The benefits of lockdown for your family

From school to swimming, parties to playdates, deadlines to meetings, our pre-lockdown lives were defined by busyness. Yet, with lockdown came the kind of slowness that families never knew existed. And that’s exactly what we needed, argues educational psychologist Sarah-Jane Lipshitz.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly upended the world. While the disease itself has caused untold suffering, the lockdown it’s brought with it has in fact been a gift to families, argues Sarah-Jane. “Lockdown gives us an opportunity to reset and regroup within ourselves and our families,” she says.

That’s not to say it’s all sunshine. Remove the burden that comes with the need to be perfect, Sarah-Jane advises. “Empathy is really needed at this time. People are scared to be vulnerable for fear of being judged. You have the good with the bad – that’s what this virus is. We’re in a tough mental space but on the other hand, lockdown allows us to slow down and take stock of what’s most important – our families and loved ones.” But first and foremost, we finally have time to take care of ourselves.

Taking back your time

“I’ve got my life back” is something Sarah-Jane is regularly hearing from her clients. “They were feeling off balance, tired and stressed,” she says. “For most of us, life as we knew it was too fast. We couldn’t keep up. This pandemic has shown us that we had no time for each other and worse, no time for ourselves.” We constantly dropped the ball so we were forced to focus on one area of our lives, often to the detriment of our families.

Now we’re slowing down our lives and silencing the noise. Reading is up by 41%, we’re baking, gardening and creating our own space. Most importantly, we have extended time to spend with our families. “People say their lives are clearer, the urgency has been removed and the chaos has disappeared.”

Kids have more time now, too. “Before, our children had overscheduled lives,” says Sarah-Jane. Between extra murals, social engagements and homework, they had limited time to interact with their parents and siblings. “Now children are staying little for longer.”

That’s not to say that families don’t still need to actively work on maximising their time together. Sarah-Jane uses her own life as an example. “When my husband started to work from home, he had no set office hours. We had to sit down as a family and compartmentalise our day. Now we’re both still able to work, we’re more productive because we’ve created an optimal work environment, but we take daily walks and we’re able to be more hands on with our three boys.”

ALSO SEE: 8 ways to master working from home during COVID-19

Becoming whole

Creating a more balanced life has made people whole again. This has had a positive impact on our health. “The word for health comes from the Anglo-Saxon root word ‘haelen’ which means whole,” says Sarah-Jane. “Therefore, health refers to a state of wholeness.” When we’re torn in a million different directions, we can’t be whole. Before, our schedules were out of whack. Our brains are not fully equipped to deal with this busyness so we found ourselves on autopilot. This led to a lack of meaningful interaction and connection. Now our health has improved as we’re experiencing a general slowing down of life. Lockdown has balanced out our lives.”

While virtual face-to-face connection with extended family is vital at this time, it’s also time to grow our immediate family units. There’s less social pressure, which means our lives are less manic and we’re able to focus our efforts here. “Those lucky enough to have cohesive families feel they’re able to turn to their families and cocoon in a place where they feel loved and protected.” For most, family has always been a safe haven but it’s taken lockdown to bring this to the fore.

Siblings strengthen social development

Lockdown has been incredible for fostering sibling bonds, adds Sarah-Jane. “Sibling interaction and rivalry is an important process in helping a child understand his world. Now siblings have more time to bond and learn about each other.”

She adds that from siblings, we learn about the human psyche, about standing up for ourselves and having empathy. “Don’t stress if your kids go from laughter to tears in a millisecond. They learn about the world through fighting – it’s their way of expressing themselves.”

In the case of only children, the parent needs to become the playmate, especially during lockdown. “You as the parent have to be the role model,” says Sarah-Jane. “Let your child see that you don’t always take life seriously – they tend to carry the load more than you realise and don’t have siblings to share this with. Play and connect with them, give them more responsibility and foster their independence.”

ALSO SEE: 4 fun games kids can play alone

Resist the urge to schedule your kids’ time at home, says Sarah-Jane. “The whole point of lockdown is to have unstructured free time and play. Through thinking and using their imaginations, they learn and become creative and independent thinkers.”

More about the expert:

An educational psychologist working online in private practice, Sarah-Jane Lipshitz has a passion for working with adolescents. Her specialities include individual and family therapy, trauma, self-esteem work and creative arts expressive therapy. Having taken some time off to focus on raising her three boys, she recently restarted her practice richer for the experience. She holds a Masters in Educational Psychology (cum laude) from the University of Johannesburg. Learn more about Sarah-Jane Lipshitz here. Email Sarah at sarahjane@sandtontherapy.co.za or call her on 0834381768 to book an appointment.

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