based around your own working day and the school day but allow for flexibility, as your child, especially if their younger, may not be quite as amenable to such structure!

  1. Back to my first point! Routine is essential: School starts at a set time, work starts at a set time, do as much as you can to make sure you are ready at the exact time and stick to the timetable.
  2. Create Different Spaces for Different activities: You might set up a teaching / work room, a quiet room for when someone needs space / time away (that’s you included!) and a play / social area.
  3. Turn off your phone: On the days when you are teacher, ensure your phone is switched off to ensure they have your undivided attention as would be the case with when they are in lesson at school.
  4. Set aside break for TV, iPad and Exercise: Use these times to schedule work emails or calls if you do not have a partner to share the load.

If all fails and you just cannot find a way to manage it all, a quote I have recently seen on social media from a group of teachers at Loerie Land Independent School, I hope provides you some comfort:

“Dear Parents

Don’t stress about schoolwork. When school resumes I will get your children back on track. I am a teacher and that’s my superpower. What I can’t fix is social-emotional trauma that prevents the brain from learning. So right now, I just need you to share your calm, share your strength, and share your laughter with your children. No kids are ahead. No kids are behind. Your children are exactly where they need to be.

With love,

All Loerie Land teachers”

Think about how others are feeling

We are all, in our own way, feeling overwhelmed, disheartened or disappointed in some way. Even for our youngest children, the novelty of having you around all of the time with no set plans will start to wear off, they will begin to miss the routine of nursery, the play dates, the baby/toddler classes, the playfulness of children their own age. For our schoolchildren, the novelty of being off school will wear off, they will begin to miss socialising with friends and the structure school provided alongside potential anxiety over academic outcomes. Young adults in the home may have feelings about having to have moved back home- they may be finding it suffocating having their newly found independence taken away. Encourage each family member to talk about what they are missing, what they are finding difficult and try to find ways to support them in coping with these challenging feelings. Encourage more social interaction, enroll in some online baby/toddler classes, encourage the older children to schedule in video messaging with their friends from school each week. Find ways to help your children to connect with others outside of the home. This is as equally important for you too.

Avoiding Conflict

Work out your own “trigger points” and ask those who are able to communicate in your household what their triggers are too. For one person it might be that they feel they are being expected to do it all, for another it maybe they aren’t getting enough privacy or they don’t feel like they have any autonomy. Make a list of ‘non-negotiables’ for each person in the home so that you can work out ways together to ensure each person feels like their boundaries are being respected.

It is also important to encourage time out and space for everyone so they can have some time alone. It is unlikely that we have ever spent this amount of time together, either in a relationship, or as a family unit, as we are at the moment. Having time alone to process our own thoughts and feelings, or to switch off, is paramount and something that, prior to this unprecedented times, we probably took for granted or weren’t even aware of. Make sure to schedule in this space for each of you, either by way of getting out of your home for your exercise or having a designated space in the house that is for alone time that cannot be interrupted.

In the same breath it may also help to schedule in family time away from work/ school so that you find ways to connect to each other in a more playful way. Whether that be through all cooking together, one partner makes a starter, the other dinner and the children dessert or all engaging in drawing/ painting together. Find some ways to create new hobbies or engaging in activities that you can do together as a family.

Finally…

Be realistic about what to expect from yourself. The situation we find ourselves in is unlike any we’ve been in before. You cannot expect to be performing perfectly at your job, parenting, home schooling or in your relationship. You cannot do it all. You are not superhuman – be forgiving of yourself and your family. Remember the mantra: “I’m doing the best I can and its OK not to be able to do it all”

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