Having interviewed a dozen moms and dads, I’ve put together these reflections on what the lockdown did for their relationship with their kids – the good, the bad and the ugly.*
1. The lockdown brought out the worst in us
My neighbour Tracey confided in me how she would regularly chastise her 13-year-old daughter Cami for playing Minecraft during virtual lessons and not doing her homework. It put enormous strain on their relationship.
“During lockdown there was a constant sense of guilt that your child is staring at a screen trying to keep up with her teacher and you feel like you should be helping them, but you need to make a living,” Tracey said. “You feel guilty, you feel frustrated.” She said months later it was such a relief to drop Cami off at school. “There was a sense of, ‘You go off and have fun in a safe, structured learning environment’ and I’ll do my work at home.”
2. The lockdown brought out the best in us
My friend Linda, a qualified primary school teacher, found herself in the strange position of working full-time during the lockdown at a doctor’s practice, while her husband Craig stayed at home with their two sons, aged 11 and 9. It would have made much more sense for it to be the other way round, but for some reason (probably divine), Craig ending up teaching the boys at home.
“Our boys thoroughly enjoyed being homeschooled,” Linda shared. “In fact, for the first few months, they said, ‘Dad, we want you to keep teaching us at home.’ Craig felt privileged and so enjoyed teaching them. The stress of tearing around in the mornings getting ready for school was gone. Instead, learning could take place in a relaxed environment.”
3. We learned things about our kids we didn’t know before
One mom, Debbie, found out her daughter is a night owl. With no urgency to get to bed by a particular time, her daughter discovered her natural rhythm was more nocturnal. “One day when she gets a job she’ll probably work the night shift!” Debbie joked.
Another mom, Emma, found out by spending time with her 11-year-old son that he has a kinesthetic learning style. “Lockdown gave me an opportunity to help him with his school work and observe the way he approaches his work,” she said. “Knowing that he enjoys learning with his hands and by doing things has definitely helped me understand him better.”
4. Kids feed off our emotions
Because we were in each others’ space all day long, it became important for parents to regulate their own emotions during lockdown so that their moods didn’t adversely affect their children. A friend Sarah said, “I learned how our kids take most of their cues from us, the parents! So I tried my best to put away my fears and enjoy the time together.”
She said she was also struck by how resilient, imaginative and adaptable her three kids are. “They just go in with the ‘new normal’ and found some new things fun!” Her six-year-old daughter Phoebe said, “I was happy during the lockdown because I got to spend every day with you.”
5. We all benefited from a slower pace of life
Many parents shared how they appreciated having fewer things to do and less time pressure. “Everything slowed down,” said Linda. “We all suddenly had time, time with our kids, time to eat meals around the table. We all got to know each other better and talked.”
Now that the lockdown restrictions are easing, I hope that we’ll be able to carry these valuable lessons forward and not allow the busyness of life to crowd out what’s really important. My friend Sue said reconnecting with her eldest son after the birth of her daughter was one of the greatest gifts of being in lockdown. “We are looking after what we have better – be it chores, planting, fixing. We are relating more closely to each other.”
* This is a different article to the original, which will appear on the Life Healthcare website in December 2020.