Home confinement related to COVID-19 pandemic has upset daily organization of many families. With schools and day care centers closing, parents need to manage children home full time. This can be an opportunity to strengthen the parents/children bond but it is also a real challenge to balance private and professional life. Between domestic chores, remote work, activities and children home schooling beware of stress that can lead to parental burn-out and in some case child abuse.

Aware of the that risk, the government has announced April 9th 2021, the mobilization of a 500,000 euro found to help social projects for parental support. In this post “Special Confinement” you will find tips and tricks for a more serene life in this period but also our prevention advices as children and young people are greater exposed to violence.

What is parental burn-out?

Similar to professional overwork, “parental burn-out” is an acute distress syndrome related to parenthood. Under chronic stress, signs are a physical, psychological and emotional exhaustion and the feeling of not having any more sufficient capacities to fulfill parents’ obligations. This may lead to emotional withdrawal and a negative impact on relations and health. Women are potentially more at risk due to the traditionally greater mental load that they take up within the household.

Lack of time or efficiency, unattainable goals, feeling of not being up to the task… here are our tips to let go of pressure and preserve yourself as well as your loved ones!

7 tips specific to confinement situation

Maintain dialog and express your feelings

Did you know that you can easily communicate your emotion, often unconsciously? This is what it is called “emotional contagion”. Close ones perceive what we express and how we feel, even more so children who can be “emotional sponges”. Confinement may increase our anxiety face to present and future, magnify our sensitivity to stress and also test our patience too much. Our emotion can overwhelm us and make us let escape words and gestures which may hurt our children which we may regret after the fact. How to react then, to achieve a more peaceful relationship?

It is important not to feel guilty as it is normal to be annoyed, to feel anger, frustration and other variably unpleasing feelings. It is useful to be able to identify our feelings, in what context and how they rise in order to be able to talk about our reaction, “to work” on our emotions and express them differently. Here are some ideas in this facts sheet from “l’Observatoire de la Parentalité et du Soutien à la Parentalité (link in French).

Reduce expectation and pressure

Managing children daily, non-stop, with possibly professional duties on top of that, may result in pressure buildup and stress which can easily become overwhelming. Think that you are not alone to bear with a double, sometimes triple, workload in this crisis environment. Your work colleagues, bosses or customers, they too have to become creative with their agenda in order to adapt to this situation. Do not hesitate to reassess downwards some of your goals and try to let go of what is not essential.

If you are delayed in your work or children are with their homework, if the leaving room is a mess or your meals are irregular and of not the best diet… take it in strides! Your child core sense of security and mental wellbeing are more worth than school assiduity. When him/she and schoolmates will resume school, teachers will know how to adapt curriculum to bring everyone progressively to level. What counts is to feel fine, to be able to share some family good times and mutual support.

Rather than having an endless list of actions to do, why don’t you select one or two weekly objectives and set your priorities? Being able to reach the goal that you have assigned to yourself may reinforce your feeling of personal efficiency, which is important for your spirit and self-esteem. Why not getting organized as a US using the Eisenhower Matrix?

Keep time for yourself and preserve yourself

We are not equal face to a confinement situation, in particular with housing conditions, flat or house, with or without a garden, a room for each child or a single living room to share… However, it is crucial that each person can regularly find a place and a time with privacy and see his/her right for intimacy respected. What are the activities you like to do and what can recharge you and put you in a good mood?

Listen to your music, dive in a novel or your favorite series, exercise or talk for hours with friends? What is it that you ever wanted to try and that you can begin today? It is primordial to allocate time for leisure but also to rest and take care of yourself. In this way you will be in a much better mental condition and able to reassure your children.

Keep a routine and stable living conditions

Home confinement is a period of incertitude and upheaval, children will all the more need rules and guidelines. Whatever your family structure is, traditional, blended family, single parent with children, pay attention to establish a kind of routine in order to find a balance between group and individual times. You can schedule a time to work, to relax, play share family activities, sport activities…

Very young children require a ritualized day organization. Once bigger, to know what is the plan for the day and what will be the agenda for the week, will remains a reassuring factor for them. In order to stay away from vague positions and repeated negotiations, to avoid unreasonable go to bed and get up times or spends days in front TV or video games… Usual sleep rhythm should be maintained as much as possible, especially for teenagers. For more information you may read (link in French) les recommandations de l’Académie de médecine en période de confinement

Involve your child in the organization and take into account his/her opinion

Like you, your child is also constrained for his /her movement and social interactions. Depending of his/her age he/she will understand that he/she need to stay indoor to be protected but the whole situation is no less a source of anxiety and frustration. How to help your child to go through this difficult period? The feeling of being able to choose is important, especially if possibilities to act are few. How can he take part in building the weekly planning and set up good practices for confinement? Some families have established a charter taking into account needs and desires of children and grown-ups. If respecting rules becomes difficult this may be useful to relieve tensions and remind each one of his/her rights and responsibilities.

You may ask your child if he/she has ideas and suggestions to make the coming weeks more pleasant but also how he/she might contribute to family and house life. Turning your child to take an active role and have him/her contribute to domestic tasks (putting out things, cleaning, cooking…) may be gratifying and help him to move toward more autonomy.

Would you like your teenager to vacuum once a week? On his/her side he/she he would like you to be more available to play games or on a specific day to be able to go later to bed in order to play an on-line tournament with friends? Rather than imposing your idea of an ideal framework, dive in the art of negotiation and compromise! The right to participate is defined in the article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as “the right to express his/her own views freely in all matters affecting him/her. The views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child”.

Favor a positive opening to the outside

Preserve yourself and protect your child from the information broadcasted non-stop in medias and social networks. Rather than following in real time the pandemic evolution and possible improvements you may rather check this information at a specific time of the day. News casts detailing sick and body counts may induce anxiety in children. Avoid exposure to these kind of news to the youngest ones and reassure them with explanations appropriate to their age. You may ask them to express their views and feelings of the situation, possibly through drawings.

If possible, let them communicate regularly with their friends am other close persons so that they can get news and reduce isolation. The big children may like to gather with their friend on-line for games, a form of social interaction that replace the one they had at school. As need be, it is necessary to inform them of the potential risks related to these new forms of communication, so that they are carful and know how to react in case of a problem.

Try to be open and maintain contact with the outside word, put value on positive information as we see fantastic solidarity initiatives taking place since the beginning of this crisis. You can give example of mutual help initiatives to your children to promote goodwill and empathy.

Here is a beautiful idea to bring back smile to elderly people: 1 Lettre 1 sourire.

Children can write letters to retirement home residents to alleviate their loneliness. CAMELEON girls have already sent comforting messages from the Philippines… So why don’t you try?

When things turn difficult, dare asking for help

With home confinement fatigue build up and you feel more and more irritable and exhausted? Do not hesitate to pass the ball to your spouse or another close person if possible. If you feel that you are on the verge to crack, especially with an infant requiring content attention and care, place him/her in a secure environment and take a break and calm down, even if this means to let the baby cry for a while.  There are several listening and support services, free of charge and confidential, that may help you in case a problem.

Finally, draw on useful resources for parents or ideas to keep your children busy in the following post!