Today has been a very emotional day for many parents in the UK. The schools have closed indefinitely, except for children who qualify to remain in school, either because one* of their parents is considered a ‘key worker’ – you can find the official list here – or when they meet any of the other criteria, as explained by the UK Governmenthere.
But whether their child remains in school or not, many parents in the UK are feeling lost and unsure about what the immediate future holds for their families. What if their children fall behind in their education? And, as many local businesses collapse and thousands of jobs are at risk, will they be able to afford the costs of living?
I can feel the sadness amongst my friends. We are all starting to crack emotionally. I’ve certainly had a few wobbles in the last few nights. So instead of my usual What’s on Guide, I thought I’d share a personal experience with you, in the hope it’ll help you see things differently.
When I was 16 weeks pregnant with my daughter (now 4) I travelled to South America on holiday with my son, who at the time was only 16-months-old. I went on my own, as my husband was still at work and I was visiting relatives who could help me look after my toddler.
Two weeks into our holiday, I started bleeding heavily. I was taken to hospital and diagnosed with Placenta Accreta, a very serious pregnancy condition that risks the lives of both, mother and unborn child.
I won’t go into many details as it isn’t relevant in this blog, but it meant I had to stay in South America, on bed rest, in my hotel room, until my baby was born. It was a very stressful situation as I’m sure you can imagine. I ran to the toilet every time I sneezed, worried I’d find more blood and it’d be the end. I worried about my little boy if I didn’t make it back from the hospital. It wasn’t an easy time for us.
Once I gave birth under dramatic circumstances and I had my Miracle Baby in my hands, I was told I had to stay in our room for another 3 months, as there was an outbreak of Whooping Cough and the baby couldn’t be vaccinated until she was older.
Can you imagine? I had gone through a traumatic experience already. After 6 months of being trapped in a hotel room with a highly active toddler, all I wanted was to go home.
But like everything in life, we found a way of coping. We had bad days, and worse days, but most of all, great days. I could not have in my wildest dreams, predicted the kindness we experienced from our family but also from strangers during these stressful times. The hotel staff adopted us as part of their family and spoilt us rotten every day. Way beyond their duties.
My then toddler became the hotel’s mascot. We got away with everything! Regardless of their job, the hotel staff would find little treats for him and make him feel like a tiny emperor on his throne. The Maintenance Service Man used to ring our room every time Juana The Iguana appeared in the hotel garden so my little boy could run outside to see her. I’ve never seen him more excited. And the breakfast lady used to chop tiny pieces of ham and cheese for him every morning so he could sit next to her and munch away while she served eggs for all the other guests.
I’ll stop babbling now, but what I’m trying to say is that this too shall pass. The social isolation, and even a lockdown if it gets to that, will feel weird for a while. But I promise, you’ll find your own routine, and just as you are getting used to it, it’ll all be over.
Of course, I realise this situation isn’t the same, but I’m still optimistic there’s a way to cope with everything that’s happening without losing our minds. Here are a few things you can do to help you remain positive during this period of ambiguity:
Stick to the facts. Try not to think ‘what if’. So far we know the situation is likely to remain the same for about 12 weeks, as the Prime Minister said during yesterday’s briefing. At this stage there’s no reason to think it’ll go on for longer and thinking about it will only make everything look worse.
Think of all the positives. There’s always something good in every situation. There’s evidence from China that a period of social isolation will have a much needed positive effect on the environment. You can read more here. So you could think of this period of uncertainty and restriction as an investment in our kids’ future, so they don’t have to face the same.
Find a routine that works for you and your family. Do you always struggle to get up early in the morning? There’s no reason why you need to stick to it for the next few weeks. Do your kids respond better to an early bedtime? You are in charge of your own time.
It could be a blessing. Have you felt stressed with the daily pressures of work and school, trying to rush from one place to another and never being able to get anything done or enjoy anything? This is your chance to sit on your bum and finish that book you’ve wanted to read for ages, or sort out your garden, or cook all the real food you never have time for. I know there are food shortages at the moment but that’s only likely to last for short while. UK supermarkets have issued statements, reassuring the British public that the food chain will be stable again soon.
Find your community. I know we won’t be getting together physically but there are already so many support groups online where people display so much compassion and kindness. We have an amazing group of local families on Facebook. Please join us if you haven’t already. And you can find more local groups here.
I hope you find this useful. I’m aware some days will feel ok while others will be much harder, but I’ll do everything I can to continue bringing factual information to you, and a positive spin. Whatever happens.
In the next few days, I’ll publish as many resources as I can find to help you get through this weird period. Please get in touch here if you’d like to suggest anything.
Love for now
*The UK Government initially said both parents had to be Key Workers but that’s changed now, as you can read here.