It’s not only the pupils who are missing school…

Despite many parents saying they’re feeling the pressure during lockdown, it can sometimes feel as though it’s only you that’s struggling. Whether you’re balancing home-schooling with working from home, or dealing with the emotional fallout of children missing their classmates or important milestones in their schooling, we all have our unique challenges to face. The best advice is, regardless of our situation, let’s be as kind to ourselves as possible. This is especially pertinent during Mental Health Awareness Week (18th – 24th May), for which this year’s theme is kindness. Here, three Leeds Mind staff share their experiences of parenting during a pandemic, in the hope it makes you feel less alone.

Trying to take a team approach – Julia Stimpson, Operations Manager

What’s your situation?

My wife and I have two children. Our youngest is in Year 6 and was due to sit his SATs next term as well as have all his leaver’s celebrations from primary school. He is going to a local secondary school next year where very few pupils from his current school are going. All planned transition activities to help with this process are obviously currently on hold.

Our eldest is in Year 10 and is a worrier. He has to work hard for his grades and is worried about next year as a result of having to school from home.

Both my wife and I work full time and are currently working from home. This means they are having to be very self structured and independent in their learning.

How do you feel about your situation? How has your family reacted?

I feel worried and guilty (general parental feeling!) as am not able to “home-school” in the way that is often represented in the media. I also feel very proud as both children are sticking to a schedule and are showing great resilience and self discipline in their studies. For our youngest, it has presented an opportunity for him to stretch himself and he is flourishing with the subjects he loves as is able to learn beyond the limits of primary curriculum. I don’t think it has hit home yet that he may not go back to his primary school or see his classmates again. We will cross this bridge when we know more, but are talking to them both constantly about the situation and importance of staying home. We are also encouraging both to stay connected to their friends from school via whatsapp.

What are you doing to cope with the potential change in circumstances or potential disappointments? 

We are focusing on what the kids can do. Offering help in areas they may need more support and planning activities for them for the next day so they can focus.

Physical exercise has been key for them both and we are very lucky that their martial arts school (BMMA Leeds) has really stepped up to the mark in offering daily group sessions, weekly 1:1s and even social quizzes. Having some form of structure, normality and connectivity has been wonderful for us all.

To cope with potential disappointments we are talking constantly (ensuring we have lunches & evening meals together away from TV) and trying to take a team approach as we are all in this together. Focusing on the skills they are gaining from this experience rather than what they are missing.

Managing additional needs – Uzma Younus, Head of Finance and IT

What is your situation and how do you feel about it?

My daughter is in year 7 and currently being assessed for ADHD.  She has a PCP (Pupil Centre Plan) which needs to be updated for home-schooling.  Trying to home school her and manage her extra needs is a great challenge.  Like most ADHD children, she struggles with organisation and focus.  Closing schools was all so very last minute, and she has struggled with adapting to new systems (for an 11 year old to manage an inbox with over 100 emails is challenging!)

I also have a 3 year old who’s climbing the walls!

Initially I felt very anxious and unsupported by the school, but work has been brilliant and very supportive and considerate.  At first I felt my situation was unmanageable – surely I can’t provide full-time child care, home-school an 11-year-old and work from home myself? I was overwhelmed. But since then, I am lucky that everyone at work has been very supportive, and I actually felt not only me but my family has been cared for too.

What solutions are you trying?

I have changed our routine and my working pattern to fit in with childcare and home-schooling. I also sought additional mental health support for my daughter, knowing that it may become a tough time.

Juggling work and home-schooling – Astrid Copeland, Job Retention Specialist

Tell us about your experience of home-schooling during lockdown, Astrid…

Truth be told I have found it really difficult to juggle work and home-schooling.  We struggled with the school’s e-learning page because it was too difficult to navigate away from all the children messaging each other.

In the end I emailed my son’s teacher with a  list of the things we were doing that I felt may be construed as educational – bits of art, writing some letters, doing a little bit of times tables and other activities like Joe Wickes’ PE, gardening and baking.  She responded very positively and was extremely reassuring.  Also reassuring is that most of our friends are telling similar stories.

Our son is only 9 so I don’t feel it matters too much and he is benefiting in lots of other ways – he is loving family games and has won the “Toblerone of success” (the family prize for the first 4 weeks of lockdown family games).  This is a huge achievement because usually he can’t concentrate to finish one game and needs lots of help – now he is beating us hands down all off his own back.  He has taught himself how to tie his tie – something we didn’t expect to happen until secondary school – and he is finding creative things to do on his own like drawing cartoons and identifying plants in the garden using the Plant Net app on my phone.

Thank you to Julia, Uzma and Astrid for contributing to this blog. Do you have a story of parenting through the pandemic that you think may help others? Share it with us on our social channels using the hashtag #LeedsMindTogether. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.