By Sabrina Rogers-Anderson
Sabrina is a writer, author and mother to three girls, a six-year-old along with four-year-old twins. An expert in the beauty and struggles of parenthood, she shares her wisdom here.
Can you see me waving a big white flag? I give up. I don’t have a single trick left in my magic parenting hat.
I’ve used them all: reward charts, positive behaviour support, taking away beloved toys and screen time, time-outs, shouting and even begging. None of it is working anymore.
End-of-year exhaustion is on steroids this year. The pandemic has forced us all to adapt to so many changes – lockdown, going back to child care/school/work with strict new regulations, a second round of lockdown in some places – and we’re all drained.
In fact, in a recent survey commissioned by G8 Education in conjunction with YouGov, more than four in ten Australian parents with a child aged 0-5 years say their children have been more anxious since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This anxiety, when combined with fatigue, can manifest as irritability, clinginess, anxiety, defiance, crying at the drop of a hat, fighting with their siblings or full-blown tantrums. Translation: a *nightmare* for equally exhausted parents.
There are only a few weeks left to the year and we need to make it there in one piece. But how? Here are five top tips….
1. Acknowledge their emotions
You might be tempted to send your child to the naughty corner or their room when they act out, but it may only make things worse. “When we focus on our children’s behaviour, it’s like hacking at the leaves of the tree rather than digging up the root,” says psychologist and father of six Dr Justin Coulson. “The feelings that underlie the behaviour are the things that matter the most.”
Even if your child’s reaction to a situation seems absurd, try to acknowledge how they’re feeling before throwing logic at them. The authors of the best-selling The Whole-Brain Child call this neuroscience-based technique “Connect and Redirect”. If your child feels like you’ve validated their emotions, they’re more likely to listen to what you have to say.
You can say, “I can tell you’re very disappointed Mummy cut your toast when you wanted it whole.” Once they’ve calmed down, say, “Can you eat it like this for today because we will be late for care if I make you another piece? I’ll make it just like you want it tomorrow.”
2. Cut corners and let some things go
She’s a clever one, that Elsa. She’s right that we should “Let it go” – especially now. Things don’t need to be perfect in these last few weeks of the year and no one is going to hand out Supermum medals anyway. So, let’s all look at our to-do lists and decide what we can eliminate.
Too tired to cook? Make beans on toast or order takeaway. The kids are screaming because they don’t want to take a bath? Skip it. Your toddler is insisting on wearing a shower cap and goggles to the shops? So be it. The other frazzled mums will totally get it.
3. Practice self-care
Self-what?! I know, I know… when it comes to having her needs met, Mum is at the very bottom of the totem pole after all the children and the dog. But I’ve recently discovered that there is a lot of truth to the advice I ignored for so many years: if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of others.
While the children are busy with their day in-centre, do your best to carve out some time in your schedule for activities that reduce your stress and calm your mind. Try a 10-minute mindfulness meditation session with an app such as Calm or Headspace, a brisk walk, a bubble bath, yoga, calling a friend or reading a book.
4. Get the kids excited about the holidays
“By being curious and excited about the future, that can alleviate anxiety,” says Dr Coulson. And what’s more exciting than the summer holidays when you’re a kid?!
Get into the spirit by hanging lights, decorating the house, doing crafts and opening the doors on an Advent calendar. Or if you’re simply out of energy for that, encourage the children to get excited about what we’re getting up to in centre for to celebrate the holidays.
5. Send them to us
Feel like you’re on the brink of a breakdown? We are here to help! We have a range of engaging activities planned for December to keep our children entertained and happy. From crafts and songs to baking and outdoor play, we have a merry menu of fun!
You can also rest easy knowing that the our team is putting in extra effort to help children feel secure and settled as the year winds down.
Hang in there, mamas! The end of the year is almost here. You’ve got this!
We’re ready to welcome your children to an exciting, rich and thriving environment, made especially for them. Start 2021 somewhere great – find out more by clicking here.