Lockdown


 

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03/07/2020
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Life in Lockdown - Thankfulness and Lament

 
It has been weeks since the country went into lockdown. ‘Normal’ disappeared over night and with it the services needed by many children and their families.  Children with additional needs have been affected most in this.  Some have been quietly reflective, others frustrated and angry, many questioning the rules and even God. Their much needed routine has gone, and seeing people break the rules is a struggle.  But equally, there are some children who are relishing the solitude because the stress of dealing with people and decoding social situations has been taken away.
 
You may have heard the phrase ‘behaviour is language’. In any child, especially those with additional needs, behaviour is often the language that tells us how they are coping.  Many children at the moment describe their feelings as a ‘big sadness’. Experts tell us that this is grief. Sometimes we’re ‘fine’. Other days we want to dissolve into a puddle of tears and loud sobs, or maybe punch a door.  This cycle of feelings that makes up grief is probably working around the whole family, but each adult or child, is at a different point in that cycle at any time of the day, which can be interesting!
 
Our children need to know this grief is normal, and that you and God are there to help. Not a fact to be shoe horned into conversation, but chatted about in those moments that sadness feels like a blanket. Explain your sadness. Show them it’s ok to cry. Stop and pray – nothing long, just a “Thankyou God that you understand how we feel”.
 
Some children find it enormously unhelpful to keep hearing that ‘this is in God’s plan’. If they don’t have the spiritual and emotional language to sort that through, it can translate as God being vindictive and cruel. They need the assurance that God is good, even in the middle of this pandemic.  A useful Bible verse is Psalm 56:8 (NLT) “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book”. It may be difficult for some of our children to understand, but explain it as “God sees your sadness, He’s sad too, He understands and He’s with you”. Talk to your children about being sad and ways we can help each other.
 
Being “The strong one” all the time is not always helpful. Our children need an example of how to deal well with strong emotions. This may also mean apologising when we have been overly cross with them because we’re struggling too.  Create a small space in your home and give it a name “Our safe spot” for example. It could be a low coffee table, a popup tent or blanket fort. Keep it there.  This will be a focal point to take the fear, the anxiety and stress – and find hope and peace in the middle of it. But it will also be a place to sit with God, and be safe.  Discuss with your children what they would like in that space. Calming things to fiddle with – glitter tubes are good. Maybe have a bubble lamp. Have things to write or draw with. Have a simple prayer activity that you can do more than once – just search for ‘creative prayers’ on line.
 
Have a ‘thankful jar’. Every time someone finds a good thing – write or draw it on something to put in the jar. It might be food, a game, a socially distanced visit or a zoom call. It might even be that worm they found in the garden. Put in anything to be thankful for, no matter how small, and make it a habit.  In that space people can say exactly what they think without any fear. Make sure your children know God doesn’t mind if you shout at Him and tell Him stuff is unfair.
 
You don’t ‘have’ to give answers, the act of speaking out loud can be helpful on it’s own. But if your children want to silently scream their fear, that is equally helpful.  Give space to recognise and name these emotions. Give space to lament.  Have a thankful activity, because in the Lament Psalms, David always ended up praising God.  When you are in Lament mode it is easier to praise when you a faced with something to be thankful with. So, have bubbles you can burst as you applaud God for His goodness. Use scrabble to spell out your thanks, make them with plasticine, line up toys and say your thanks with each one. Do things around how your child works. If stress makes them line things up – use it to help them cope. And if at that moment no thankful thoughts come to mind, use the thankful jar.
 
Above all – involve your child in creating what is needed in that space. Let them lead. You may find that what they do is also a comfort to you.
 
Kay Morgan-Gurr is the Chair of Children Matter, Co-Founder of the Additional Needs Alliance and a member of the Evangelical Alliance Council.  You can read more of her work at www.kaymorgangurr.com
 

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Lessons of Lockdown

I am a mum of one, soon to be two any day now, living in the West Sussex countryside. While lockdown changed many things for us as a family, our days have always been slow, we stay home and try not to rush. We walk aimlessly, watch birds and touch worms and sometimes we never leave the house. While things didn’t change dramatically for us situationally it seemed, spiritually and emotionally I’ve felt God speak to me about many things these past months. I’ve shared four of those things below, and I hope they bring encouragement to you in whatever stage of life you may find yourself.  

  1. Joy is an inside job
I’m going to own up and say that I have complained a lot in these recent weeks and months; my back aches, it’s been a struggle to walk, then there’s the lacking energy and low tolerance levels. I felt disappointed knowing I couldn’t see my family through lockdown, the loss of work, and my husband going through a difficult time emotionally. It’s so easy to focus on the problem and get stuck there in our own pity party letting fear take the joy and letting the news become the giant.
 
And then I remember…it’s a choice to believe I can have joy in ANY circumstance. My joy is NOT dependant on my husband bringing me tea in the morning, or how ‘well-behaved’ my daughter is that day or the status of the nation. I can actively make a choice to access the joy that the Father has won for me 24/7 and I want to show my daughter a life of joy!
 
In whatever situation you find yourself in right now, whether family crisis, financial difficulty, whether fear of COVID-19, there is joy available!
 
  1. Celebrate growth
I’ve recently become so aware of the amount of praise we pour out on Hephzibah daily; celebrating the sharing, the tidying away, the letter recognised, the sleeping through the night, and the kind heart. And what’s more, we celebrate the imperfections; they’re endearing! I don’t want to correct the way she mispronounces things, or the way she skips nine on every count to ten and I would never get frustrated when she trips up when she runs.
 
So why are we so hard on ourselves? After all, aren’t we still growing and learning too, and haven’t we been learning and growing more than ever in lockdown as we adjust to a completely new way of living? In becoming so aware of the praise we pour on her it’s only highlighted the lack of praise I pour out on myself.
 
How can you celebrate yourself today? How have you surprised yourself in these past few months? How have you grown?
 
  1. Where is your worth? 
Suddenly when the structures we have built around ourselves to keep us comfortable and gain some sense of normalcy are torn down or changed and our days quieter yet perhaps our thoughts louder, we may start to question where our identity and worth is. 
 
It was no surprise the country jumped at the chance to knit, bake, draw and write and some of the most beautiful creations have come out of this time. I find this is encouraging because it shows that God has filled people with His creativity, but it also shows that people are looking for a sense of achievement and worth.
 
I think as a Mum, I’ve had to deal with the restructuring of what is a ‘productive day’. When Joseph arrives home after a day of creating and earning, when it’s my turn to relay my day and I realise we’ve only really played in the garden and made dinner, I have to be confident to know- my worth isn’t in achieving, our worth has to be in Him. 
 
Know what He’s called you to in this season, and know even beyond that you are a son or daughter of the living God, and it’s our delight to love and be loved by Him! That’s where our worth is!
 
  1. Silence isn’t absence

I’ve noticed during lockdown that people started to exercise more. Alongside the back of our house runs a footpath open to the public and I would see so many people I’d never seen before populating that pathway during lockdown. People were immersing themselves in nature when they may have usually been in an office! In my getting outside to soak up the summer sun with my daughter, I watched the trees, looked at the flowers, and observed the squirrels dancing over our lawn. They were silent but the silence said so much. The silence brought peace and hope.
 
And I found myself realising that the many of the questions we ask God and are waiting for answers on- the answers are already here before us- in the acknowledgment of the blooming bud or the running stream. The truth is that God is ever-present just we, or (maybe just I) are waiting for him to speak by the megaphone or the mic. If He created ALL things, isn’t He always speaking and always present?
 
However you are emerging out of lockdown, feeling fearful? drained? hopeful? reluctant or lacking purpose? Know that God is so close! 
 
Megan Landreth-Smith writes on her website, www.ourslowhome.co.uk, and shares beautiful images and words on her Instagram account, Our Slow Home (She also happens to be our fantastic Social Media Coordinator!)
 
 

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Lockdown Life

If anything is for sure it’s that; we didn’t plan for this, we never expected it and we could never have prepared ourselves or our children for what 2020 (and now 2021) would bring.

The pain and heaviness of the pandemic has brought sorrow to many, and if your family has faced a bereavement as a result of COVID-19, we are so very sorry for your loss. 

If you have faced financial hardship or redundancy over the last year, we hope that you have been able to access some help and have people to support you.

Perhaps you’re currently doing the work and home-school juggle, wondering when things will return to ‘normal’, or perhaps there are other circumstances in your family which make day to day life a struggle.

Whether lockdown has (so far) been heavy, happy or a huge mix of experiences for your family, you are not alone, and at the NPI we want to encourage you in your parenting during this trying season.

A recent blog post by Fegans had some great tips for any parents currently on the home school journey, which we’ve copied here to encourage you today:

1 – You need to be more realistic. Just let yourself off the hook about education. You are their parent, not an educator.
2- Ask for help. If the technology is hard, ask for help from your other kids, from the school, from friends or grandparents. If your child needs someone to read over their work, send it to an Aunt. Although you are home alone with your kids, use your network to keep you going, People love to help.
3 – Be a team. Whether it is just you and your kid, or you have a partner and quadruplets think of yourself as a team. You are in this together.
4 –Focus your children down onto their core work. You can really help here, teach them how to prioritise and break big projects down. They don’t have to do it all right now. Let them slow down.
5- Keep your routines going. Go out for your exercise, Eat Lunch at a normal time, Keep play times.
6 – Keep the fun, once work and school are finished for the day, switch off your laptop and put your phone away.
7 – Endorse your kids, find aspects of what they do and praise them specifically. Also, give yourself some credit, you are doing brilliantly.
8 – JUST DO ONE DAY AT A TIME!

(we recommend the rest of the blog, which you can find here)

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Parenting in a Pandemic

 

Like many parents, I never intended to home school my children.  Like many couples, my husband and I don’t normally spend Every. Single. Day. Together. But this is what lockdown meant for so many families, including ours. 

Here are some essential elements that kept us thriving (*mostly*):


Outdoors. The weather in the first lockdown was beautiful, so we spent as much time as we could outdoors – using our garden and the daily exercise allowance to hone bike trick skills, build a shed, plant flowers and play games.  Kids can’t climb the walls if there are no walls, as the expression goes.  We particularly missed the glory of those sunny days in the second winter lockdown when we spent much more time indoors. 
 
Carol Vorderman.  Did anyone else use her Maths Factor website for home schooling? She deserves a Damehood as far as I’m concerned.  Ditto the creators of Twinkl and BBC Bitesize.

Rest.  Near the beginning of lockdown we decided that between Friday evening and Saturday evening we would switch off all technology and enjoy family life at a slower pace (with lots of great food). When we were all home together doing work and school so much of the week, it helped to define the weekends for us as a couple and for the kids.

Serving.  Whether it’s been drawing colourful pictures for a local care home, shopping for shielding friends or welcoming a Foster child into our home, we have encouraged our kids to join us in looking beyond the walls of our house and to the community around us.

Clarity.  How is homeschool going to work and which one of us is going to take responsibility, and at which points in the day?!  And how are we going to do this in a way that puts relationship over arithmetic?  It took some conversations to work this out, as well as factoring in a few one-to-one times with the kids so they had our focus.  This, of course, evolved as lockdown went on.  When the second home school began, our work situations changed and it became even more important to keep communicating about this.

Laughter.  With all the pain, fear and anxiety around the pandemic, it felt important to create happy, fun memories with the kids - to laugh at the little moments, even in the midst of mundanity or frustration.  As novelist Wendell Berry put it, “Laugh.  Laughter is immeasurable.  Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”

Other People.  It takes a village to raise a child the proverb says.  I think that’s true of marriage too.  My husband and I don’t exist in isolation, and we treasure friendships separately and with other couples where we can be honest, get wisdom, a different perspective and have a good laugh.  For all that WhatsApp, Zoom etc don’t offer in terms of connection, there’s such a lot they do, and we valued that.

Honesty.  While I believe all I say above about technology, there’s also been great sorrow this year at not being with the people we love in person.  As a couple we’ve felt this at different points, and helped the kids navigate it too.

Perseverance.  At points we’ve been exasperated, needed space from each other and struggled to communicate well.  At the same time, we’ve chosen to persevere in love, to laugh and to create new family rhythms, and as I reflect on the strangest of years, I’m grateful for that.
 

Kayte Potter is a member of the team at The NPI.  She has been married to Dan for 14 years, and they have three children.  This post was originally written for UK Marriage Week 2021