The 5 P's to ensure Present Parents
My goodness, what a time to be alive right? I’m not sure if you share the same sentiment but I’ve been equally stuck in the ‘old’ way of doing things yet also wanting the world to emerge out of this pandemic differently. I’ve often caught myself saying things like, ‘I just wish things could go back to normal’, yet in the same breath saying things like ‘life as we’ve known it, is gone for good’. Then, for brief moments, it’s also dawned on me that we might just have to linger in our current state for much longer than we might want to. This is when I’ve found myself struggling to breathe all together. Now, when I say current state, I’m referring to this feeling of being stuck in a transition between what was and what could be. Realising that I might just have to both accept and embrace the current way of doing life as a new sense of ‘normal’.
So, in the spirit of being real, let me actually just share my current state with you. I’m currently a work-from-home mom to an almost two-year-old little busy-body boy. I’m also five months pregnant with a little miracle and trying to run a household alongside my hard-working husband. It’s been exciting, valuable and just darn right scary times, which has forced me to re-examine my way of doing life.
So yes, I’ve been both praying and practicing becoming better equipped for my current state. It's lead me to start putting a toolbox together to aid and assist myself with becoming more effective and efficient in completing my daily tasks, as far as possible.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found it funny how easily I’ve tended to forget all about my accumulated professional knowledge, expertise and experience when it comes to my own life. So, I had to take a step back, reignite that OT flame in my own life and try to apply all of this to our household. Which brings me to the tips and tricks portion of today’s post: The 5 P’s to ensure Present Parents.
Children are cute and cuddly and awesome and and and BUT they are also so unpredictable, even more so during these trying and uncertain times. Their external stability and support such as their schools, teachers, friends, extramural activities, close family members and who knows what else have all been completely ripped out from under them, like a rug. From where they’re standing the foundation might seem a little wonky at this point in time. Which could explain the tantrums, emotional outbursts or changes in behaviour and is ultimately why it’s so important for us as parents or professionals working with children to bring that secure foundation back.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that to any professional working with children or adolescents, planning is essential in ensuring success, whether it be a teacher, therapist, psychologist etc. For example, teachers have yearly, quarterly and weekly lesson plans to ensure that their children or adolescents are adequately stimulated and occupied throughout their academic year. Therapists have short-term and long-term goals along with session plans to direct their overall therapy.
SO WHY ON EARTH WOULD WE AS ‘FORCEFULLY-MADE-HOME-SCHOOL-PARENTS’ THINK THAT WE CAN BE ANY DIFFERENT?
A little forward thinking has never hurt anyone, so why not take one hour out of your week to plan ahead. Work out a timetable for your children which includes, academic times, sports times, nap times, unstructured recreational time, music times, zoom meets with family and friends, feely-times (talk to the kids about what their feeling) etc.
Plan the weekly activities out in advance instead of trying to be creative or innovative in the moment. It will declutter your own mind as well. Trust me.
Plan out your weekly menu. Actually, pack the kids‘ lunch boxes as you would have when they went to school to make sure their food is covered in advance for every day. Have a weekly dinner menu planned out and use that same plan for at least a month before changing things up. This way, you don't have to try and ‘think’ about what to make for dinner tonight. It also makes grocery shopping a little easier.
Benjamin Franklin put it so well, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. You CAN do this!
A plan doesn't have to be set in stone. Sometimes you're going to have to adapt or change. It merely gives a guideline to free your mind regarding certain aspects of your day.
This is a short one and goes hand-in-hand with planning. It doesn’t help we have our daily and weekly timetables, schedules etc. but then we don’t take the necessary steps to prepare ourselves and our kids to implement them.
If you’ve planned out a meal plan, make sure you shop accordingly. If you’re doing lunch boxes, pack them the night before. If you’ve scheduled a craft activity, make sure you have all the materials on hand beforehand. If you’ve set aside academic time, make sure the workstations are set-up and ready before hand. By doing this we can free our minds up to better think on our feet when adaptations are needed, especially when things don’t go according to plan. Invite the children along, give them responsibility and get them in a habit of preparing from a young age.
Ever heard the saying prevention is better than cure. The same is true for parenting. By better planning and preparing we might just save ourselves; as well as our children that unwanted meltdown.
To the OT in me this is probably the most important one. Learning is so much more effective when a child actively participates in an activity, when the activity is meaningful to them (i.e. they are invested in or buys into the activity) and when it is presented to them at the correct level (i.e. it’s not too easy or too hard).
One of the best ways to accomplish this is to make activities fun by adding a certain level of playfulness to it. If your child hates math’s, remind them that Superman was both smart and strong and that by doing his math’s, he is actually partaking in superhero training. If your daughter doesn’t enjoy history or geography, remind her that a queen / princess needs to know her kingdom.
Make use of dress-up and themes, it might even bring a new, fun, innovative and creative side out in you, that you might have forgotten about or neglected.
Now, to the parent in me, this is the most important one. Give yourself and your' children a little grace. Be patient with each other. Things might not change overnight. We might even have slip ups or bad days and that’s ok. Parenting is ever changing, it’s an accumulation of so many experiences. One bad day does not define the type of parent that you are. Take at least 5 deep breathes when you think you're going to lose it with your kids. Ask yourself whether it's really worth it to break down their spirits by coming down on them like ton of bricks now? Take a walk and address the situation when you feel calmer and can respond more reasonably.
I read a post on instagram the other day, where a young mom posted that as a child some of her favourite memories was when her mom made her and her siblings little random snack platters of left overs from the week and plonked them in front of the tv to watch a movie. Her mom responded to the post with tears in her eyes saying that to her, those were the nights that she felt like she failed as a mother. On those nights she was too exhausted to cook let alone try and entertain her kids so she was surprised and humbled to hear her daughter speak fondly of those nights.
You see, even on the ‘bad’ days all our children need is love. Let go of unrealistic standards and be patient with yourself. One day at a time, that’s all it takes. You’ve got this!